Male vs Female Tarantula: The Difference & Which to Get

Tarantulas are some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet. They’re the bulkiest spiders out there and have some very unique characteristics. One thing that many people are curious about is what the differences are between male and female tarantulas.

For many people, the differences between them are not immediately obvious. However, if you look at them a bit closer, the differences are numerous. The most notable difference between male and female tarantulas is their size, with females typically being larger than males, but that’s not the only thing.

Let’s take a closer look at everything that separates males from females in the tarantula world and which one you should get as a pet!

Arizona Blonde male & female

The differences between male & female tarantulas

There are several differences between male and female tarantulas. Let’s go over them one by one so that you can more easily tell whether the spider you’re looking at is male or female.

Size

In most animals, males are larger than females, but that’s not the case with arachnids. Female arachnids are quite a bit larger than males and for good reason.

They’re larger because they need to be big enough to overpower the males after mating. You see, female tarantulas tend to eat the males after they’ve mated successfully. In order to do this, they have to be large enough to overpower the male. As such, they’ve evolved to have a larger size.

Typically, they have a much larger abdomen, carapace, and thicker legs, whereas the males are thinner.

Tibial hooks

As you can imagine, males don’t want to get eaten after mating. As such, they try to run away after the mating has occurred. However, during the mating, they’re still quite vulnerable to their partner’s sharp fangs.

To prevent these fangs from piercing them and being injected with venom, they have evolved something called “tibial hooks. These tibial hooks are located on their front legs and are used to block the female’s fangs.

One thing to note though is that there are over 800 identified tarantula species. Not all the males of all the species have tibial hooks, so just because your spider does not have tibial hooks does not mean that it’s not a male. However, if your spider does have tibial hooks, it’s guaranteed to be a male.

Lifespan

Tarantulas can have incredibly long lifespans, especially females.

However, males once again draw the short end of the stick and typically have a lifespan that’s only 30% to 25% as long as the females.

For instance, female Mexican Pinks can live for around 25 to 30 years, while males only live for around 4 to 5 years.

Color

Some tarantula species exhibit sexual dimorphism. This means that males look different from females. Good examples of this are the Arizona Blonde and the Singapore Blue.

Anatomy

Of course, male and female tarantulas also have different reproductive organs. For instance, females have a spermatheca while males do not.

However, it’s almost impossible to tell if your spider has this unless they’re either dead or they have just molted.

The best, and most reliable way to tell if your tarantula is male or female is to take a look at their old exoskeleton right after they’ve molted.

Take the molt and look for the spermatheca. If it’s present, it’s a female. If not, it’s a male. Take a look at the image below to see where to look for the spermatheca.

Female tarantula molt, the spermatheca is highlighted. Oneillbeck, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Male vs Female Tarantulas as pets

Female tarantulas are more desired as pets because they have a longer lifespan and grow to a larger size. Additionally, females are in higher demand because some people want to use them to breed. Because they’re more in demand, they’re also more expensive.

Males, on the other hand, do not reach as impressive of a size and have a much shorter lifespan. However, they mature faster and are cheaper.

Many people also buy unsexed slings.

In the case of these slings, which are baby tarantulas, it’s impossible to tell whether they’re male or female because they do not exhibit any of the aforementioned differences yet. You’ll have to wait until they molt before you will be able to tell whether it’s a male or a female.

Are male or female tarantulas more aggressive?

There is no known difference in temperament between the sexes. There are defensive males as well as defensive females. It is sometimes said that males are more skittish, but this might be due to their smaller size which makes them more vulnerable to the outside world.

The main difference in temperament is determined by the species and whether you have an Old World or New World tarantula.


Final words

If you plan on getting a tarantula as your next pet and are unsure about whether to go for a male or a female I suggest picking up a female. They might be more expensive, but their much-increased lifespan and larger size mean that they’re better suited as pets.

Of course, if you want to pay less, an unsexed sling is also a good choice. You’ll have a chance of getting either a male or female, and you’ll also have the element of surprise figuring out which sex you got after it first molts.

On the whole, you can’t really go wrong with either. They’re both very beautiful to admire and since most collectors get several spiders, most collections will at some point contain both males and females.

Jesse A.