Class: Arachnid

Order: Aranea

Family: Theraphosidae

Size: Largest: 3” body length, 10” leg span; the smallest: 1” body length

Maturity: American desert species: up to 10 years; tropical forest species: 3-4 years

Mating: September and October

Gestation: 2 months No. of Young: 500 to 3,000 eggs in a single egg sac

Lifestyle: Solitary (they tend to eat other tarantulas)

Diet: Crickets, roaches, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders; larger ones eat lizards, frogs, mice nestling birds, small snakes

Lifespan: 10-over 30 years, depending on species

Range: Southwestern US,Central America,South America andCaribbean

Habitat:  Depending on the species, deserts and rain forests

Nature Notes: There are about 300 species of spiders around the world referred to as “tarantulas” but only about 30 species are in theU.S., primarily in the Southwest.  All live in burrows and do not spin webs.  Like all spiders, they produce silk, which is used to line the burrow, form an egg sac, and camouflage the burrow entrance. 

This large, hairy spider is actually fairly docile, and does not bite unless provoked.  Although, it may rear up on its back two pairs of legs and expose its formidable fangs to ward off a threat.  Or, some stinging hairs from the back of its abdomen can be scraped off and, if embedded in the eye or skin, can cause severe irritation.  These hairs on the legs and abdomen are intimately connected with the nervous system and aid in locating prey.  
Most species are not poisonous to man.  The bite from a tarantula is reminiscent of a bee sting, only causing localized reaction. 

Being an arthropod, a tarantula has an exoskeleton, which needs to molt and be replaced to allow for growth.  Once males reach maturity, they do not molt and are shorter lived than females, who may live up to 30 years or more.  Missing appendages are often replaced after a molt.