There are four species of tarantula that can be found in Utah. You’re most likely to spot these spiders in the Great Basin or Mojave regions of the state. Below is a list of all four tarantulas that call the state of Utah their home. Read on for some pictures and interesting facts about each of these species.
4 Tarantulas in Utah
Utah attracts tarantulas that are drawn to dry habitats, like deserts and mountain regions. Even though the state is home to several different tarantulas, most people never see these spiders. Read on to learn more about the tarantulas found in Utah and why these spiders are so hard to spot.
1. Grand Canyon Black Tarantula
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma marxi
The Grand Canyon black tarantula is found in the Four Corners region, which includes southeastern Utah. Even though this spider is very common in this region, it’s rare to glimpse it in the wild. Not only is it nocturnal, but it hides away in underground burrows where it can’t easily be seen.
While all tarantulas are burrowing spiders, the burrows of the Grand Canyon black tarantula are especially difficult to find. Unlike most spiders, it doesn’t mark the entrance to its burrow with webbing or mounds of dirt. Since there are no qualities that make these burrows stand out, you’re unlikely to find them unless you get lucky.
Your best chance of spotting these spiders is during their breeding season, which spans from September to November. This is the only time of year when the Grand Canyon black tarantula can be seen outside its burrow during the daytime. It hunts at night and has a varied diet that includes insects, invertebrates, as well as small lizards and rodents.
These hairy tarantulas range from 3 to 5 inches in size and are usually dark brown or black. Females tend to be lighter and much larger than males of the species. On their abdomen, you’ll find long stands of orange or red hair.
2. Western Desert Tarantula
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
Tarantula sightings in Utah are fairly rare, but the most commonly spotted species is the Western desert tarantula. It’s often referred to as a blonde tarantula because of the light hair along its carapace. Female spiders usually have tan bodies, but males have reddish-brown bodies and dark black legs.
These spiders live in burrows deep within the ground, which helps them to withstand harsh temperatures. If temperatures drop below 31 degrees, they’ll leave their burrows behind and walk around outdoors. Burrows use strands of silk to mark the entrance to their burrow and detect any prey that might be nearby.
The Western desert tarantula has a long breeding season that spans from June to December. During this period, males leave their burrows at sunset and at dawn to search for potential mates. While females can lay up to 1,000 eggs, most of the spiders it hatches will never reach maturity.
While male spiders typically live for around 8 to 10 years, females have much longer lifespans and can live for up to 20 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live as long as 25 years! When these spiders aren’t breeding, they tend to be solitary, and they spend the majority of their lives on their own.
3. Desert Tarantula
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma iodius
This spider has a number of nicknames, including Salt Lake City brown and Great Basin blonde. While it can be difficult to spot, it can be found throughout the Beehive state. Locations where this spider has been spotted include Wah Wah Springs, Zion National Park, and Sardine canyon.
While these nocturnal spiders rarely leave their underground burrows during the day, males will come out during breeding season, which spans from late summer to early fall. During this time, they can sometimes be spotted wandering along trails or roads. Many male spiders never return to their burrows once they leave.
These spiders can be anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 inches, but the smaller males are more likely to be spotted. Female spiders are usually light brown with black spots along their legs, while male spiders are dark brown or black. They have barbed hairs that can potentially be toxic.
Some tarantulas dig their own burrows, but the desert tarantula usually lives in burrows that other animals, like rodents, have left behind. They cover the outside of their burrow with silk webbing. When males are looking for mates they may temporarily make homes beneath natural debris, like logs or large stones.
Desert tarantulas will occasionally eat insects, but they tend to hunt for other creatures, like small rodents and lizards. They’re also known to eat beetles and smaller spiders. Male spiders tend to live between 5 and 10 years, but females have been known to live for as long as 40 years!
4. Aphonopelma prenticei
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma prenticei
Unlike other tarantulas found in Utah, Aphonopelma prenticei doesn’t have a common name. While it’s usually found in the Red Cliffs Conservation area or the Beaver Dam Mountain region, it spends the majority of its life in burrows underground. Some spiders use webbing to mark the entrance of their burrows, but these spiders use a combination of webbing and mounds of dirt.
These spiders are much smaller than the average tarantula and usually measure between 2.5 to 3 inches. Although females are larger than males, both sexes are thin and have small abdomens. Females are usually tan, but males are darker and can be a deep brown or black.
Males usually leave their burrows when they reach sexual maturity, which happens around seven years of age. Once a male has successfully mated, it usually won’t live longer than 6 months.
In contrast, female Aphonopelma prenticei can live for more than 40 years. Breeding season begins in late summer and continues until late fall.
Both males and females will also leave their burrows at night so that they can search for food. They often feed on crickets, grasshoppers, and invertebrates, but will eat other small insects as well. Even when spiders are out hunting, they won’t wander very far from their burrows.