Tarantulas are known for being big, hairy predators. Every time they appear in a movie or a newspaper they’re made out to be dangerous killers. But what is the reality? Do tarantulas bite? And are they dangerous to humans?
All tarantulas have fangs that they use to subdue their prey. As a result, all tarantulas can bite. The more important question though is whether they will bite. The answer to this depends on a range of factors such as the species of tarantula and the situation it is placed in.
Tarantulas do not bite without cause. They’d much rather scurry away into a dark hole where they can feel safe and secure. If you leave a tarantula alone you’re very unlikely to ever get bitten.
Reasons Why Tarantulas Bite
Generally speaking there are two main reasons why tarantulas bite. If you avoid these situations then you’ll avoid getting bitten.
The first reason tarantulas bite is because they’re hungry, and they’re trying to take down a prey item. Tarantulas are carnivores, which means they hunt and eat other animals. If your tarantula is hungry, and mistakes you for a potential insect then they may bite.
The solutions are of course quite simple: feed your tarantula enough to avoid excessive hunger and keep your fingers out of the way when feeding or cleaning a tarantula cage.
Fear / Defence
The second reason why tarantulas bite is because they feel in danger. They may attempt to bite another animal if they feel threatened, such as if attacked by a bigger predator.
Pet tarantulas may sometimes attempt to bite if they feel threatened, however it is important to realize this is simply a defensive behaviour, rather than a satanic spider attempting to end your life whenever you open the cage door.
Some tarantulas are far more defensive than others, so if you want a pet tarantula but are nervous about getting bitten then choosing the right species to begin with can help to allay this concern.
How To Avoid Getting Bitten By a Tarantula
Tarantulas can bite, but they don’t go out and attack humans. The best way to avoid getting bitten by a tarantula is simply to keep your hands away from it. If a tarantula can’t reach you, it won’t bite you.
What Tarantulas Are Less Likely to Bite?
Some pet tarantulas are considered less likely to bite than others. These more docile, less defensive species are commonly recommended as great “starter” tarantulas for less experienced enthusiasts.
Tarantulas that are less likely to bite if handled include:
- Curly Hair tarantula (Tliltocatl albopilosus)
- Chile Rose tarantula (Grammastola rosea)
- Brazilian Black tarantula (Grammastola pulchra)
- Chaco Golden Knee tarantula (Grammastola pulchripes)
- Antilles Pink Toe tarantula (Caribena versicolor)
All tarantulas are unique, and some supposedly defensive tarantulas may rarely if ever try to bite. On the other hand, there is always a chance that even a tarantula considered docile may try to bite if it feels threatened.
How Dangerous Is a Tarantula Bite?
For most people a tarantula bite is unlikely to be life-threatening. Most people who have been bitten by a tarantula say it feels like a bee sting. Not pleasant, but hardly dangerous. That said, there are a few additional points you should know.
Firstly, some people are allergic to animal venom. Just as some people have allergic reactions in response to bee or wasp stings, so it is possible to have a reaction to a tarantula bite. If you get bitten by a tarantula and experience any side effects (such as itchy skin or swollen lips) then it is worth seeking medical advice.
Secondly, the venom of some tarantulas is considered more potent than that of other species. Generally speaking tarantulas from North or South America are considered to have relatively mild venom.
Tarantulas from Asia may have more potent venom. In these cases a bite can result in swelling, joint soreness and so on. Still not life-threatening but hardly a pleasant experience. These symptoms normally subside within a few days of a bite.