Facts, Identification & Control
Tarantulas occur in a variety of colors, sizes and habitats. Many are black or brown in color and have hairy bodies. They can measure up to 30 cm in length. Although frightening in appearance, tarantulas are only aggressive when provoked.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
The diet of the tarantula includes grasshoppers, beetles and other spiders. Vertebrates such as mice, toads, snakes, frogs and lizards may also fall prey to the tarantula depending on the species. Arboreal species prey upon flying insects, moths and frogs.
All tarantulas undergo molting, during which they shed their exoskeletons in order to grow. Some tarantula specimens have been known to live for many years.
Males usually spin a sperm web onto which they deposit sperm. They draw the sperm into their pedipalps. Once they locate a female they test her receptiveness by tapping near her burrow or web. If receptive, mating occurs and males attempt to quickly flee. If not fast enough, males may become a meal. Females deposit the eggs inside a case which she rotates and defends until hatching.
Tarantulas live in arid, semidesert regions and in tropical rainforests. Some tarantulas are arboreal and spin silken retreats in tree holes, while others are terrestrial and dwell in burrows. The tarantula’s silk is used to line these homes, as well as to protect egg sacs. Tarantula spiders are solitary and only interact in order to mate.
The Togo starburst tarantula and the sunburst baboon tarantula are found on the African continent. Costa Rica is home to the zebra leg tarantula, also known as the white knee tarantula. These tarantulas are named for their conspicuous leg markings.
Within North America, Texas brown tarantulas can be found. Desert blond tarantulas are also present on the continent and dwell primarily in Arizona and other arid locations. Mexican fire legs, Mexican red legs and Mexican pinks are all terrestrial tarantulas, slow moving and indigenous to Mexico.
Tarantula Natural History
There are over 800 documented tarantula species, all of which belong to the Family Theraphosidae.
Tarantulas usually are larger than other spiders. Specimens may reach over 30 cm in length. Tarantulas also possess different jaw structures than most spiders in that they move vertically instead of horizontally. Most tarantula species have eight small eyes, although cave-dwelling species may be eyeless.