Lakeside Nature Center

Critter Corner - Missouri Tarantula
(Aphonopelma  Hentzi)


Tarantulas must shed their skin to grow.  They molt many times throughout their lives. 


Tarantulas are ambush hunters.  the spider sit at the entrance of its burrow and waits for a juicy insect.  The tarantula grabs the prey and the large fangs pierce the insect's body.  The hollow fangs squirt digestive juices into the insect, causing the inside to turn to soup.  Then the fangs work like straws to suck the delicious meal.


Mating is dangerous for the male tarantula.  He is sometimes eaten by the female.  Mom tarantula lays her egg mass in a silk-lined hollow on the bottom of her burrow.  She cares for the eggs, which are about the size of a pinhead.  Some tarantulas lay more than 1,000 eggs,


Missouri tarantulas prefer habitats that are dry and rocky with natural cavities.  Tarantulas spend the day in silk-lined tunnels, avoiding the heat of the sun and predators.


Tarantulas are invertebrates, which means they have no bones.  Instead, they have an exoskeleton (on the outside of the body) that is strong, light and waterproof and provides defense against enemies.  The hairs on the spider's abdomen can be kicked off with the back legs when the tarantula feels threatened.  These hairs are like tiny daggers that irritate the eyes of a hungry predator.


  • The name tarantula comes from Taranto, a city in Italy, where once a popular dance called the Tarantella was thought to cure the effects of a spider's bite.

  • Female tarantulas can live 20 years, while males usually live just 10 years.

(Photo credits: Large portrait of tarantula, University of Arkansas; Tarantula on Wood, Missouri Department of Conservation; Tarantula on grass, Arkansas Tarantula Survey, photo by John Pelton)

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