Tarantulas do make spider webs, but they don’t look like the sorts of spider webs you might see in your garden.
Rather than spinning a large orb web, designed to catch flying insects that stumble into it, the spider webs laid down by tarantulas are more likely to be laid in sheets. These sheets, in turn, can be used in a range of different “designs” depending on the lifestyle of the tarantula.
What Do Tarantula Webs Look Like?
The amount of webbing that tarantulas produce can vary significantly between species. There is also enormous variety in how this webbing is used.
However below are some examples of tarantula webs seen in hobby species. We’ll talk about the purposes of these different webs a little later in this article.
As you can see from the example webs below, however, the webbing produced by tarantulas is often quite thick. It’s more like a dense mat or sheet of web, rather than a beautiful structure in its own right.
Why Do Tarantulas Spin Webs?
Tarantula webs can serve a huge range of purposes. The reasons to build a web aren’t necessarily exclusive; a single web may serve two or more purposes. That said, here are some of the most common reasons for tarantulas to invest time into spinning webs…
Protection from Predators
As the spider webs produced by tarantulas can be so strong and thick it can serve as a useful form of defense for the spider. Take a burrowing tarantula, like a Horned Baboon. When such a tarantula is coming up to its annual molt, they will often produce a thick sheet of webbing right across the entrance to their hole. In this way the hole becomes less visible, and it’s much harder for potential predators to get at the spider while molting.
Some tarantulas spin a neat web on the ground before they molt. This provides a safe and soft surface on which to carry out their complex molting process. Some tarantulas have been known to work urticating hairs into their molting mat, as a further protection against over-inquisitive predators.
Privacy & Security
Generally speaking tarantulas appreciate a quiet life, away from danger and noise. And the ability to spin webs means they can enhance their privacy and protection whenever they desire. If an arboreal tarantula finds a nice hole in a tree, but there are a few gaps letting in unwanted sunlight, they’re more than capable of using their webbing (sometimes combined with loose earth or bark found nearby) to plug those gaps.
Structure For Their Lair
Webbing doesn’t just protect tarantulas from predators or help hide them from the local environment, it can also be structural.
Here the Pink Toe tarantulas (Avicularia species) is a good example. These tarantulas build what are sometimes known as “tube webs”. As the name suggests, these tarantula webs are essentially a long tube, generally built up off the ground in trees and bushes.
The tarantula is then able to hide in this tube, out of view of predators, in an area where they otherwise wouldn’t be able to rest. Think of a tube web as a treehouse for tarantulas.
Another way that webbing can be used for structure is among burrowing tarantulas. Burrowing in soft earth or sand isn’t easy, because the particles keep falling back into the hole. This is even worse when heavy rains arrive, and risk washing so much earth into the hole as to collapse it.
Many burrowing tarantulas will therefore line the inner surface of their burrow with web. This adds structural integrity and reduces the chances of the hole collapsing.
Sensing Nearby Prey Items
A juicy insect stumbling across a spider web can act as an “early warning system” that dinner could be nearby. So it is with true spiders, the same is true for tarantulas.
Feeding a heavy webbing tarantula can be quite fun because of this; the cricket or roach wanders blindly into the webbing, and you can see the tarantula suddenly shooting into action.
They sense the movement nearby, thanks to the webbing they’ve laid down, and come out to hunt when the time is right.
A small number of tarantulas use spider web to create trapdoors. These trapdoors may be placed over the hole of a burrowing tarantula, or even as a “curtain” by arboreal spiders.
The web is typically combined with other locally-sourced materials (substrate, leaves, moss etc.) to make it perfectly camouflaged.
In this way the tarantula can hide out of view, totally safe from any predators, but is ready to pounce when a potential prey item comes too close to the trapdoor.
Protecting Their Eggs
Female tarantulas take surprising care over their offspring. Unlike many other invertebrates that simply lay their eggs and then leave them to fend for themselves, tarantulas invest a lot of time and energy into giving their offspring the best possible start. One way they do this is with some spider web.
The female tarantula lays a thick mat of web, and then lays her eggs (which can number several hundred in some species) onto the mat. The next bit is the most impressive though – she then gently rolls up the mat, with the eggs inside, to produce a spherical parcel. It looks like a small ping pong ball made of web, with the developing eggs safely wrapped inside.
Depending on the species of tarantula, some females will gently care for this “egg sac” for weeks on end until the eggs finally hatch into baby tarantulas.
Do All Tarantulas Make Webs?
Pretty much all tarantulas are capable of producing spider web. However there is a huge difference in the amount of web they spin.
To give an example, my Brachypelma boehmei barely spins any web around their cage. You can generally see the lightest frosting of silk on the surface of their substrate but that is about it.
Another species in my collection – this time Chilobrachys fimbriatus – spins so much web that the whole cage looks white. The web is thick and dense and, in an odd way, quite beautiful. It almost looks like it snowed in there!
Also, even within a single species, the amount of spider web they produce can vary depending on local conditions. For example some tarantulas spin a luxuriant silken retreat if they’re unable to dig a burrow. For this reason some keepers deliberately keep some species on shallow substrate, in order to encourage their spiders to build one of these incredible structures.
What Tarantulas Are Heavy Webbers?
If you fancy the idea of keeping a tarantula that produces a lot of web then here are some great species to consider…
The Orange Bitey Thing (or Orange Baboon Tarantula) is probably one of the best-known heavy webbing tarantulas. Given time and space, an OBT can almost totally cover their vivarium in thick sheets of white silk. This is one of the many things that can make keeping this species so rewarding.
A stunning, colorful New World species with a brilliant feeding response and fast growth rate. Just look at the blue legs, green carapace and orange abdomen on this Greenbottle Blue (GBB), which is only set off more by the huge amounts of white silken sheets they produce.
Like the closely-related Avicularia genus, Caribena versicolor spins beautiful tube webs in which they live. They often sit within the web, with just their plum-colored toes protruding. Like the GBB these are seriously colorful tarantulas, and tend to be very docile in nature to boot.
The polar opposite of Caribena versicolor, Monocentropus balfouri tends to be fast and defensive. But they’re no less impressive for that. The contrast between their blue legs and sandy-brown body is stunning, and unlike most tarantulas, this species can be kept communally. If you want a heavy webbing tarantula then buying a group of 5-10 Monocentropus balfouri will make one of the most impressive displays around.
Neoholothele incei, the Trinidad Olive, is a dwarf species of tarantula, reaching only a few inches in total leg span. They’re therefore ideal for keepers looking for a new tarantula but who only have minimal space available. Given a deep substrate, Neoholothele incei will normally burrow out of view. Given some anchoring points through (some pieces of cork bark work well) they will often spin an intricate lair to hide in.
Many tarantulas from the Chilobrachys genus can be found within the hobby and most of these produce generous amounts of spider web.
My personal preference when selecting tarantulas and keep and breed almost inevitably puts color at the top of the list. The more colorful the better. A “just brown” tarantula just doesn’t really do it for me.
And yet, I have to admit that Chilobrachys fimbriatus is very close to my heart, despite its primarily chestnut-brown coloration. The reason is simple; the webbing that they produce is so impressive that they make an amazing display species.
Like Chilobrachys, there are numerous different members of the Ceratogyrus genus available as pets. Ceratogyrus, the so-called Horned Baboons, are reasonably simple to breed and produce large egg sacs (think hundreds of spiderlings) so they tend to be freely and cheaply available.
Besides producing all that webbing, which is impressive-enough in itself, as the common name suggests they also possess an impressive “horn” on the carapace, which makes them quite unique.
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