Have you ever been curious about those cool, hairy spiders called Tarantulas? They might seem a bit scary at first, but there is a whole world of wonder behind those eight legs.
In this guide, we will explain to you how to handle tarantulas in a safe and friendly way.
Before attempting to handle a tarantula, it is crucial to educate yourself on various aspects, such as knowing how to pick up and handle them, understanding the specific behaviors and temperaments of your tarantula’s species, creating a safe handling environment, and having a contingency plan in case something goes wrong.
It is essential to note that tarantula handling is not a mandatory part of being a good tarantula owner.
Many experienced owners choose not to handle their spiders, as tarantulas often experience stress during handling, and it may not be beneficial for them.
Remember, being a responsible tarantula owner goes beyond handling, and the well-being of your pet should always be the top priority. So, if you are ready to explore, then let’s start and keep reading to learn more…!
Tarantulas belong to the animal kingdom (Animalia) and fall under the phylum Arthropoda, emphasizing their jointed legs and exoskeleton, classified under the family Theraphosidae, as established by Thorell in 1869.
There are around 1,100 known species of tarantulas, grouped into 166 genera as of December 2023.
The word “tarantula” is commonly used for spiders in the Theraphosidae family, but people also call other spiders in the same group “tarantulas” or “false tarantulas”.
Some of these spiders have become popular as pets. Some types, especially those from the New World, have tiny hairs that can irritate the skin, and in rare cases, they might even harm the eyes.
So, if you are thinking about keeping one as a pet, it is good to know about these interesting spiders and their unique features.
Tarantulas are cool creatures without a backbone(invertebrates), and they wear their skeleton on the outside (exoskeleton) for support.
Their body has two main parts – the front part, the cephalothorax (prosoma), and the back part (opisthosoma).
These parts are linked by a waist-like piece called the pedicel, which lets the back part move around a lot.
Their pedipalps, resembling shorter legs, extend from the cephalothorax and are used for sensing and manipulating objects. These spiders feature large fangs (chelicerae) and a tube-shaped mouth.
While they have eight eyes, the two larger ones are prominently located at the front, with four smaller eyes in a row beneath them and two hidden eyes on each side of the head.
Depending on the kind, tarantulas can be 2 to 4½ inches long, with legs that span 3 to 12 inches. Some of them can even weigh more than 3 ounces!
The goliath bird eater from Venezuela and Brazil is the biggest, with a leg span of up to 12 inches.
Tarantulas come in various colors, like brown, cobalt blue, black with white stripes, and even with metallic blue legs and an orange abdomen.
With adaptable lifestyles, tarantulas reside in various habitats, ranging from the wettest rainforests to the driest deserts.
Their homes include savannas, grasslands, prairies, scrublands, and pampas regions. Certain arboreal species prefer rainforests, while others thrive in desert and mountain environments.
Tarantulas inhabit a range of species across the United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America.
They are also distributed in different regions of Africa and Asia, including the Ryukyu Islands in southern Japan and across the entirety of Australia.
In Europe, specific species can be found in locations such as Spain, Portugal, Turkey, southern Italy, and Cyprus.
Tarantulas usually live alone and make homes by digging into the ground, hiding under rocks, logs, or in small spaces. Some even create webbed burrows in trees.
When baby tarantulas hatch, they might share a home for a short time, but soon, they go their separate ways to live alone.
Most of the time, tarantulas prefer to keep to themselves, hiding in secret places.
They have a lifespan of 10-30 years, depending on the species.
Identifying tarantulas can sometimes be tricky because they can be mistaken for other spiders. Certainly, various characteristics can help you identify a tarantula:
- Firstly, many tarantulas in the Americas have urticating hairs, though some don’t, like the Hemirrhagus genus. These hairs are usually more noticeable than those of most other spiders.
- Tarantulas are also generally larger, but size alone is not a surefire way to identify them.
- Unlike many spiders, tarantulas do not use webs for hunting; instead, they use them for building or tripwires.
- Another clue is their fangs – tarantula fangs point downward, unlike true spiders, whose fangs face each other.
- Tarantulas also have two book lungs, while true spiders only have one.
- Plus, tarantulas tend to live longer than most other spiders.
Popular pet tarantulas include the Chilean Rose Hair, Mexican Redknee, Brazilian Black, Desert Blonde, and Chaco Golden Knee.
In their natural habitats, North America hosts species like the Texas Brown Tarantula and Mexican Redheaded Tarantula.
South America features the Brazilian Black Tarantula, Salmon Pink Birdeater, and Chaco Golden Knee.
At the same time, Europe is home to the Singing Spider and Fabre’s Wolf Spider. Overall popular and recognizable species are:
- Brachypelma smithi (Mexican Redknee)
- Grammostola rosea (Chilean Rose Hair)
- Avicularia avicularia (Pink Toe Tarantula)
- Lasiodora parahybana (Salmon Pink Birdeater)
- Acanthoscurria geniculata (Chaco Golden Knee)
Handling a tarantula is generally not recommended for several reasons:
- Tarantulas are not domesticated animals and do not enjoy being handled.
- They can find the experience stressful, which may lead to harm to the tarantula.
- Moreover, there is a potential risk of injury to the person handling the tarantula. While most tarantula bites are not medically significant, some species can inflict painful bites or flick urticating hairs that cause irritation.
Furthermore, handling a tarantula requires specific knowledge and skills to do so safely for both you and the tarantula.
Suppose you are genuinely interested in interacting with tarantulas. In that case, it is crucial to educate yourself thoroughly on proper handling techniques, the behavior of the specific species you are interested in, and the potential risks involved.
Turn to reliable sources for guidance, including books, online resources, or experienced tarantula enthusiasts, to ensure accurate and helpful information.
Always prioritize the well-being of the tarantula and approach any interaction with caution and respect for the animal’s natural behavior.
How to Handle Tarantula?
Handling tarantulas can be a unique and fascinating experience, but it is important to prioritize safety for both you and the spider. Here are some crucial points to remember:
If you are first time handling your tarantula, you must be aware of the following important steps before handling them:
Understand your Tarantula species:
Different tarantulas exhibit diverse temperaments and handling requirements.
While some are generally easygoing, others may display more defensive behavior. Familiarize yourself with your specific tarantula’s personality and be aware of potential risks.
Assess the situation:
Only engage with your tarantula when it is calm and not displaying signs of stress or defensiveness, such as raising hair or assuming a defensive posture.
Avoid handling it during molting, feeding, or if it is gravid (pregnant) to prevent unnecessary stress.
Set up your surroundings:
Select a flat, unobstructed area where a fall would not pose harm when handling your tarantula.
Ensure there is a soft landing pad, such as a pillow, nearby in case of any unforeseen accidents.
Reduce hand contact:
Whenever feasible, employ tools such as soft-tipped forceps or a capture cup to handle or pick up your tarantula instead of using your bare hands.
This minimizes the risk of bites and exposure to urticating hairs.
Provide gentle support:
If handling by hand becomes essential, cradle your hand beneath the tarantula’s abdomen, offering a secure but gentle foundation without applying pressure.
Refrain from touching its legs or carapace (hard upper body).
Proceed with caution and deliberation:
Avoid sudden movements, as they can startle your tarantula.
Maintain a calm and unhurried approach, allowing the tarantula to become accustomed to your touch gradually.
Minimize the risk of escape:
To ensure the safety of your tarantula and minimize the risk of escape, take additional precautions.
Handle your tarantula in an enclosed room, making it easier to locate and capture them in case of a sudden movement. Prevent your tarantula from wandering into other areas of your house by placing towels under doors and blocking exit routes.
Keep a catch cup nearby for quick reactions. Implement a crucial safety measure by having first aid tools readily available in case your tarantula falls or sustains an injury.
Wash your hands:
Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling any tarantula to avoid transferring harmful bacteria or substances.
Wear protective gear:
Consider wearing gloves and a face mask to protect yourself from irritating hairs, which can cause skin irritation.
Be mindful of bites:
Exercise caution regarding tarantula bites, as although they are seldom fatal, they can cause pain. Pay attention to the tarantula’s body language and refrain from actions that may provoke a bite.
If your tarantula appears uneasy or resists handling, refrain from forcing the interaction. Stop immediately and attempt handling at another time when the tarantula may be more comfortable.
Short handling sessions:
To minimize stress on your tarantula, keep handling sessions brief, lasting only a few minutes.
Recognize that tarantulas are delicate creatures. Handle them with care, respecting their individual needs and boundaries.
Remember, handling tarantulas is not necessary for their well-being and should only be done if you are comfortable and confident in your skills.
If you are unsure about handling your specific tarantula, consult a knowledgeable breeder or veterinarian.
Determining the “best” tarantula for handling is subjective and depends on factors such as experience level, desired temperament, and handling goals.
Here are some species known for their calm demeanor and tolerance for occasional gentle handling (handleable tarantulas), taking into account both beginners and experienced owners:
Chilean Rose Hair (Grammostola rosea): Popular for its docile nature, though it can flick urticating hairs.
Mexican Redknee (Brachypelma smithi): Generally calm but may be more active than the Chilean Rose Hair.
Desert Blonde (Aphonopelma chalcodes): Docile with beautiful coloration but requires a dry environment.
For experienced owners:
Brazilian Black (Grammostola pulchra): A stunning black tarantula with a calm temperament but slightly faster movement.
Pink Toe Tarantula (Avicularia avicularia): An arboreal species with unique coloration, requiring vertical enclosure space and delicate handling.
Green Bottle Blue (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens): Known for its stunning metallic blue color and generally calm temperament, but with specific humidity and temperature needs.
Caring for a tarantula is a rewarding responsibility, requiring attention to specific needs and a well-designed habitat. Consider the following guidelines:
Ensure a spacious enclosure, approximately 3-5 times the tarantula’s body length in each dimension.
Choose a substrate that retains moisture, such as coconut coir or peat moss. Provide hiding spots using cork bark, bark tubes, or artificial hides.
Maintain good ventilation to prevent humidity build-up; mesh sides or screen lids work well. Heating is optional but may be necessary for species with specific temperature requirements.
Tarantulas are carnivores that offer live prey like crickets, mealworms, roaches, or locusts. Adjust feeding frequency based on the tarantula’s age and observe their feeding behavior.
Ensure nutritious feeder insects through gut loading with fruits and vegetables.
Provide a shallow water dish with dechlorinated water; change regularly.
Monitor hydration levels, as some tarantulas absorb moisture from their environment.
Keep the enclosure clean with regular spot cleaning and substrate changes every 4-6 months.
Periodically check your tarantula for parasites or mites, and ensure that the temperature and humidity levels align with the specific requirements of your tarantula species.
If you observe any signs of illness, prompt communication with a vet specializing in exotic animals is crucial.
By adhering to proper care and maintenance practices, you contribute to ensuring a long and healthy life for your tarantula.
Yes, In fact, frequent handling is generally discouraged, even for experienced keepers, as it can cause stress for these sensitive creatures.
Tarantulas thrive with minimal disturbance, leading solitary lives in the wild and not requiring physical interaction for their well-being.
Handling, even if gentle, can be a stressful experience for tarantulas, impacting their immune system, appetite, and lifespan.
Additionally, there is an unnecessary risk of bites and irritation from irritating hairs.
Instead of focusing on handling, it is recommended to prioritize aspects such as providing a suitable enclosure, offering a healthy diet, maintaining ideal temperature and humidity, keeping the enclosure clean, and observing their natural behavior.
By focusing on responsible care practices, you can ensure your tarantula’s well-being while still feeling connected to them.
Remember that tarantulas appreciate minimal, respectful interaction, and these practices contribute to a fulfilling and healthy life for them.
Related Post: Do Spiders Feel Pain? Different Scenario Examples
- Frequent handling is not advised for any tarantula species due to the potential stress it may cause, even for experienced keepers.
- Always prioritize the tarantula’s comfort and well-being over handling desires, watching for signs of stress and stopping immediately if discomfort is observed.
- Alternatives, such as observing them in their enclosures and providing enrichment, allow for appreciating their behaviors without causing stress.
- Safety concerns include the potential for painful tarantula bites and skin irritation from urticating hairs.
- Recognize that handling can induce stress, weaken immune systems, and even lead to death.
- Respect their natural defenses, handle them with caution, and avoid unnecessary petting.
- If handling is necessary, only experienced keepers should attempt it, using a gentle approach with tools like forceps or cupping the abdomen with clean hands.
- Specific species, like the Brazilian black tarantula, are not recommended for handling due to fast movement and potent venom.
- No tarantula species are considered “easy” to handle, as even docile ones can react unpredictably.
- Focus on responsible care, appreciate their nature through observation, and always respect their boundaries, prioritizing their well-being above all else.
FAQs on How To Handle Tarantula:
Can I pick up a wild tarantula?
For wild tarantulas, it is best to observe from a distance to avoid stress for both the tarantula and yourself, respecting their natural defenses.
Instead of touching, consider learning about their ecosystem and contributing to conservation efforts for habitat protection.
Is it safe to handle a tarantula?
Handling tarantulas requires experience; it is not advised for beginners.
Prioritize the tarantula’s well-being with gentle, infrequent interaction, especially for necessary tasks like cleaning or health checks.
How often should I handle my tarantula?
It is better and recommended even for experienced keepers to handle them ideally only for necessary tasks like enclosure cleaning or health checks.
How to treat a tarantula bite?
Tarantula bites, though rare, can be painful, and certain species possess urticating hairs, causing skin irritation.
Research your tarantula’s species to understand potential risks associated with bites and hairs. If it bites you, consult a medical specialist immediately.
How to pick up a tarantula?
Remember, tarantulas are not cuddly pets and deserve our respect and understanding. Prioritize their well-being by observing them safely and providing optimal care.
Their captivating presence can be enjoyed without the risks of handling. Whenever possible, use tools like soft-tipped forceps or a capture cup to handle or pick up your tarantula rather than using your bare hands.
Can you handle a Brazilian black tarantula?
This species is not recommended for handling due to its fast movement and potentially potent venom.
It’s best observed in its enclosure. Before considering picking up any tarantula, including a Brazilian black, remember their well-being should be a top priority.
Frequent handling can be stressful for them, even for experienced keepers. Understanding their nature, focus on safety, and respectful interaction is important to learn before handling them.
How to hold a spider without it biting you?
Whenever possible, use tools like soft-tipped forceps or a capture cup to handle or pick up your tarantula rather than using your bare hands.
This approach minimizes the risk of bites and exposure to urticating hairs.
Observing tarantulas in their enclosures can be fascinating. Take the time to learn about their natural behaviors and appreciate their unique characteristics.
Enhance their environment with safe enrichment, such as hides and climbing structures, to keep them stimulated without the need for direct handling.
What is the easiest tarantula to handle?
Chilean Rose Hair, Mexican Redknee, and Desert Blonde are some of the calm and docile tarantulas, but even “easy” species can react unpredictably, so handle with caution and respect.