Of all spiders, it’s the tarantula that became a movie star in the mid 1900’s.  Horror films such as the movie Tarantula, depicted spiders as scary and creepy.  For most people, tarantulas really are fearsome looking with their large fangs and shooting hairs that itch horribly if they get under one’s skin.  There is actually an itching powder used for pranks made from ground-up tarantula hairs.  Tarantulas are the largest of spiders and belong to the family Theraphosidae.  Although scary-looking, tarantulas are quite docile.  They do have venom but they are not poisonous to humans.  Some people even keep them as pets while others (in different countries) consider tarantulas to be a delicacy.

California Tarantula (Aphonopelma sp.)

Tarantula Range and Habitat

Distributions of tarantulas are worldwide with over 850 species but in the United States, tarantulas are found mainly in the lower half of the country, from California to Florida. Female tarantulas create burrows in the ground, usually lined with silk and a web over the entrance that alerts them when an insect passes over it. The tarantula rushes out of her burrow and penetrates her prey with long fangs, injecting it with venom before feeding.
Movie "Tarantula"

1955’s hit movie “Tarantula,” struck fear in the hearts of America.

Life Cycle of a Tarantula

Interestingly, male tarantulas take 8 to 10 years to mature and when they mate they soon die, sometimes right after mating – as protein for the female! In comparison, female tarantulas take 5 years to mature and can live up to 30 years! When it comes time to mate, the female selects males that are about the same size as themselves. Because the female continues to grow her entire life, males of different sizes are needed for different sized females. The tarantulas commonly seen during spring, roaming around the ground, are wanderers in search of females; once a male tarantula finds a female’s burrow, he then tugs at her web entrance like guitar strings, enticing her to come out and watch his dance. The female may decide to accept the male tarantula’s amorous advances or choose to ignore him. After mating, the female creates an egg sac and six to seven weeks later, a hundred spiderlings emerge.
Tarantula Hawk

Male Tarantula Hawk (Pepsis formosa) – a species of wasps.

Enemies of the Tarantula

The Tarantula Hawk is a black wasp with orange wings that attacks tarantulas and trap-door spiders. During late summer, one can often see the tarantula hawk flying low to the ground in search of spider burrows. The wasp disturbs the tarantula’s web across its burrow until the spider comes out and then she attacks it, sometimes fighting for long periods until she has taunted the tarantula enough into rearing back on its hind legs, exposing the underside where the wasp is able to pierce through the spider’s armor to sting and paralyze it.

Video of Tarantula Hawk

Taratula Hawk Wasp Once immobile, the tarantula hawk drags the tarantula into her own burrow, or sometimes she uses the tarantula’s burrow. Once she has the spider inside, the tarantula hawk lays an egg. The egg hatches into a larva within a few days. The larva then feeds on the paralyzed but still-alive tarantula and the cycle of life for the tarantula hawk begins all over again.

Pest Control

Tarantulas are burrowing spiders and are rarely found near or inside the home. They are non-threatening creatures of the night. If seen during the day, it’s usually a male roaming around in search of a mate. It is difficult to treat them with pesticides since they are solitary and do not make large webs to capture insects. Some areas tarantulas may nest around the home are dark corners of storage closets and cabinets; storage areas in a garage; along the bases of exterior walls where plants can provide coverage and a hiding place; outdoor storage sheds seldom used. Once a tarantulas’ nest has been located, your pest control technician can use a dry or wet powder to eliminate the spider, or a direct contact of spray on both her and the egg sac. Tarantulas, unlike insects, do not groom themselves or absorb liquids through their feet. The lungs are located on their underside where tarantulas are able to breathe in powdery pesticides. Future infestations can be discouraged by applying a chemical spray where they nested. Keep in mind though, when you eliminate tarantulas and other spiders, there will be an increase in insect activity which spiders help to control. A combination then of both spider and insect control is needed to keep a home free from unwanted pests. Call today at 1-800-986-1006 for help with a spider infestation. You’re also welcome to complete the form below and a caring Hearts Pest Management representative will contact you shortly.
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Schoenherr, Allan A. 1991. A Natural History of California. Berkeley: University of California Press. Nature.Berkeley.edu DesertUSA.com/insects/taratulas

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