Arizona Tarantula

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This photo was taken in Strawberry, Arizona.  We were trying to figure out if this is a male or female desert tarantula.  According to our research, the female has a more stocky body than the male tarantula.  For those who are unfamiliar with tarantulas, they have two body parts; the cephalothorax and the abdomen, eight legs and two pedipalps for touching and moving their prey.

In Arizona, they are most active during the monsoon season and early Fall.  There are thirty species of tarantulas found in the desert Southwest.  The one tarantula that is seen most often is the Aphonopelma chalcodes, most commonly known as the desert tarantula, or Arizona blond tarantula.

Are you one that would pick up this spider to check it out or would seeing this have you run away, cower with fear?   Reactions run the gamut but so you know, these spiders are virtually harmless.

There are hundreds of species of tarantulas worldwide, many of which have potent venom.  The Arizona tarantula  has weak venom so don’t be too concerned.

Don’t be worried if you see the desert tarantula.  You would have to seriously provoke this spider to get it to bite you.  This tarantula is mostly harmless to humans.

We found this tarantula trying to cross a fairly busy road.  For male tarantulas, they spend much of their time searching for a mate.  This may be what the spider was doing when we took this picture.

A bit about tarantulas:

Habitat

Tarantulas like to live in dry places.  They thrive in dry soils in open areas (desert) and also grassland areas.  These spiders are ground dwellers.  You won’t see them in the winter months as they hibernate, living off of stored fats.  They plug their burrows so predators can’t reach them.

Range

Tarantulas can be found worldwide.  The tarantulas in North America can be found in the southern and southwestern states along with Mexico, Central and South America.

Tarantulas are nocturnal hunters, looking for insects like grasshoppers, beetles and other small insects.  The venom that tarantulas have is very weak.

Predators

As forbidding as tarantulas look, they do have enemies.  Lizards love tarantulas along with snakes, birds, coyotes and foxes…yum.  In order to protect themselves, desert tarantulas use their urticating hairs.  These urticating hairs are tipped with barbs.  When the spider makes contact with their predator, these hairs penetrate.  You can imagine how irritating this could be to a predator.

Tarantulas live in deep burrows that are lined with silk webbing to prevent a cave in.  As the spider grows and gets bigger, the cave is enlarged.  For those of you that have wood piles, tarantulas will live there if there is no soil available for their ‘cave’.

Life Span

So, how long do tarantulas live?  Amazing, they can live 9-12 years with female tarantulas living twice as long.

Size

Can you imagine a spider that is 3-4 inches!  That would be the desert tarantula.

Have you ever seen a desert tarantula?  If so, let us know the circumstance and if you have a photo of that encounter, please upload it for our readers.