- Genus/Species: 113 genera, 897 species
- Conservation Status: Some species are threatened.
- Location: Tarantulas are found in south and western parts of the United States, Central America, and throughout South America as well as Africa, large parts of Asia and all over Australia. Some species are also found in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, and in Cyprus
Big, Hairy and Scary!
Tarantulas live in warm areas around the world. Some live in burrows and some are found under rocks or logs. All tarantulas can produce silk. Those that live on trees live in a silken "tube tent" while those living on the ground will line their burrows with silk to make it easier for them to climb up and down. The majority of North American tarantulas are brown, but some species are cobalt blue, while others are black with white stripes. Tarantulas are big and hairy and look really scary, but most tarantulas are harmless to humans. All tarantulas are venomous, but only some species have venom that can produce extreme discomfort over a period of several days.
Tarantulas range in size from being as small as a fingernail to being as big as a dinner plate. Young tarantulas will molt several times over the first few years as they get bigger. Tarantulas don't use webs to capture prey; they do it the hard way – by hunting. Some tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees while others hunt on or near the ground. They hunt at night and they prey on insects, as well as other spiders, small lizards, small snakes and frogs.
Tarantulas have many natural enemies, including lizards, snakes, spider-eating birds, and even wasps. Another threat is that some species are captured as they are popular in the exotic pet trade. Tarantula populations are under pressure from habitat destruction, as tropical rainforests and deserts are being destroyed. Many also suffer the effects of pesticides used to kill the insect pests on which they prey.
Did You Know?
- If a tarantula feels threatened, it uses its hind legs to scrape barbed hairs from its abdomen and flings them in the direction of the threat.
- A tarantula bite is no more poisonous than a bee sting.
- When male tarantula finds a burrowing female, he'll tap the ground with his legs, politely announcing his presence. After the mating is over, the female will often eat the male.
- If a tarantula loses a leg, a new one will reappear as if by magic the next time it molts