Introduction to Tarantulas

Based on what we have read, seen and experienced firsthand, it is common for us to stereotype persons who own tarantula spiders as weird, bizarre or having a “dark side”. Yes, it is a fact that most pet lovers prefer the more subdued, predictable and personable animals to become part of the family. Animals like dogs, cats, birds and hamsters fall into the category of “normal” animals to have as pets, and human nature dictates our preference to remain in the comfort zone of what is normal and familiar to us. Becoming an owner of a tarantula spider will be the perfect lesson in thinking outside the box and feeling accomplished for taking that chance.

Getting to know you

As with any prospective pet/owner relationship, it is only apt to start by introducing you to your future pet. You will be learning a little bit about the anatomy, personality and natural characteristics of the tarantula, which should help you appreciate its behavior, understand why it needs the care it does, and adjust its new living environment accordingly.

These creatures deserve to be understood! Many a bad thing has been said about tarantulas, and many of them quite unfair and unfounded. No wonder they bite…wouldn’t you?

What are you…really?

Tarantula spiders are large, hairy, eight-legged insects that make up an interesting part of the arachnid class of nature’s creatures. This interest lies in the fact that there are over 900 species of tarantula that live in countries across the world with tropical climates. All species are vibrantly colored and patterned, which makes them a beauty to behold.

The name tarantula comes from a town in southern Italy called Taranto. Research indicates that Taranto was the very first location where tarantula bites were ever recorded, many centuries ago. Who knew these arachnids had such widespread reach and influence?

Tarantulas come from the Theraphosidae family, and are either terrestrial or arboreal. Terrestrial tarantulas dwell and hunt mainly on land, while the arboreal strain makes its home in trees. This bit of information should come in handy when preparing a naturalistic environment for your new pet. Tarantula housing is discussed further in Chapter 3.

Both types emit silk, like most arachnids do. Arboreal tarantulas use this skill to construct their homes into tube-shaped silken webs, which are normally in trees. Terrestrials dwell in burrows or lairs made by digging up soil, and line the space with the same silken web they emit, making it virtually impossible for any unassuming prey to escape once they trespass.

By prey, we refer to insects like flies and crickets, as well as other arthropods. Those creatures are the favorites of tarantulas. If you guessed that these wonders of the world are insectivores, you guessed right. However, creatures other than insects can fall prey to larger tarantulas. They remain true to the predatory nature of arachnids and use those skills to capture and kill even bigger creatures like birds, lizards and mice.

Arboreal tarantulas have better vision than terrestrials, but neither type relies greatly on the eyes to locate prey. They have an extremely keen sense of touch, which helps them locate their prey, along with their ability to sense vibrations given off by the movement of other creatures.