How Dangerous Are Tarantulas?

Tarantulas have gained a bit of a reputation. This might be linked to their appearance in several horror movies or because they are one of the largest arachnids in the world. Spiders, in general, have been villainized due to their fangs and hairy bodies, but more people would shrink away from a tarantula than a jumping spider. With that in mind, a lot of people will question how dangerous tarantulas actually are.


To those who do not keep tarantulas as pets, it might come as a surprise to learn these arachnids aren’t as scary as they look. In fact, research has found no documented deaths by tarantulas. However, this does not mean tarantula pose no risk to humans, as this article uncovers.

Do Pet Tarantulas Bite?

Like most pets, tarantulas do have the ability to bite. They have a strong instinct for fight-or-flight, and many would rather run and hide than face a threat. However, if it perceives a threat, it will use other tactics before deciding to bite. These behaviors include an intimidation tactic of rearing up on its hind legs, exposing its fangs, and raising its first set of legs to make itself larger. 


Tarantulas will also use the defense mechanism of shooting urticating hairs on their abdomen at the predator. This is very common for the Chilean Rose tarantula. These tarantula hairs have barbs that can cause skin rashes and irritation to the mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose, and lips. Long-term conditions can be the result of these hairs. If these tactics do not frighten away the threat, the tarantula might bite. Like any other venomous animal, a tarantula bite can be venomous or dry. The latter is when no venom is produced; it only leaves pain and puncture wounds behind.


Online, tarantula bites are often described as “no more than a bee sting.” This is mainly by those who have experience handling a tarantula. While this might be true for some of the smaller Ts, certain factors, like the size of the arachnid, do matter. A larger tarantula will likely have longer fangs, which can cause serious injury to hands, arms, and other body parts. Human skin can be removed because of a tarantula bite. It is also worth remembering that a tarantula has two fangs, which is double the number of stingers bees have.


Also, it is worth knowing that if a person is allergic to bee stings, they will likely experience allergic reactions to tarantula venom. This means their reaction to a tarantula bite is likely to be worse. 

How Should a Tarantula Bite Be Treated?

If you have been bitten by a tarantula, there are steps to take to treat the injury. However, this will depend on the severity of the tarantula bite. For a mild tarantula bite, it should be treated as follows:


  • Use soap and water to wash the area.
  • Apply ice or a cold compress to numb the area.
  • Spread a light layer of topical corticosteroids to the area.


But if the bite was from a highly venomous tarantula or if you experience mild to severe pain or trouble breathing, then you should visit the hospital emergency room as soon as possible.

Tarantula displaying its fangs

How to Decrease the Risk of Pet Tarantula Bites

Many pet tarantula bites result from improper handling. As these arachnids are not domesticated and their wild instincts are still strong, handling is not encouraged, especially with some of the more aggressive species. This is the best way to prevent tarantula bites.


If you must handle your tarantula, then learn about its body language. As previously mentioned, a tarantula will display certain tactics to show it feels threatened: rearing up, raising its front legs, and flicking urticating hairs.

Is Tarantula Venom Deadly?

Most New World tarantulas, like the species found in the United States, lack potent venom, although it will still prove fatal to insects and other prey animals these arachnids hunt. Only the Old World species of tarantulas – those found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and India – rely upon venom as a primary defense tactic. 


There were two deaths in Asansol, although they were thought to be the result of gangrene and urticarial rashes from tarantula bites rather than the bites alone. This could be related to the infection risks that spider bites possess; a tarantula that’s just been feasting on crickets will have dirty fangs. 

What Does Tarantula Venom Do?

Tarantulas with less potent venom might cause pain and redness. Unfortunately, the venom from an Old World tarantula can cause much more severe reactions, such as:


  • Breathing difficulties
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Full-body cramps
  • Heart palpitations
  • Low blood pressure
  • Muscle spasms
  • Numbness
  • Vomiting


When you are bitten by a tarantula with stronger venom, it can also cause localized pain, which will begin to spread throughout the body. When the symptoms are this serious, hospital treatment for tarantula bites will be required.

How Much Venom Does a Tarantula Have?

The amount of venom an arachnid will produce is thought to depend on the species of tarantula. It could be linked to the size of the venom glands, but there is no concrete evidence to support this.