Shaddie is an arachnid enthusiast who hopes to combat society's widespread disdain for spiders through education.
Tarantulas as Pets: Are Tarantulas Dangerous?
Tarantulas are fuzzy arachnids most notable for their large size and hairy appearance. There are over 850 different kinds of tarantula spread across nearly every continent. Terrestrial tarantulas burrow in the earth and spend their time on the ground, while arboreal tarantulas live in trees and make cocoon-like nests out of silk, rarely touching the forest floor.
The popularity of tarantulas as pets has grown in the past few decades, and why not? They are a noiseless creature with minimal care requirements, and many tolerate handling. As the need for smaller living spaces and busier work schedules increases, tarantulas have become perfect apartment companions.
Pet spiders require very little space and are easy to house and feed. You can find tarantulas at pet stores, reptile shows, and from breeders and dealers online. For those seeking a unique, undemanding pet, a tarantula is a fine choice.
There are cautions that will accompany any animal you consider purchasing. Cats may scratch, birds may bite, lizards may whip their tails, and even frogs are capable of releasing unpleasant secretions that can irritate your eyes should you rub them after handling. Tarantulas are no different from other animals in that respect. They have their limits, they have their reasons, and some may defend themselves if they feel it is necessary to do so.
When Tarantulas Get Scared . .
A tarantula’s first act of defense is to scurry away from the danger in a flurry of little hairy legs. If this doesn’t work, many will actually flick hairs at their attacker. A tarantula accomplishes this peculiar feat by using one of its back legs to repeatedly rub its abdomen and shake loose the guard hairs that coat it. Because of the vigorous rubbing and the gossamer quality of the shafts, these urticating hairs become airborne in the intended direction of the enemy.
This defense is enough to discourage most predators because the hair is extremely itchy to sensitive areas of the skin. In humans, these hairs can cause an irritating rash, and if a witless person were to rub the hairs in their eyes for some reason, they would need to seek medical treatment immediately.
But when it comes to spiders, everyone seems interested in only one thing: the bite. Which one has the most dangerous bite? Where do the most dangerous spiders live? How can I tell the difference between a brown recluse and a garden spider? How long can I live if I'm bitten in the eye by a black widow?
Sensationalist media and fear-mongering members of society who are content to spread misinformation and panic seem to enjoy nothing more than to talk about the potential eight-legged horrors that could be lurking just outside your front door, all the while simultaneously ignoring scientific data and simple facts.
Tarantula Bites: Fact and Fiction
The thought process in the minds of most people is that if something as small as a black widow or brown recluse can rack up the death toll in the United States, then surely a South American jungle spider that is twice, thrice, or even ten times as large would have an even more potent bite to correspond with their greater mass! But fortunately, this is not the case.
The size of many tarantulas is daunting to fearful onlookers, but in actuality, tarantulas have fairly weak venom, and those bought in pet stores do not pose a threat to human safety. In fact, there is not a single documented case of a tarantula killing a human being, even among the most dangerous tarantulas in the world.
Like most animals, tarantulas will give a warning before actually attacking. If they feel they are unable to escape, typically, a tarantula will raise its front pairs of legs and show its fangs, or it may lunge aggressively toward your hand. This is the tarantula saying, "Back off, buster, I'm not in the mood right now!" But if this posture does not discourage an assailant, it may strike. So if you see your spider acting in this manner, it would be wise to give the little crankypants its space.
The tarantula does have a venomous bite, just as all spiders do, but its venom is designed to take down prey much smaller than you or me. The bite of most tarantulas is similar to that of a wasp sting, where redness, soreness, and inflammation of the bite location will occur. In the case of very large tarantulas, the mechanical puncture of their fangs into human skin may produce a minimal amount of blood, which will heal just as pinpricks do. (The tarantula may sink both fangs in during a bite, or only one.)
The other symptoms fade in a few days, and it is quite rare if any other side effects are experienced (obviously not accounting for possibly serious allergic reactions, which affect approximately 2% of people when stung by bees).
Tarantulas are capable of "dry biting." A dry bite is one where an attack and a successful puncture occurs, but no venom is injected. The result is one or two holes in the skin, but no other side effect. It is just that. A "dry" bite!
Some tarantulas are more likely to dry-bite than others, but it depends on each individual and what they personally feel is worth losing venom over. Some, it seems, simply don't want to waste their reserves if they don't plan on eating (venom is crucial to the tarantula's digestion process when dining on prey).
Tarantula-Handling Tips and Precautions
Tarantulas typically don't want to start trouble (unless you happen to buy a species that is renowned for its aggression), but let's touch on some precautions you can follow which could help you avoid bites. You should always use caution when handling your spider. Tarantulas are big babies and could easily become startled from sudden movements, large vibrations, changes in lighting, or even airflow (never blow or breathe directly on a tarantula!).
When animals get scared, the "fight or flight response" occurs in their brain, and they choose one or the other. Even if the thing that scares them is not you, you may find yourself the receiver of a nervous nip, similar to the way that birds may bite on to your hand if they fear they may fall to their death.
How to Safely Pick Up a Tarantula
The safest way to approach a spider is by being slow, quiet, and calm. It is wise to have a tool at your disposal (I prefer reptile feeding tongs, but paintbrushes work as well) which you will use to "test" the amiability of your spider before you attempt to engage it. Gently nudging the spider's abdomen or legs with your tool of choice, note the behavior that follows.
If the spider turns around swiftly, rears up, or bites the tool (you will feel a hard "scrape" and may hear a noise as the fangs contact the object), the tarantula is probably not in the mood to play. If the spider is slow to respond, turns around but makes no other movement, or simply sits there, it is generally safe to continue.
Before handling any of my spiders, I test them with this method. I then coax them out by gently prodding their rumps and goading them forward until I can get them to walk onto my hand.
Please note that if you regularly feed your tarantula with tongs, they will associate tongs with food and will leap hungrily at them with fangs out, whether they are willing to be held or not.
How to Safely Hold a Tarantula
Always make sure the spider has all legs supported when you hold them. Some tarantulas like to crawl—a lot—so just keep switching out hands so the spider can move across them. It is recommended to keep a tarantula on your hands only unless you are quite confident in yourself and the behavior of your own spider, in which case it may be all right to allow the spider to roam elsewhere.
Remember to hold the tarantula over a surface or while sitting down. If a tarantula falls from a height of just three feet, the impact could break the poor spider's abdomen apart, which could lead to instant or painfully slow death. If you are hesitant about handling your tarantula, it's best to refrain from doing so.
When a Bite Occurs
In the unlucky event that you are bitten by your tarantula, hastily clean the wound with hot water and soap. In most cases, the bite may be uncomfortable for a few hours, and it may remain itchy for up to a week, but this is normal and is the body's natural response toward recovery.
Cold compresses are often recommended for bee stings, and over-the-counter pain relievers such as Ibuprofen have proven to reduce some discomfort. There are some individuals who swear by the method of running bite sites under scalding water, the heat of which is said to help neutralize or inhibit the spread of venom. Medical evaluation is rarely necessary for a tarantula bite incident
Anaphylactic shock can occur when certain proteins in animal venom spark a severe reaction from the body, causing a flood of histamines and other inflammation-inducing cells to surge through the bloodstream. This causes inflammation of the skin, constriction of airways, and even cardiac arrest in severe cases.
Allergies to bees and wasps are typically very rare, but since the venom of wasps, in particular, is similar to that of tarantulas, it is safe to assume that anyone allergic to bees could be allergic to spiders and should probably avoid tarantulas as pets.
When Is Hospitalization Wise?
As mentioned above, mild itchy symptoms are normal. But, if you feel trouble brewing in places other than the localized area of your bite wound, be on the alert. Symptoms to look out for:
- Increased heart rate
- Aches in the joints or limbs
If your mild symptoms continue for longer than a week, or the itchiness and redness spreads, this may also be cause for concern. If you are bitten and are afraid you may be having an allergic reaction, or the venom is having a potent effect on you, make sure you receive medical attention as soon as possible.
The good thing about pet tarantula bites is that identification of the culprit is confirmed (identification is paramount with antivenin treatment). Unfortunately, this knowledge is relatively useless seeing as how there is no tarantula antivenin available anyway. This is because tarantula bites are typically nothing to worry about and are not common. However, in the case of more potent species of tarantulas (ones you are not likely to find in pet stores), some bites may require hospitalization, if only to acquire pain medication.
These are the most commonly kept tarantulas, and the most commonly found in pet stores. Though they are marketed as being the friendliest of all tarantulas, they actually can cop quite the attitude in comparison to some other more docile species (such as Grammostola pulchra). But rose-hairs are known for their harmless bites which cause mild symptoms that fade within a few days. Least concern.
This is another common tarantula that can be located at nearly any Petco. They are very unwilling to bite, and when they do bite the symptoms are minimal. "No worse than a bee sting" is the adage that you will hear from the privileged few who have experience with the bites of this species. These spiders also do not kick hairs. Least concern.
Mexican Red-Knee Tarantulas
Another common tarantula found in pet stores, with similar bite results as the two species listed above. Simple, non-damaging, easy to live with. The real concern with these guys is their love of kicking hairs. Their hairs are itchier than those of other tarantulas. Least concern.
These tarantulas are the largest spiders in the world, but the symptoms from their bites are no worse than those from the species listed above, with the only difference being the mechanical pain resulting from this spider's large fangs piercing the skin during an attack. Theraphosa blondi can attain fangs approximately 1 inch long. Pain, though it can be sharp, lasts no longer than a few days and is not usually anything to be medically concerned about. Some concern.
King Baboon Tarantulas
Bite reports for this species vary and can be as innocuous as mild pain and slight bruising at the bite wound, to nausea, fever, and muscle cramping in the affected limb. One case even documented a hallucinatory episode. Some people seem to be much more sensitive to the venom than others.
It is also plausible that the amount of venom being injected by each individual spider differs in big or small ways, which may account for the gradient of severity. Fortunately for the safety of irresponsible impulse buyers everywhere, this spider is not sold in stores. Some concern to high concern.
Poecilotheria is a genus of very attractive tarantulas which include the Indian ornamental, fringed ornamental, gooty sapphire, and many more. These are not spiders you will find in your everyday pet store, and for good reason. Though not terribly aggressive, they are impeccably fast and will not hesitate to bite if they feel cornered.
Their venom is arguably among the most potent of all tarantulas kept as pets, with reports typically including nausea, vomiting, and severe muscle cramping. Increased heart-rate can also occur at random intervals, as can fever, dizziness, and body aches. When bitten by these animals, most people will visit the hospital for muscle relaxants, analgesics, or cautionary monitoring. This is not a spider for beginners! Most concern.
Bite Risk by Species
Mexican Red Knee
In General, Tarantula Bites Aren't That Bad
Tarantulas as a whole should be treated with respect, not fear. They may bite to defend themselves on occasion, but unless you own a particular group of tarantulas with reportedly potent venom, even if you are tagged, you have little or nothing to stress over. Many people have been in the business of tarantula keeping and breeding for decades without getting nicked once. Bites shouldn't be dreaded; they are a very small part of animal care in general.
So if you are concerned about buying your child a tarantula or nervous about getting one for yourself, just know that the worst you or your kid will ever feel if bit by one typically found in pet stores is the initial surprise of the attack. Assuming you are not allergic, effects are not long lasting, and the minimal pain will subside. I promise. It's no worse than a bee sting.
More About Tarantula Bites
- Tarantula Bite Reports
- Avicularia versicolor bite
- Large Poecilotheria ornata bite
- The Importance of Temperament Testing
Brooke on June 18, 2019:
Do you know what it means when holding a terantula and they vibrate their fangs on your finger but not actually bite?
Jack on January 14, 2015:
You're always on top of evhyetring.Ok, my MAC doesn't wanna open the conversation thingy on the above post so I can't leave a comment but you know I'm thinking about you and the boys. What a heart-warming post. You've raised good boys, Viv.PS. I tried Cindy's line. It was ok. But I liked my Arbonne better so I cancelled it and went back to my ol' faithful. =/
Anna on January 10, 2015:
Everything you mentioned are execeienrps that are not really sinful. If you wanna know what a spider bite feels like, there's really nothing wrong with it. I'd think you're out of your tree, but I'd ask that you just make sure you won't have some kind of heart-stopping allergic reaction, the proper medical preparedness, and then have fun! Want want a lady in high heels to score three points on your crotch? You could have your sister or mom do that. Nothing sinful there.Unmarried sex is the only no-no. You're missing the point on something. Sin is not fun and games like we think it is. It's actually dressed up puke. Do you think hell is about spider bites and getting kicked in the nuts? You need to rethink that. It's more like endless starvation, grief, sadness, hate, anger, torture, and suffering that goes on and on and never stops. It's like being force-fed your own puke and never ever getting a break. And my descriptions don't even touch what its really like.So then, doesn't heaven sound much better?God bless.References : I am catholic.
Phillip Grobler from Polokwane on July 01, 2014:
Very nice informative hub, though the OBT (Orange Baboon Tarantula) here in South Africa have enough venom to kill kids under the age of 6 some reported 8 year old, i self have been bitten a few times and the effects is epic.blurry vision, epic muscle cramps at times the effects range, sometimes its just bad head aches and other times as described above. This is an old age Tarantula super aggressive but you can't tame them if you put the time and effort into it, then they do make really amazing pets. +up+useful+interesting.
Gable Rhoads from North Dakota on April 28, 2013:
I love tarantulas and own a rose hair right now. Thanks for writing this hub and educating people.
Dana Stamps from Wichita, Kansas on March 05, 2013:
I would love to have another Pink Toe! I just loved that tarantula. Her name was 'Stella'. Lol! She had such an intricate tube web! I would spray mist her enclosure, and she loved meal worms as well as crickets. Both of my females lived a long time! When I originally got my Pink Toe, she was in such bad shape. I got her from a pet store here in my area. Her abdomen was really small and narrow. Right after I got her home, I got a plastic lid and filled it with water and set it on my floor for her to drink. She drank for probably about 15 minutes! Bless her heart! She turned into a beautiful tarantula! However, one time she laid eggs and made an egg sack. I didn't want the eggs to be viable and hatch. I know that sounds cruel, but I took her egg sack away. Sometimes they can reproduce asexually. It's very possible that the eggs were not viable, but she fought me on taking it away. I felt so bad about it, and I still do. Stella was a sweetheart, and she loved to jump. She was a big girl! She grew after I had nursed her back to health. Another time, she was gravid, but didn't actually lay the eggs. She had a tree branch and sphagnum moss in her enclosure, and she came out all of the time. I always made sure to keep her enclosure more humid than her burrowing friends. I used my spray bottle that I kept full of water.
My Rose Hair lived into her teens, and she loved to come out, too. She even made a shallow burrow in her vermiculite one time!
My male curly hair tarantula lived about two years after he sexually matured. He was a sweetheart, too. He lived a long time for a male tarantula! I used to take him out, too.
I'm really going to look into getting another one. I need to figure out where I can buy one here in town. They're so easy to care for, and they do so many interesting things.
I bet your tarantula, A. versicolor, is beautiful! I'll have to look up the Brazilian black tarantula. They sound so interesting, and I bet they all have their own personalities. They all sound so happy. It sounds like you've given them all a good home, one that they are sure to enjoy for many more years to come!
It's nice to find another tarantula enthusiast! I'm just a huge lover of animals!
Shaddie (author) from Washington state on March 05, 2013:
I'm glad to hear that a fellow tarantula enthusiast could gain some more insight on them from my Hub! They really are fascinating creatures. At the moment I have an A. avicularia (pink toe), an A. versicolor (Antilles pink toe), a G. rosea (rose hair) and a G. pulchra (Brazilian black), so I've gotten the pleasure of watching both arboreal and terrestrial behaviors from the bunch. One of the most interesting things I've ever seen them do is drink (I never get tired of seeing spiders drink), and "tapping" to one another across the glass of their aquariums. Pink toes are beautiful, if you're able, you should definitely get another! :)
Dana Stamps from Wichita, Kansas on March 05, 2013:
I love this article! I am a tarantula lover and have owned tarantulas in the past, 5 total. Mine never bit me, and I handled them quite frequently, but as you have stated in your article, these animals can bite. The most aggressive behavior mine ever showed, was rearing up on their back legs! I knew to back off! There are so many beautiful species. I have several tarantula books, and I have been thinking about getting another one. I have my old tarantula enclosures, most of them suitable for burrowing species, but I did have a South American Pink Toe female (arboreal) that lived quite a long time! She had a taller enclosure with a branch in it. She was so beautiful and so sweet. I miss all of my fuzzy spider friends. Thanks for the information on tarantula bites. This was something I was not very educated on, but now I know. :~)
Shaddie (author) from Washington state on November 25, 2012:
It is pretty isn't it? It's one if the backgrounds on my computer. As for bonding, I can't say I know enough about all tarantulas to know if any of them bond, or feel emotions at all. Simple-minded animals such as arthropods have very specific desires, and I'm not sure if companionship is one of those desires. I haven't noticed that my spiders act any different around me or other people, so I can't imagine they recognize faces or smells.
Some people think that because spiders don't "miss you" or don't connect with you on an emotional level it makes them less of an animal and pet, but I see it as an advantage. Spiders don't suffer from the neglect, boredom, or loneliness that a bird or mammal would when left alone for days.
At any rate, tarantulas can be accustomed to handling, and some become tame enough for you to pick up, roll over, "tickle," etc.
An AYM on November 25, 2012:
Do tarantulas bond with people? Also that first picture is very, very pretty to look at.
Shaddie (author) from Washington state on March 20, 2012:
Why thank you! Yes, tarantulas have gotten quite a bad rap it seems, and for little reason. I'm glad this could help put your mind at ease.
geetika iyer from India on March 20, 2012:
Loved the hub! You have managed to wash away all the wrong images I had about trantulas(thanks to movies and such). They really are some of the most peaceful and harmless creatures after all.
And yes i did not know that there is not even a single documental case of death due to trantula bite! The thought to check never even occurred to me.
Love your hubs!
How To Avoid Getting Bitten By Your Tarantula
Tarantulas are basically houseplants with legs – until they aren’t. They usually don’t do much unless they’re exploring their enclosure, feeding or molting, but should you mistreat them, their fangs will come out (although they’re never put away, to begin with, but you get what I’m saying).
Building on the previous section, the easiest way to avoid getting bitten by a tarantula is by staying out of the biting range of a tarantula’s fangs.
Tarantulas don’t gain anything from being handled they don’t form a bond or feel affection for their keepers and thus won’t want to curl up and cuddle. This hands-off policy lessens your chance of getting bitten drastically.
On the other hand, if you really need to handle a tarantula, here are the ones that may let you hold them. We also provided handling tips so you and your T are both safe during the handling process.
When it comes to feeding, moving things in the enclosure, or filling the water bowl, use equipment like long tongs to make sure you don’t get too close to biting distance.
Basically, the best way to never get bitten is to not put yourself in that position in the first place.
- Don’t use your bare hands. Use tongs during enclosure maintenance, and if you have to use your hands, gloves may be a good idea. This will not only help prevent punctures when bitten but will also make sure that loose urticating hairs don’t get stuck to your flesh, causing irritation.
- Don’t handle your tarantula. They’re like hairy fish with legs – there to be looked at but not touched.
- Use enclosures with a big enough opening to get your tools and hand in without the possibility of getting stuck when you have to take it out quickly.
- Learn to read tarantula body language. If you see your tarantula is agitated or stressed, don’t go poking around. That is just asking for trouble. Rather wait until the T calms down.
- Make sure you know where your tarantula is before opening and working in the enclosure. You don’t want to startle it.
Pros and Cons of Keeping a Tarantula as a Pet
While spiders are known to be one of the creepiest and weirdest animal species, tarantulas can become a wonderful pet option. These spiders require a small place to keep and are extremely fun to observe. However, they are not quite suitable for handling and may cause itching, allergy and other similar health problems if they not are handled properly.
Having a pet tarantula spider can be more like having a collection. They are more to be observed than being handled. However, if you are really serious about adopting it, then make a decision only after you consider the pros and cons of having one.
Pros of having a pet tarantula are discussed in detail below.
When it comes to buying a tarantula, it is recommended that you buy a female of the species as they tend to live a lot longer than a male of the species. Any male tarantula will mostly survive for a little longer than a couple of years, while a female can easily live up to 20 to 25 years.
Therefore, if you are looking for a long-time pet friend, then getting a female tarantula spider is one of the best options you have. Make sure you ask for a female when you go to purchase a tarantula.
Tarantula spiders are very quiet and isolated creatures and usually grow in size to about 5 to 8 inches. Due to this, they are very easy to house and require only a small area to keep. Apart from this, the small size also allows for the easy maintenance of the pet as well as the enclosure in which it is kept.
Small Enclosure and Fewer Needs
When it comes to housing a pet tarantula, you will need a comfortable enclosure for the pet. The choice of the enclosure will completely depend on the species you chose as your pet.
In any case, the spider will neither require a large enclosure to keep nor cost a hefty price to buy.
Easy to Feed and Maintain
Pet tarantulas are very easy to maintain and require a very low cost of maintenance. They are also very easy to feed as adult tarantulas require food only about once a week. Apart from this, some species also fast for a very long time, maybe about a month or two.
However, specific care regarding their diet needs to be considered, especially during their time of growth (when excess food may be needed) and molting (when food may not be needed at all).
Apart from this, the other things that you need to consider in maintenance are temperature, light and humidity. Temperature can be maintained easily with the help of heating pads placed around the corners of the enclosure, while humidity can be easily managed by misting the enclosure, depending on the specific requirement.
When it comes to light, make sure that you do not keep the pet enclosure exposed to direct sunlight as tarantulas prefer living in the dark more than being in the light. Therefore, just keeping them in a corner of the house where sunlight can't reach may be the best possible solution.
Exciting to Observe
While tarantulas are not well recommended for handling, they are excellent for observation. There is a huge variety of tarantula spiders available in the market with each species being unique in its own way. Some are quick, agile and create a lot of webs around their habitat, while others are slow, may have burrowing needs and tend to be very delicate in nature.
When all this is considered, it becomes extremely exciting just to observe a pet tarantula naturally going through another day of its life.
Silent and Isolated Creatures
Common pets like cats, dogs and other similar creatures require a lot of care and handling. However, pet tarantulas are isolated creatures and are very silent when kept on their own. They do not make unnecessary noises and are not disturbing during any part of the day or night.
This makes them one of the best pet options for those who like to maintain peace in the house and do not have much intention of handling or being disturbed by their pets.
The cons of keeping a tarantula as a pet are discussed below.
Not Well Suitable for Handling
Tarantulas can be good pets, but they are not recommended for handling. This is mainly because they can bite and have irritating abdominal hairs. Tarantula bites are mostly non-fatal but can cause itching, swelling, or irritation. However, do remember the fact that there are a few tarantula species which have fatal bites.
On the other hand, they have abdominal hairs that are thin enough to get into the skin and cause irritation. Moreover, if these hairs get into human eyes, they can cause swelling and other serious eye-related problems. Therefore, it is recommended that you do not rub your eyes after handling a tarantula and carefully wash your hands after every time you touch it.
Need Delicate Care
Tarantulas may look very intimidating, but they are actually very delicate creatures. If the enclosure is kept very high up, then there is a chance of them falling from the height, which may cause critical or fatal injuries. This is the biggest threat to their lives.
Another thing that might require extra attention is the humidity levels. If the humidity levels are not high enough for your tarantula species then they may suffer from dehydration, which will make them very lethargic and otherwise unwell.
Apart from this, their feeding habits may also need extra attention, especially during their growth and moulting periods. Not feeding enough during their growth can cause them various health problems and hinder their natural growth process. On the other hand, feeding them more than necessary during their moulting period can result in their death.
Not Socially Accepted
While keeping tarantula spiders as a pet might be exciting for some people, there are a large number of people who are extremely scared and creeped out just by looking at a spider. Because of this reason, they are not suitable for social environments.
If you have a family member or friend who is scared of spiders, then it is advisable not to adopt a tarantula as your pet. Otherwise, it may create an environment that may be life-threatening for itself and very uncomfortable for your family member or friend.
Another one of the greatest cons of having a pet tarantula is that it needs to be fed insects and other crawly creatures that humans don’t handle best such as mealworms, super worms and even roaches. Some larger species of tarantula spiders can also eat pinkie mice and small lizards.
Apart from this, their usual eating habit should be kept random like one cricket a week, then two in the next week and three in the next one, and so on. Also, you need to make sure that the insects you are feeding your pet spider are fully gutted. The crickets should be fed nutritious food and should also be dusted with vitamins, prior to feeding it to your pet spider.
Some Species Can Be Venomous
Tarantula spiders are venomous and their bites also contain venom. However, most of the time their toxicity level is very low and may just cause local irritation, pain, redness and swelling.
However, there are a few species which have highly toxic venom and their bites can be fatal as well. Apart from this, some people develop an allergic reaction to spider bites, which may not be that toxic, but the allergic reaction may itself be fatal.
Are Tarantulas Really Poisonous?
Tarantulas have been often depicted as deadly, poisonous creatures in movies. Well, their creepy appearance with eight creepy-crawly legs can cause anyone to freak out stay away from them and spin tales of how venomous they are! This myth about tarantulas being poisonous has been advantageous to quite a few people. For example, there have been some jewelry store owners who placed tarantulas in display windows at night, with the aim that thieves won’t dare to steal jewelry guarded by the spider. What’s even better, the store owners found that this trick worked!
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Moreover, in the middles ages people were of the school of thought that tarantula bites caused their victims to enter a humdrum state. They termed this effect as ‘tarantism’ and believed music to be the only method of stirring the victim out of the dullness. The victim was made to dance with the music, until he or she collapsed due to exhaustion. Once the victim woke up he or she would become normal. This belief spearheaded the origin of the popular Italian dance, ‘tarantella’.
Contrary to popular belief, tarantulas are not deadly poisonous. Some tarantula facts will help us transform our minds and break the age-old mindsets we have. Tarantulas have two lines of defense: fangs and poisonous abdominal hair called urticating hair.
Tarantulas have two fangs structured and designed to bite their prey, such as insects, small birds and rodents. When the tarantula encounters its prey, it knavishly overcomes its prey and sticks its two fangs into the prey. The tarantula’s salivary glands secretes a digestive enzyme via the fang into the prey’s body, whose function is to dissolve the tissues of the prey’s body. The liquid tissue is then sucked out by the tarantula. Though this liquid secreted has the power to kill insects and small birds, it is not capable of killing humans.
If one encounters a tarantula and it bites the person, the least that can happen is swelling accompanied by pain. The pain resembles a wasp or bee sting. To treat the bite, wash the site with regular water and soap. This will reduce the possibilities of infections. To reduce swelling place an ice cube onto the bite site. Meat tenderizer helps reduce irritation, thus, apply a paste of it by mixing in some water. You could even apply topical cortisone onto the bite site.
Tarantulas possess a dense blanket of stinging or urticating hair on the abdomen. These structures protect the tarantula from enemies like skunks, tarantula hawk wasps, etc. In cases where the tarantula comes across its enemy, it raises its legs and brushes its urticating hair onto the enemies face. The hair penetrates into the skin, mucus membranes and eyes of the enemy. Once the hair comes into contact with soft tissues, it conduces to skin irritation, watering of the eyes, itching in the nose, lips, tongue and swelling of air passages.
If a human comes in contact with the hair on the abdomen, it can cause some skin irritation, inflammation of the eyes and nasal passage. If you have urticating hair stuck in your skin, use tweezers or duct tape to pick up as many loose hair from the skin as possible. To prevent this condition, always make sure you keep the tarantula away from your face while handling them! Also wash your hands after you are done with them and make sure you don’t inhale any urticating hair. However, if you feel you might have inhaled some urticating hair into your lungs, it is best to seek medical attention as early as possible.
Though tarantulas are not poisonous in normal circumstances, people allergic to tarantula bites can experience life-threatening symptoms. They should keep away from tarantulas and seek immediate medical attention if contracted a bite.
- Weisman, D. (2010) Tarantula! Retrieved from: https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2010/mar/ed_3/index.phtml
- H. J. (2019) How Deadly is a Tarantula? Retrieved from: https://youngzine.org/news/our-earth/how-deadly-tarantula
- Rankin, A. (2018) Watch a Time-Lapse of a Tarantula Crawling out of its Own Skin. Retrieved from: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2018/05/tarantula-shedding-molting-video-timelapse-slow-motion-animals-spd/
- Weisman, D. (2010) Tarantula! Retrieved from: https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2010/mar/ed_3/index.phtml
If you enjoyed reading this article, why not check out our articles on The Three Best Kinds of Spiders to Keep as Pets and Which Bugs Make the Best Pets? The Complete Guide
Are Tarantulas Poisonous?
Are Tarantulas Venomous?
In the face of a threat or a perceived threat, a typical American tarantula has two lines of defense. It can use its fangs to inflict a bite, or it can use its urticating (barbed and mildly venomous) abdominal hairs to cause soft tissue or eye irritation. Fortunately, while painful and aggravating, the tarantula's fangs or or hairs appear to cause no long term damage in most cases.
Tarantula on stucco wall. See one in action in this video.
Photo by Jay Sharp.
According to Barron's Tarantulas and Other Arachnids, the tarantula's "mouth parts include the muscular fang bases and the attached backward-pointing fangsвЂ¦ The tarantula's venom glands are inside the basal part."
When it attacks prey such as an insect or another spider, the tarantula swiftly drives its fangs into the body and delivers the venom, which liquefies the insides, according to the Tarantula Facts internet site. The tarantula dines on the resultant "soup."
If a tarantula should bite you вЂ“ probably after warning you to back off by raising its front legs and displaying its fangs in a threat posture вЂ“ it will likely inflict a pain comparable to that resulting from a bee or wasp sting. Brent Hendrixson, in his article, "So You Found A Tarantula!" on the American Tarantula Society internet site, says that the tarantula's "venom is of no medical significance, and contrary to popular belief, nobody has ever died from such a biteвЂ¦"
Other authorities, however, say that a tarantula's bite can trigger an allergic reaction, making you gasp or feel ill, calling for a visit to the doctor. (See Treatments of Tarantula-inflicted Injuries.)
The Urticating Hairs
According to Robert J. Wolff, Ph. D., writing for the Carolina Biological Supply Company internet site, the tarantula's urticating hairs can "penetrate skin, mucus membranes, and eyes." If they come into "contact with soft tissues they dig into the tissue and cause an urtication or irritation."
Threatened by a skunk, for example, the tarantula may use its legs to cast its hairs into the animal's face, "causing the eyes to water, the nose to itch, the breathing passages to swell shut, and the lips and tongue to become irritated."
If a tarantula should cast its hairs into your face or inner arm вЂ“ should you get too close, especially to a surly spider вЂ“ it will cause redness and itching of your skin for a couple of days and irritation of your lips, tongue and eyes. A tarantula's urticating hairs can produce allergic reactions, including significant skin rashes, swelling and breathing problems, calling for medical attention. (See Treatments of Tarantula-inflicted Injuries.)
Common Questions About Tarantulas