Behavior of Tarantulas

A tarantula’s behavior can be considered quite mysterious, especially as they spend a lot of their time hidden away in the wild. The inner workings of tarantulas are still relatively unknown, although behavioral changes pre-molt are common and expected by arachnid keepers. 


However, pet tarantulas can also experience behavior shifts when the seasons change. Fall and winter can cause tarantulas to lose their appetite and even become less active despite their enclosure conditions remaining the same. This can cause concern for tarantula owners, but it is completely normal. After all, there is a reason why some people believe tarantulas to be “pet rocks.”


With this in mind, understanding tarantula behavior can make these arachnids more entertaining to observe and keep as pets.


Although some tarantulas are arboreal, many dig burrows as slings and during the molting process as a way of protecting themselves. When they are vulnerable and small, they are easier prey for birds, insects, and wasps, so hiding is the best scenario. If this is the case, as these tarantulas grow larger, they will begin to feel more comfortable outside of their burrows. 


This behavior can worry new tarantula owners, especially when it looks like the tarantula is trapped under the substrate. The best advice is to leave the tarantula alone during this time; it is simply following its instincts and natural behavior. It will have lined the walls of its burrow with its web, which keeps the substrate from shifting, and will emerge when it feels safe to do so. 


Burrowing is more common with ground-dwelling tarantulas. 

What Does a Tarantula Burrow Look Like?

A typical tarantula burrow has silk threads around the entrance, which is the main feature that differentiates it from other animals’ hides, like a mouse hole. The entrance will look like a clearly defined hole with a diameter of an inch or more.

Fight or Flight

As the burrowing behavior shows, most tarantulas prefer to hide than face a potential threat. Tarantulas, like other arachnids, have a strong fight-or-flight instinct. When it feels threatened and hiding is not an option, a tarantula will hold most of its weight on its hind legs, expose its fangs, and sometimes raise its first pair of legs to make itself appear bigger. This aspect of tarantula body language is primarily an intimidation tactic used to scare attackers away. 

Tarantula behavior - tarantula displaying intimidation tactics

If that tactic fails, a tarantula will then use its urticating hairs as a defense mechanism. It uses its legs to shoot these bristles toward the predator. These hairs cause minor irritation to humans, but they can prove fatal to small mammals. 


With weak eyesight, tarantulas typically depend on sensations and their sense of touch to hunt. This is why they have so many sensitive setae. These bristle-like hairs allow the tarantula to feel shifts in the air and vibrations on the ground, which helps to pinpoint the location of prey.


Tarantulas stalk in the direction the vibrations are coming from before seemingly grabbing their prey out of nowhere. They bite their prey, injecting venom that immobilizes it before their saliva begins digesting solid parts of their meal.


To find out about what pet tarantulas can eat, click here.


Once a male tarantula reaches sexual maturity, which is shown by the development of tibial spurs and bulbous pedipalp tips, its main objective is to mate with as many females as it can before death. At this stage of its life, it will begin to prepare “sperm webs,” which are used to deposit sperm on and “charge” its pedipalp tips (also known as palpal bulbs).


During mating season, which varies from species to species, males come out of hiding and begin searching for females. This is when tarantulas are most visible. They will travel to find a receptive female; this is done by tapping the silk threads at a female’s burrow to alert her of his presence and waiting to see if she will leave the burrow to meet the male. Some females will refuse to leave their burrows or even chase the males away.


A courtship ritual will begin once the male tarantula finds a receptive female. The rituals displayed will vary depending on the species, although drumming the pedipalps and vibrating its body are the most common movements. This is how the male shows if he is a suitable mate. If the female accepts, she will either tap her pedipalps and legs or simply leave her burrow completely.


Copulation will begin once the male has carefully maneuvered the female into the correct position; the male is very vulnerable at this point. However, once both tarantulas are in the right position, the male will insert his pedipalps into the female’s epigyne


If the male escapes the female’s burrow without being eaten, he will begin searching for his next mate.

Web Building

Tarantulas don’t spin webs in the same way as other spiders. In fact, the way tarantulas use webbing depends on the species. Terrestrial tarantulas tend to cover the ground or the entrance of their hides with webs, which is similar to burrowing species that conceal the entrance of their burrows with silk threads. Arboreal tarantulas, on the other hand, make heavily webbed homes up in the trees. 


However, there are three main purposes of tarantula webs:

  • A female will use webbing to create an egg sac to hold its unhatched tarantula babies.
  • A male will create a sperm web upon maturing to deposit sperm on before charging its pedipalps.
  • Tarantulas will also make thicker webs to lie on when they are molting.

What Does a Tarantula Web Look Like?

The appearance of a tarantula’s webbing changes depending on its species, so there is no guaranteed shape or structure. For example, it can look like a silvery mat on the ground or a funnel-like structure.