Tarantulas in Texas: The Complete Guide
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From venomous snake species to scorpions and countless spider species, Texas is full of challenges. Enter the Tarantula, a formidable addition to an already formidable lineup. But are Texas tarantulas dangerous? how old are they Read on to learn everything you need to know about Texas tarantulas!
What is a tarantula?
Tarantulas are hairy, lumpy spiders belonging to the Tarantidae family (meaning "wolf" in Greek). Surprisingly, there are more than 2,800 species of tarantulas in 124 genera, most of which share similar characteristics. In Texas alone, there are 238 species of tarantulas! The five most common include:
- Carolina tarantula ( Hogna carolinensis )
- Rabies Tarantula ( Rabidosa rabida )
- Santa Rosa tarantula ( Arctosa sanctaerosae )
- Wild tarantula ( Hogna lenta )
- Wetland giant tarantula ( Tigrosa helluo )
Tarantulas get their name and reputation from their hunting techniques. Instead of spinning webs like most other spiders, they behave more like wolves. They either lie in ambush in dark places or chase their prey with their long, powerful legs. However, unlike wolves, they inject their victims with venom, which liquefies their internal organs. Then they suck out the guts like juice. Add in the fact that a tarantula has a hairy body that looks a bit like a wolf, and you've got all the makings of a nightmare.
How to Identify a Texas Tarantula
Texas tarantulas can be difficult to identify, especially between species. Most types look similar, with the biggest differences having to do with color or size. Some people even confuse them with tarantulas, which also inhabit Texas. However, an easy way to identify a tarantula is by the number and size of its eyes. Any member of the tarantula family has eight eyes, arranged in three rows. There are four small eyes in the bottom row above the mouth. Above that are the two dominant eyes, larger than the other six. The top row has two smaller eyes, one on each side of the face.
While not as stocky as a tarantula, a tarantula has a fairly stocky body with long legs and abundant hair. Their mouth appendages are huge and allow for a bite. Color ranges from black to brown to gray, possibly with tan or light orange markings.
How big is a Texas tarantula?
Texas is home to the largest tarantula species, the Carolina tarantula. It tops the list with body lengths of up to 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters), although most specimens measure no more than 1.2 inches (3 centimeters). Some members of the tarantula family are much smaller, measuring as little as 0.24 inches (0.6 centimeters) in length. However, this spider's long legs make it appear larger than it is. As with most spider species, females are larger than males.
Where are Texas tarantulas found?
Tarantulas abound in Texas, and that's not what locals want to hear. No part of the state is off limits, but these arachnids are particularly fond of the dry, sandy parts of Texas. They also make their presence known as house and garden pests. Residents often find them in tall grass or dark corners throughout the house.
Interestingly, tarantulas leave silk trails that other tarantulas use to find them. Males sometimes use this technique to hunt down females for mating! If there are guy wires around the house or garden, there is a good chance that there is more than one tarantula nearby.
What Do Texas Tarantulas Eat?
The good news about tarantulas: they love to eat insects! Since Texas has more bug species than anywhere else in the U.S., residents may want to reconsider killing tarantulas in their homes. These furry arachnids love insects such as ants, flies, earwigs, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, centipedes, and millipedes. They will even attack small reptiles and amphibians if they are particularly hungry and given the chance! They also eat insect eggs, which means they can be an important form of pest prevention.
texas tarantula predator
As strange as it may seem, tarantulas provide a delicacy for many predators. Birds of prey like owls and a variety of lizards and rodents find them worth the effort. However, tarantulas can be difficult to control: They can split their legs to escape and grow back over time. Because their laws are strong, they can also bite back with a vengeance.
Are Texas Tarantulas Dangerous?
Texas tarantulas are not dangerous to humans. Although they have large mouth appendages and are strictly venomous, they rarely bite unless directly threatened. In any case, human bites are not fatal unless an allergic reaction occurs. The tarantula's venom is not strong enough to cause only mild swelling and redness in the area. As long as people use common sense and don't try to handle any tarantula they find, the chances of biting are low. If homeowners are able to live with tarantulas knowingly, it will help control the pest.
Texas Tarantula Lifespan
A typical lifespan for a tarantula is 1-2 years, although this may vary slightly by species. They mature rapidly, usually within a few weeks, and begin breeding very quickly. Female tarantulas carry their eggs and eventually their young on their backs. Not only is this good for nutrition, but little spiders can also take advantage of the extra protection it provides.
Because females carry their offspring on their backs, it is not wise to step on them. While it may kill her, it also has a good chance of spreading the spider mites throughout the home or yard. This immediately negates the benefit of killing adults.
Texas is full of tough and fascinating creatures, and tarantulas are one of them. Next time you spot a tarantula, don't step on it! If you keep it alive, you might see its famous hunting prowess.
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