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Tarantula Guide

Thank You for Stopping By!

We have learned that Amazing Tarantulas receives a wide variety of visitors, from the long-time tarantula enthusiast, to the new tarantula hobbyist, to the simply curious. Whatever the reason for your visit, we hope you find something useful!

For a quick and easy “tour”of the site, let me go over what you’ll find here. First and foremost, if you are here to learn basic information about tarantulas (not necessarily how to care for them), them proceed to the next section on this page, entitled Tarantulas 101. As for the other pages on this site, listed on the navigation bar to your left, here is what you will find:

Tarantula Facts: Read some of the most frequently asked questions in regards to these eight-legged wonders, including the role their hair plays in their life, and how to tell the boys from the girls.

Caresheets: Basic information on how to care for pet tarantulas.

Species Information: Broken down by scientific name (in alphabetical order), you will find information on the many tarantulas in our private collection.

Gallery: Pictures of our tarantulas.

Tarantulas : This is where I document some of the fun and interesting things that I see or experience in the hobby.

Resources: You won’t find everything you’re looking for in one place, so I’ve listed some links for you.

Tarantula 101

Tarantulas are large, hairy spiders that have been often been vilified by stories in books, movies, and urban legends. Let’s take a look at these animals through the lens of truth, rather than fiction, as see if we can’t help improve their image.

First, what makes a spider a tarantula? The descriptors “large” and “hairy” don’t quite cover it, as their are many spiders in the world that fit this description that are not tarantulas. (Some people find a wolf spider in their house and think they have found a young tarantula!) For one, all tarantulas have eight eyes, while some other spiders can have six. Tarantulas have two retractable claws at the end of their legs, like a cat. The fangs of the tarantula are “hinged” to move vertically (up and down), while the fangs of other spiders move horizontally. Take these characteristics, and cover them in hair, and you have the basic qualifications of a tarantula.

Let’s take a look at the parts of the tarantula. That big, round, hair covered back-side (sometimes resembling a kiwi) is the abdomen. Some tarantulas, like those living in the Americas, will flick their hairs when they become agitated or threatened. This can cause some tarantulas to have bald patches on their abdomen. (The hair does grow back with the next shedding of their exoskeleton.)

Our wild-caught Aphonopelma chalcodes (Mexican Blond).

Tarantulas, like all spiders, have eight legs. Often, people will claim to see ten legs, but they are mistakenly counting the tarantulas pedipalps. The pedipalps look a lot like two miniature versions of the spiders other legs. The spider uses these to help capture and hold prey. If you wanted to, you could call them the tarantula’s hands. (If you want to, though. Nobody is forcing you into anything!)

The “body” of the tarantula, above the abdomen, is known as the cephalothorax. The round portion on top of the tarantula, where the eyes are located, is known as the carapace. On the picture below, you can see the tarantula’s carapace outlined with orange hairs. The cluster of eyes can be seen towards the bottom-right of the carapace (in this photo), almost the very center of the photo. Despite having eight eyes, the tarantula has poor vision!

Here is a close-up of a Brachypelma smithi (Mexican Redknee).

On the front of the tarantula, below the eyes, are the spider’s chelicerae. I have heard the chelicerae as looking like a large mustache on the spider. The real action, however, is what is hinged on the bottom/underside of the chelicerae – the tarantula’s fangs. Each fang acts like a syringe, injecting the spider’s prey with venom and allowing the tarantula to consume it.

The fangs of a Grammostola aureostriata (Chaco Goldenknee).

Tarantulas grow by casting off their exoskeleton in a process called molting. While this is a vital part of life for the tarantula, it is also one that can hold unforseen problems. First and foremost, for tarantulas in the wild, they are extremely vulnerable during this process. If the spider is not able to completely free itself from the exoskeleton, the spider may lose a limb…or even die. Young spiders molt more often than adults do, as adults average approximately one molt per year.

Our Grammostola rosea (Chilean Rose Hair) molting.

So what to tarantulas eat? Pretty much anything they can overpower! Most thrive on a diet of insects, such as crickets, roaches, grasshoppers, etc. Some will eat larger prey, such as frogs, small lizards, and even mice. In captivity, however, crickets and roaches will do just fine!

Our Aphonopelma chalcodes posing with a cricket in her jaws.