Tarantulas strike fear in the biggest and best of us. Those hairy bodies and legs, their size, and their bites, have us shaking at just the mention of their name. However, most of us don’t know that they are the least dangerous and least aggressive spiders on the planet.
If you’re an arachnophobe, who especially fears tarantulas, read on for 10 of the coolest facts about these amazing arachnids.
- Life Span
Female tarantulas are known to live over twenty years in captivity, and over 30 years when in the wild, while their male counterparts don’t live far beyond puberty. A male tarantula only lives between five to ten years. Talk about a shortage of men!
The largest of the tarantulas have a leg span that can reach about 10 inches. That’s the size of a dinner plate. And. those legs need a shave because they are quite hairy.
Tarantulas are docile creatures, not out to attack or bite people. Innately aware that larger predators can overtake them, they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Their bites are pretty harmless too, being no more venomous than a bee sting.
- Their Defense Mechanism
When a tarantula feels threatened it scrapes barbed hairs from it’s belly, using its hind legs, and then it throws them at you. When struck by these pointy hairs, humans develop a bad rash, with some people having serious allergic reactions. The tarantula suffers too, ending up with a big bald spot on its abdomen.
- Their Prey
Tarantulas are nocturnal, attacking their prey under the darkness of night. These arachnids are hunters and do not use webs to trap their meals. With insects being their main attraction, some larger tarantulas will attack mice, frogs, and birds when they’re hungry. It is then that the tarantula becomes like any other spider, immobilizing their prey with their paralyzing venom, before their digestive enzymes liquify their prey for easy consumption.
Tarantulas are quite delicate, being thin skinned especially on their abdomens. For this reason, falling can be deadly to this arachnid. Even falling a short distance can kill them. Conservationists advise against holding a tarantula in your hand because when it starts squirming, most people drop it, or it might get spooked and jump to its death.
- Retractable Claws
Tarantulas’ claws are retractable, similar to those of a cat. With falling being one of their biggest hazards, they need these claws for safe climbing. Most tarantulas prefer staying on the ground, but will climb to get away from predators.
- No Web Spinning
Tarantulas have the ability to produce silk, just like every other spider, but they do not create webs. Instead, they create silk trap lines near the entrances to their burrows to alert them of prey or predators. Female spiders decorate their holes to make the walls stronger, and encase their eggs in silk cocoons, while the males use their silk to weave a mat to lay their sperm in a soft safe place. While other spiders use spinnerets to produce their silk, tarantulas use that method in addition to producing silk with their feet.
Tarantulas mate in the summer, and this is when you will encounter them the most. The male tarantulas set out in daylight, searching for females and will use their legs to tap the ground when they come across a burrowing female. Once the female recognizes the male’s presence, their mating is quick and to the point, much like a one night stand, with the male only thinking about his escape after handing over his sperm. The female is more interested in eating him after she is done with him, as he is a great source of protein.
- Regenerating Lost Legs
Tarantulas are molting arachnids, which means they shed their exoskeletons during each growth phase. This gives them the ability to grow a replacement leg during their next molting. Sometimes they end up with their new leg being shorter than the rest if the time from when they lost their leg and their next molting is too long. Their age also affects the growth of their new leg. Each molting will help the leg to eventually grow to match the rest of their other legs. Not letting anything go to waste, the tarantula eats his lost leg, recycling their own protein.
Tarantulas are amazing creatures that are most often misunderstood. The biggest in the arachnid family, these gentle giants are not about attacking. Many people choose to have tarantulas as pets, but one must remember that a tarantula, though furry, is not a cuddly animal. It is still a wild creature that cannot be tamed. Proper care should be taken whenever handling a tarantula, not only for your safety but for the safety of the tarantula itself. Delicate by nature, they may be big, but they are not the toughest spider in your house.