It is commonly assumed that tarantulas include all large-bodied spider species that possess tough bristly hairs. While this is generally the case, it would be more accurate to say that tarantulas are spider species that belong to the Theraphosidae family. This family is comprised of more than 800 species that are divided into 12 subfamilies. Around 30 tarantulas have been documented in the United States, nearly all of which belong to the sub-genus known as Aphonopelma. The state of Texas is home to 14 Aphonopelma species, but these spiders are relatively understudied, as they are not as ecologically or medically significant as numerous other arthropod species in the region. Tarantulas are distributed in nearly all regions of Texas, but south Texas sees the greatest amount of Tarantula activity.
Tarantulas are numerous in desert and grassland regions of Texas, but during mating season, male tarantulas can be seen traveling in large groups through urban and suburban areas of the state. These male tarantulas travel far and wide in order to locate females that wait for their suitors within ground burrows. The Texas brown tarantula is the most abundant and commonly encountered species within the state. The leg-span of these tarantulas usually exceeds four inches and adults weigh around three ounces. Although many tarantula species burrow within uninhabited rural regions of Texas, it is not uncommon to find the arachnids dwelling within residential areas within the state.
Not long ago, a family living in Missouri city discovered several brown tarantulas within their backyard, causing residents to become fearful of the hairy spiders. Luckily, brown tarantulas, as well as most other species in the south and southwest, are harmless to humans. Texas tarantulas fear humans, and will only inflict bites when threatened, but these bites result in pain sensations that are comparable to a bee sting. Tarantulas can also fling abdominal urticating hairs into people’s faces, causing irritation. However, these incidents only occur when the spiders are mishandled by humans. Tarantulas are often spotted in all of Texas’ large metropolitan areas, including Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas.
Have you ever sustained a bite from a wild tarantula species?