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11 Tarantulas in California (Interesting Facts)

Tarantulas prefer deserts, mountain foothills, and grassy hillsides. They also prefer warm and dry climates, and California provides multiple ideal habitats. This article will explore 6 common and popular species of tarantulas in California and share information on 5 additional species we are yet to learn more about.

11 Tarantulas in California

California has three major deserts: the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin desert, and the Colorado desert. Additionally, it contains 7,971 named mountains making many places for tarantulas to thrive. Let’s have a look at these 11 species of arachnids in Arizona.

1. Desert Tarantula

Desert tarantula on rocky surface
Desert tarantula on rocky surface | image by Joshua Tree National Park via Flickr

Scientific name: Aphonopelma iodius

The Desert tarantula generally has a body length of 3 inches. They are tan, hairy, and males will have a dark triangle around their eyes and black legs.

Desert tarantulas, pictured above, are widely distributed throughout California. Depending on where you find them, they are also referred to as different names, including the Fresno County blond tarantula and Great Basin blond tarantula. Typically, they live in dry, desert habitats, such as the Mojave desert, where they build webbed burrows with obstructions to the entrance to protect them from the heat and predators.

A species of tarantula once known as the Bay Area Blond Tarantula (Aphonopelma smithi) has also been recently merged into the species name of Aphonopelma iodius. As their name suggests, the Bay Area blond tarantula prefers the grassy, rolling hill habitats of the East Bay, including Alameda county.


2. Desert Blond Tarantula

Desert blonde tarantula
Desert blonde tarantula | image by Mike Lewinski via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Aphonopelma chalcodes

The Desert Blond Tarantula is also known as the Western Desert tarantula and Arizona Blond tarantula. They are large spiders growing around 3 to 5 inches long. Females are typically tan and males have black legs and reddish abdomens.

You can find these tarantulas throughout the southernmost counties of California and in the Bay Area. They are most common on Mount Diablo, where it is illegal to catch or remove them from the area. These large spiders have burrows that can be as large as 2 inches in diameter. Like most tarantulas, they hunt by ambushing their prey, using the webbing covering their burrows to signal a prey’s approach.


3. California Ebony Tarantula

California ebody tarantula
California ebody tarantula | image by Mychemicalromanceisrealemo via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Aphonopelma eutylenum

The California Ebody tarantula, also known as the California Black tarantula, ranges in body color from ebony and dark brown to light beige. Females are typically lighter in color than males and have large abdomens. They generally have a body size of around 2 inches and can grow up to 5 inches, including their leg span.

You can find these tarantulas in grassy, rolling hills of the East Bay area, including Alameda county all the way down to San Diego. However, they are most commonly found and concentrated in the western counties of Southern California.


4. San Diego Bronze

A san diego bronze on the ground
A san diego bronze on the ground | image by Vahe Martirosyan via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Aphonopelma steindachneri

San Diego Bronze tarantulas have bodies around 2 inches in length. They are typically black or dark brown in color, with lighter hairs. Like most tarantulas in California, they can live up to 25 years.

You can find these tarantulas in the Bay Area and down along the coastal counties of California. However, as their name suggests, they are mostly concentrated in Southern California, especially San Diego. The Aphonopelma reversum species that was once separately recognized recently merged into Aphonopelma steindachneri.


5. Johnny Cash tarantula

Female johnny cash tarantula
Female johnny cash tarantula | image by Chris A. Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

Scientific name: Aphonopelma johnnycashi

The large Johnny Cash tarantula can grow up to 6 inches long. Males are typically black, while females are dark brown. You can find them in the middle of California, ranging from Sutter county all the way down to Kern county.

You may also like:  14 Species of Garter Snakes in California

These tarantulas have a unique origin to their name. They were found near Folsom Prison in 2015 and named after the country music singer Johnny Cash, whose song “Folsom Prison Blues” made the prison famous. Cash was also commonly referred to as the “Man in Black,” representing the black coloring of the male tarantula.


6. Mojave Dwarf

Mojave dwarf tarantula
Mojave dwarf tarantula | Source: Bureau of Land Management California

Scientific name: Aphonopelma mojave

As their name suggests, the Mojave dwarf tarantula is native to Southern California’s Mojave Desert. They are small in size, typically reaching around 2 inches.

These tarantulas are black with light grayish urticating hairs. Like all California tarantulas, these special hairs are part of their defense mechanism. The hairs are barbed and can be flicked off their bodies into predators’ eyes or soft tissues.


Less common Tarantulas in California

Here are 5 additional species of tarantulas you can find in California and their scientific names. Little is still known about them and they don’t have common names to go by.

7. Aphonopelma Xwalxwal

Aphonopelma xwalxwal on rocks
Aphonopelma xwalxwal on rocks | image by Marshal Hedin via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

You can find these tarantulas in the Coachella Valley and Borrego Springs regions. The term xwalxwal is from the Cahuilla language and means “a small spider”. This Native American tribe originally owned the land the species currently lives in. Although a dwarf species, they are one of the larger species of dwarf tarantulas with a fourth femur 0.4 inches long.


8. Aphonopelma Joshua

Aphonopelma joshua on white surface
Aphonopelma joshua on white surface | image by Chris A. Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

These tarantulas are only found in a small region at the border of San Bernandino and Riverside counties in Southern California. They are dark in color and smaller, but most similar in appearance to the Aphonopelma Xwalxwal.


9. Aphonopelma Icenoglei

Aphonopelma Icenoglei on white surface
Aphonopelma Icenoglei on white surface | image by Chris A. Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

This dwarf tarantula has a leg span of around 2 inches and is typically faded black or grayish in color. You can find them throughout the Lucerne Valley – a landform in the southern Mojave desert and western San Bernardino county area.


10. Aphonopelma Prenticei

Aphonopelma prenticei in white surface
Aphonopelma prenticei in white surface | image by Chris A. Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

These tarantulas are grayish or faded brown with short light gray hairs and only grow a couple of inches in total body length. They typically live throughout the eastern Mojave desert in southeastern California.


11. Aphonopelma Atomicum

Aphonopelma atomicum on white surface
Aphonopelma atomicum on white surface | image by Chris A. Hamilton via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 4.0

This species of tarantula is typically found at elevations between 2,700 and 4,000 feet, including the Mojave Basin area.

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