Pest Identification

Learn More About the Pests Invading Your Home

Tarantulas 411

Yes, Tarantulas are harmless, but that doesn’t mean I don’t jump two feet in the air when I see one on the hiking trail. That said, the more I learn about the giant spiders, the more fascinating they seem.

Because of their size, tarantulas are easily the most recognizable spiders in the world. After all, you don’t need a magnifying glass to view a spider with a 10-inch leg span. And while seeing a spider the size of a dinner plate may trigger your fight-or-flight instincts, tarantulas are not aggressive. They rarely bite people – “rarely” being the key word. A tarantula will bite you if you aggravate it, but the spider’s venom is pretty harmless to humans. Bites of the giant spiders have been compared to a bee sting in terms of toxicity. The rule of thumb should be obvious—don’t provoke tarantulas.

Tarantulas’ nasty body hairs can cause more pain than their bite. The hairs are barbed and when the spider feels threatened it uses its back legs to fling then at an adversary. That enemy could be you and tarantula hairs can cause a mean rash and even trigger an allergic reaction in some. And the poor tarantula ends up with a bald spot where there once was hair.

As far as survival goes, tarantulas are hunters, not web weavers. At night they pursue insects, mice, frogs, and even birds. They sneak up on their prey and jump on it, paralyzing them with venom. Like other spiders, they inject a digestive enzyme into their victims and suck out the liquefied innards with a straw-like mouth.

Although they don’t weave webs, female tarantulas produce silk to line and strengthen their nests. Males lay their sperm on a woven silk mat and females encase their fertilized eggs in a silk cocoon. Doesn’t that sound cozy?

If you see a tarantula while out hiking, leave it alone. It’s most likely a male searching for a mate. The creatures are surprisingly delicate and their exoskeletons can rupture if they fall even a short distance. To prevent such accidents, tarantulas have a sharp retractable claw on each leg so they can get a cat-like grip when climbing trees or moving through foliage.

Tarantulas are pretty fascinating and they have become popular as exotic, if weird, pets. Females can live in captivity for up to twenty years while males die after reaching sexual maturity in 5 to 10 years. Not sure it’s the best way to impress a date, but a pet tarantula is a gift that keeps on giving.