Although over 850 species of tarantulas exist worldwide, you can find about 30 species in the wild of Arizona. Of these 30, a majority were only recently described in 2016 so there is limited information known about them. This article will explore 16 species of tarantulas in Arizona.
What is a tarantula?
Tarantulas are large, furry spiders with large fangs in the family Theraphosidae. Although commonly mistaken as dangerous to humans, these fascinating animals can actually make great pets for the right owner.
Though, tarantulas do have special hairs called urticating hairs, which can flick off their bodies. These hairs have barbs on them that will lodge into a predator’s eyes, skin, or soft tissues. So care must be taken when handling one.
16 tarantulas in Arizona
Tarantulas enjoy the warm and dry climates here, especially in the desert habitats of Arizona. With the state’s massive Sonoran desert that takes up most of Arizona’s central and southwest areas, there is plenty of space for these spiders to call home.
Let’s have a look at Arizona’s tarantulas!
1. Desert Blond Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
The Blond Tarantula, also known as the Arizona blond tarantula or Western desert tarantula, is native to the southern Arizona Sonoran desert. However, you can also find scattered populations more north of the state and in eastern and western counties.
They are burrowing spiders but can live in trees. Their burrows can be as large as 2 inches in diameter.
These spiders grow around 3 to 5 inches in body size. Females are typically tan and males have black legs and reddish abdomens.
2. Desert Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma iodius
The Desert tarantula is commonly found in the Mojave desert and in the northwestern area of Arizona. However, smaller populations also exist in Yavapai, La Paz, Maricopa, and Pima counties. They build webbed burrows on the desert ground with silk and dirt plugging the entrance to protect them from predators and the heat.
Their bodies are very hairy with urticating hairs and typically at least 3 inches in size. They are tan and the males have a dark triangle around their eyes and black legs. They are nocturnal hunters feeding on small lizards and small insects, such as beetles and grasshoppers.
3. Santa Catalina Mountain Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma catalina
As its name suggests, this species of tarantula’s habitat is restricted to the Santa Catalina mountain range in the Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona. Their burrows are almost impossible to spot since they are excellent hiders. It’s also not easy to find them as they prefer to retreat and hide.
The docile Santa Catalina mountain tarantula is typically black, faded black, or brown with tiny orange or reddish colored hairs on its legs. They are quite small, growing at an average body size of around 0.5 inches long.
4. Carlsbad Green Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma gabeli
The Carlsbad Green tarantula, also known as the Chiricahuan Gray tarantula, has a hairy faded brown, black, or grayish body and legs. These spiders will also turn a grayish-green tint following a molt. Adults average a total body length of 5 to 5.5 inches but can sometimes reach up to 6 inches.
You can find them in the Chihuahuan Desert of southeastern Arizona. They prefer dry and well-drained soil to create burrows.
5. Madera Canyon Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma madera
The Madera Canyon tarantula, also called the Madrean tarantula, can be found in southeastern Arizona, including the Madera Canyons in Pima county. They typically live in high elevation habitats of the Pajarito, Huachuca, and Santa Rita Mountains.
This species was recently described in 2016 after found in a shallow burrow sheltered under a large rock. They have since become very popular as pets. These tarantulas are black or faded black with light long urticating hairs that are reddish or orange covering their abdomens. Their legs have darker or black hairs and span around 6 inches.
6. Grand Canyon Black Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma marxi
The Grand Canyon Black Tarantula lives in high elevation areas in the northern “Four Corners” region and central counties of Arizona. They prefer habitats such as sagebrush steppe and conifer forests. However, their burrows are very difficult to find.
These tarantulas look similar to the Santa Catalina mountain tarantula with a dark brown or black body and tiny orange to reddish hairs on their bodies. The male’s carapace can grow from 0.33 to 0.41 inches in length and females are typically larger, at 0.53 to 0.6 in length. A female’s total body length, including their mouthparts, is typically around 1.4 inches.
7. Paloma Dwarf Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma paloma
The Paloma Dwarf tarantula lives in arid to semi-arid climates in the southwestern United States in habitats with less than 10 inches of rain annually. In Arizona, they are typically in Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties.
These tarantulas are very hard to find, especially since their burrows are only 0.19 to 0.39 inches wide. They are also true dwarf tarantulas and one of the smallest species with a slow growth rate and total body length reaching only 2 inches. In the pet trade, they are known to be feisty but also delightful and non-threatening to humans.
8. Superstition Mountains Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma superstitionense
These tarantulas get their name from the Superstition mountain range where they were first discovered. They were also recently described as a species in 2016. The Superstition Mountains are located east of Phoenix and are the only concentrated area you can find this species in the state.
They are nocturnal hunters and spend most of the daytime hiding in woven shelters in cracks, crevices, or under logs. When you do spot them, they are dark or light brown with light urticating hairs.
9. Tucson Bronze Tarantula
Scientific name: Aphonopelma vorhiesi
The Tucson Bronze tarantula is brown to black with short black hairs on their legs. You can find these spiders in the southeastern corner of the state, typically in dry, well-drained soils where they hunt other spiders and large insects.
They typically live in borrows in tree trunks or under large stones or fallen logs. Like most tarantulas in Arizona, they are docile and prefer to hide than attack.
Less common tarantulas in Arizona
Here are 7 additional species of tarantulas you can find in Arizona. However, very little is known about them and they don’t even have common names! Most were only recently discovered and described in 2016.
10. Aphonopelma Chiricahua
An ebony black tarantula found only in Arizona’s Chiricahua Mountains in the far southeastern region of the state. They typically build borrows in crevices and caves.
11. Aphonopelma Mareki
This tarantula is gray to light brown with darker abdomens and dark legs. Their light gray hairs stand out aesthetically against the darker body parts. You can find them mostly in Yavapai county, with small isolated populations in Mohave, Coconino, and Gila county regions bordering Yavapai.
12. Aphonopelma Parvum
These tarantulas are only found in the extreme southeastern corner of Arizona. They are black or brown with light gray or light brown hairs.
13. Aphonopelma Peloncillo
These tarantulas live in the Peloncillo Mountain range in southeast Arizona, preferring to live in oak grasslands along the foothills of the mountains. They are dark brown to faded black with orange or reddish hairs covering their bodies and legs.
14. Aphonopelma Prenticei
One of the smaller species, they only grow a couple of inches in total body length. They are grayish or faded brown with short light gray hairs. There are limited populations in Arizona’s Maricopa and Mohave counties.
15. Aphonopelma Saguaro
This tarantula is dark gray but has black markings such as the dark bands on the top and bottom of its legs. Their bodies are covered in gray hair. You can find them only in the northeastern corner of Pima county.
16. Aphonopelma Phasmus
This tarantula species is only known because of a single adult male that was found in Grand Canyon National Park near the Colorado River in Coconino county. A female has yet to be found.