Tarantulas are mostly large, hairy spiders of the family Theraphosidae. Almost all North American tarantulas are part of the genus Aphonopelma. As of 2021, there are six species of tarantulas in Texas, out of almost 1,100 spiders in Texas. Tarantulas can be found throughout Texas with the Texas brown tarantula and the Texas tan tarantulas being the most common tarantulas in Texas. The majority of species and sightings occurs in the South and West of Texas.
List of tarantulas in Texas
As mentioned in the introduction, as of 2021, there are 6 tarantula species in Texas. Older sources state that there are over ten species but this is no longer true after a revision of the Aphonopelma genus in 2016. Several species that were previously recognized as valid are now considered synonyms of other species. The tarantulas that occur in Texas are the following:
Aphonopelma anax – Texas Tan Tarantula
The Texas tan tarantula is one of the most common tarantulas in the Rio Grande Valley in the south of Texas. It is mostly found south and east of Corpus Christi. Occasionally, it individuals are also found farther north and east. The Texas tan tarantula is also one of the most common San Antonio tarantulas and is even found as far north as Austin and east to Houston.
The female reaches a leg span of up to 6 inches (15 cm) and has dark and hairy legs, a reddish-brown abdomen and a tan cephalothorax. Hence, the common name Texas tan tarantula. The male is considerably smaller and darker and often referred to as a Texas black tarantula. Like other tarantula species, the Texas tan tarantula is a popular pet spider.
Aphonopelma aramada is a tarantula species that occurs mostly in Central and Western Texas. Most sightings occur around San Angelo and Midland but individuals have also been found thoughout Central Texas as far west as Dallas. It’s body is dark brown with a lighter-colored cephalothorax and black femora.
Aphonopelma gabeli occurs in Arizona, New Mexico, Northern Mexico and Texas. In Texas, it occurs almost exclusively in Western Texas and less frequently in the Panhandle. It’s appearance is very similar to A. armada with a dark brown body and black femora.
Aphonopelma hentzi – Texas brown tarantula
The Texas brown tarantula is the most common tarantula found throughout the Southern United States. It is found in all regions of Texas, most commonly in Central Texas. It is the only tarantula species that is found in East Texas and beyond the Louisiana border.
Aphonopelma moderatum is a tarantula species without a common name. It is rarely seen and only occurs in the Rio Grande Valley. The female is almost completely reddish-brown to orange-brown with black leg-tips. The male is much darker with some reddish-brown spines (hairs) on its abdomen.
Aphonopelma moellendorfi is a tarantula species that is only found in Western Texas. There are only very few recorded sightings close to the Mexican border.
General information about tarantulas
The tarantulas (lat. Theraphosidae) populate the earth for more than 350 million years. There are almost a thousand different species of the tarantula family. Tarantulas, like all other spiders, are not insects, but belong to the class of arachnids.
How long do tarantulas live?
It is not known how old tarantulas become in the wild. However, tarantulas living in captivity, i.e. in a terrarium, can live up to twenty years. Females usually live much longer than males. The oldest known tarantula lived in Mexico and reached the age of 28.
Size and weight
Most tarantulas grow to about 2-3.5 in (5-9 cm) in body size. Male tarantulas are significantly smaller than the females.
The largest tarantula species is the Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) native to South America. These fascinating spiders can reach a body size of up to 5 in (12 cm). If you add the length of the thick and hairy legs, this species can reach a leg span of up to 12 in (30 cm).
How many eyes do tarantulas have?
Like most spiders, tarantulas have eight. However, they cannot see very. They can only make out shapes and lighter and darker areas.
Are tarantulas poisonous?
As most spiders, tarantulas are venomous. Poisonous refers to a harmful substance that is ingested (like a mushroom), while venom is injected. However, the venom of the tarantula is harmless to humans. Its bite is comparable to bee or a wasp sting.
Distribution and habitat: Where do tarantulas live?
Tarantulas live in all tropical and subtropical regions of the earth. This includes Asia, Africa, America, Australia and also Europe. In Europe, tarantulas are common in Portugal and Spain, as well as on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Depending on the species, tarantulas live on trees and shrubs or on the ground and in the earth, where they hide in burrows.
Food: What does the tarantula eat?
Tarantulas do not build webs to catch prey. Instead, they are lurkers – they sit and wait for their prey to get close enough and then grab them with their jaws, the chelicerae. When they bite the captured prey, they inject their venom into the victim that breaks down the animal’s body. This allows the tarantula to suck in its prey, which liquefies inside.
Depending on the species, tarantulas eat various insects, as well as mice, reptiles and even small birds.
Reproduction and offspring
The various species of tarantulas can reproduce throughout the year – so there is no specific mating period. Once the male has fertilized the eggs in the female’s body, he leaves the female. The mother spider lays the eggs, stretches a protective cocoon around them, and guards the eggs until the larvae hatch.