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Tarantulas are part of the family of spiders called Hairy Mygalomorphs. These are the spiders that, scientists believe, have been around for millions of years and have not changed much in that time! There are around 700 kinds, or species, of Tarantulas.
Tarantulas are found in the rainforests and jungles of South and Central America, in Africa and in the southern part of North America. Many Tarantulas live in burrows underground. They will either use their fangs to dig them or else take someone else’s burrow-home. Even though they do not spin webs, Tarantulas use their silk to make doors or soft walls for their burrow or, in the case of tree-living tarantulas, tunnel-shaped homes in trees.
Tarantulas are nighttime hunters who will pounce on their prey. They eat insects, beetles and grasshoppers. The Goliath Bird-eating Tarantula species will eat larger prey, such as, lizards, snakes, frogs, bats and small birds.
All Tarantulas have an interesting way of defending themselves. They have hairs on their abdomen (stomachs) that have sharp little barbs, or pokey things, on them. When threatened, the spider will rub these hairs with their legs and shoot them at their predator. That would hurt!
Predators that the tarantula would be afraid of are weasels, hawks, owls, skunks and snakes. Their worst enemy is the Spider-Wasp. The female wasp will paralyze the spider by stinging it. She then digs a hole and puts the spider and an egg into it. When the egg hatches, the baby wasp will eat away at the paralyzed spider. The spider could stay buried alive for many days before the larvae hatch.
One other predator that the Tarantula must fear is … people. Not only are they caught as pets; in some countries they are eaten, as well. They are said to have a nutty taste kind of like peanut butter! Maybe I’ll stop by a ‘fried spider’ diner sometime – NOT!