Tarantulas are large hairy spiders that have become a favorite pet for many hobbyists. Generally, tarantulas make docile pets if not disturbed and handled properly. But if handled wrongly, Tarantulas can potentially bite. But can you die from a tarantula bite?
Scientists claim that tarantula bites on humans is similar to a bee sting. In the few years I have kept tarantulas, I have been bitten twice. Both times I had a mild reaction with a small swelling that quickly healed.
Tarantulas are gentle spiders. Their gentle nature has seen them been used in Hollywood horror movies which portray them as huge monsters that attack people. This is simply a myth. However there are other large spider species that are potentially harmful to man.
In this article, we will discuss about tarantula bites on man and pets. We will also look at what you can do if bitten by a tarantula.
Tell us in the comment section about your experience with tarantula bites and ask any question you may have on tarantula bites either in man or pets.
Are Tarantulas dangerous?
Tarantulas have over the years sent the creeps to people due to their large hairy bodies and legs. Additionally several myths portray Tarantulas as dangerous. Furthermore, their name was coined from a species of Spiders which was believed to deliver fatal bites.
Tarantula keeping has gained popularity in many parts of the world. Consequently, a lot of research has been done on them and their venom. In this section we will discuss the severity of tarantula venom in man and other animals.
Can you die from a tarantula bite?
All tarantulas are venomous. Their venom is made up of chemicals which paralyze their prey.
Tarantula venom, however, is milder than a honeybees sting and as such is generally not harmful to man.
James Diaz in his retrospective study (PDF page 246 -247) described tarantulas as generally docile spiders. They coexist peacefully with man and will not bite unless they feel threatened.
There is little that has been documented about Tarantula bites in man. As a result, the effects of Tarantula bites in man are not well known.
Individuals reported to have been bitten by Tarantulas experience mild effects including;
- Mild to severe local pain
- Puncture wounds
- Muscle spasms which may last for days –responsive to treatment
- Itchiness in the bite site
- Bleeding from puncture sites
The bite from a Tarantula may not cause significant systemic effects in man. It is however advisable to seek medical treatment immediately after a Tarantula bite. Tarantula venom contains chemicals which can cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals. Such allergic reactions may be life threatening.
Tarantulas do not transmit diseases to man. Their fangs may however contain bacteria from their previous meals which may introduce infection into the bite wound. Untreated infected wounds may induce systemic effects in an individual.
Tarantulas will rarely bite man and their bites are not harmful. However, as a defense mechanism, tarantulas release urticating hair when threatened. Urticating hairs are barbed bristles found on the abdomen of Tarantulas.
Tarantulas always release these hairs as a first line of defense. These hairs cause severe irritation in sensitive areas such as the eyes and other mucous membranes. It is therefore advisable to wear eye protection when handling Tarantulas.
Are Tarantulas dangerous to pets?
Keeping of Tarantulas in the new world is a fascinating hobby. Many Tarantula keepers may concurrently have other pets such as dogs and cats. Dogs and cats if they get access to the Tarantula terrarium may risk being bitten.
Can a tarantula kill a dog?
Although Tarantula venom is relatively harmless to man, it is lethal to domestic animals including dogs.
In a study conducted in Australia, 7 dogs were reported to have been bitten by a Tarantula. All the 7 dogs died within 2 hours from the time of the bite.
Additionally, tarantulas release urticating hairs as a first line of defense against bigger predators. These hairs can cause severe irritation in the mucous membranes of your dog.
Lastly if ingested the urticating hairs may also cause irritation leading to excessive drooling and vomiting in your dog.
Are tarantulas poisonous to cats?
Cats kill and eat spiders all the time without any effect.
If your cat gains entry into the tarantula terrarium they can kill and eat your pet tarantula. Alternatively, your cat may be bitten by the tarantula which may be fatal for your cat.
Tarantula bites on pets are very painful and may eventually lead to death. Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog or cat has been bitten by a Tarantula. This may save the life of your dog or cat.
It is advisable to keep dogs and cats away from pet Tarantulas. Dogs and cats may easily kill your pet Tarantula. On the other hand, if bitten the bite is potentially fatal to your dog or cat.
Man cannot die from a tarantula bite. This is because tarantula venom is milder than a honey bee sting. Some individuals may however be allergic to chemicals present in tarantula venom. These chemicals can cause potentially fatal anaphylactic reactions if not treated. We can conclude that;
Tarantulas are not dangerous to man, unless you are allergic to their venom
Their bite may cause severe pain but no significant systemic effects in man
They release urticating hairs as first line defense. these hairs cause irritation on eyes and mucous membranes
Tarantulas on the other hand are potentially lethal to your dog or cat. However, dogs and cats may also kill Tarantulas
Tarantulas also rid the environment of vermin that could cause diseases in man or potentially harm man.
FAQs on Tarantulas
What do tarantulas eat in the wild?
Tarantulas are nocturnal (preferring to hunt at night) carnivores. In the wild they eat a wide range of insects.
Bigger species of Tarantulas may also prey on;
- Small frogs
- Small lizards
- Small snakes
- Other spiders
- Small birds
You can feed pet tarantulas on a wide variety of insects. Read our separate article on food options for pet tarantulas.
Tarantulas do not use webs to ensnare their prey. They prefer to actively pursue their prey. They however, may spin an alert trip which alerts them when a potential prey approaches their burrow.
So how do tarantulas catch their prey?
Tarantulas ambush and pursue their prey. They then grab the prey with their strong jaws then inject them with venom using their fangs. Tarantula venom is made up of chemicals which paralyze the prey.
Additionally tarantulas also secrete a digestive enzyme which digests the flesh of their prey inside out.
Once the prey is liquefied, tarantulas then suck the fluid using their short straw like mouth parts.
In the stomach this fluid is broken down into small particles. The particles are absorbed in the intestines and distributed to the rest the body.
Are tarantulas important in the environment?
Tarantulas are large hairy spiders that have gained popularity as pets in most parts of the world. Tarantulas live all over the world in our environments. Even when not kept as pets they may find their way into our homes.
Tarantulas are nocturnal hunters. They feed on a wide range of insects with some bigger species eating small mice, lizards, scorpions, frogs, small snakes, small birds or other spiders.
Tarantulas feed on animals which can potentially transmit infections to man such as mice and rats. They also rid the environment of vermin and animals which are dangerous to man such as scorpions and snakes. Therefore Tarantulas are advantageous to man in the environment.
Additionally Tarantulas do not cause diseases to man.
Their bites are relatively harmless to man although potentially fatal to domestic animals including dogs and cats. Furthermore they release urticating hairs as a first line of defense which causes severe irritation to the mucus membranes.