Tarantula Biting: Everything You Need to Know!

The popularity of tarantulas as pets has rapidly grown. Whereas many people see these animals as creepy crawlers, a large segment of the population sees them as beautiful animals that are worthy of love, care, and handling. However, is that really safe? What about biting? Tarantulas have impressive fangs that look like they could deal some serious damage. Is biting something to be afraid of?

Luckily, tarantulas do not often bite humans. While they might look scary, they’re more scared of you than you are of them! When faced with something that threatens them they’d rather run away than fight. However, they do use their fangs to defend themselves if they have no other option.

To learn everything you need to know about biting tarantulas, keep reading!


Do tarantulas bite their owners?

Tarantulas generally don’t bite humans. They live their lives expending as little energy as possible. If they do not think that you’re a threat, there’s no reason for them to bite you.

However, even if they do think that you’re a threat they typically run away first before they try to bite. Tarantulas are big, but they’re also surprisingly agile. They can run at surprising speeds, although they can’t maintain those speeds for very long. They use these high speeds to hunt down prey, but also to run away from things that are a threat to them.

Additionally, New World tarantulas, which are the species that are native to the Americas, have another defense mechanism that they deploy before biting. They have something called urticating hairs. They can kick these hairs into the air to deter threats. These hairs cause irritation but are not dangerous unless they land in your eye.

If running away and shooting urticating hairs do not work then tarantulas will typically strike a threat pose:

They will raise their front legs as if to say: “Don’t come any closer!” if you see this, make sure to heed their warning.

If that still does not work then tarantulas will indeed use their fangs to defend themselves. If you get bitten by them the damage that it does depends on the species that bites you.

New World tarantulas typically do not have very potent venom but Old World species like the Indian Ornamental and the Gooty Sapphire Tarantula do have a very potent bite!

Are tarantula bites dangerous?

If you’re a healthy person and you get bitten by a typical new world tarantula species their bite is typically not dangerous. Their venom is not very potent the severity of their bites is often likened to that of a bee’s sting.

However, there are some cases in which a tarantula bite can be dangerous.

The first is if you’re allergic to the venom. Some people have allergic reactions when they’re bitten and that’s when it can become dangerous. It’s important that you seek medical attention in that case.

The second scenario where a tarantula bite can be a bit dangerous is if you get bitten by certain Old World species. Old World species do not have the urticating hairs that New World species do. Instead, they have much more potent venom.

The Poecilotheria Metallica and the P. Regalis are two examples of Old World species that have very potent venom. Their venom can cause severe muscle cramps that last for several days. In addition, they have large fangs that can cause puncture wounds. These wounds can get infected.

For that reason, you should definitely not handle Old World species such as these. Even if you’re an experienced hobbyist it’s still dangerous since these are still wild animals that can be unpredictable. Something can startle them which can cause them to bite.

What to do if a tarantula bites you?

Arminius1000, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What you should do when a tarantula bites you depends on which species has bitten you and whether you’re allergic. If you’re allergic, seek medical attention right away.

If you’re not allergic and a New World species that does not have very potent venom has bitten you then you can wash the location of the bite with soap and water. Since their venom is not very potent you should be fine, but if you’re still worried and want to be sure you can always go for a check-up.

However, if you get bitten by a P. Metallica or a P. Regalis then you should seek medical attention right away, even if you’re not allergic since these spiders have very potent venom.

How to avoid getting bitten?

Prevention is better than curing, so let’s take a look at how you can prevent getting bitten by a tarantula.

As previously mentioned, tarantulas are not aggressive animals that will bite humans out of nowhere. We do not register as prey to them, so they have no reason to set their fangs into us unless they feel threatened. As such, make sure that you try not to threaten them. If they do not feel like you’re a threat they have no reason to bite you, that’s also why people are capable of letting tarantulas crawl on them without getting bitten.

Secondly, make sure that you read the spider’s body language. If it’s displaying a threat posture make sure that you leave them alone.

Lastly, be careful when feeding. Tarantulas do not see humans as prey but some species have a very strong feeding response and get excited when they see prey. If you have your hand nearby they might mistakenly attack it.

Should you handle tarantulas?

Many people who keep these spiders as pets handle them on occasion. However, there’s no indication that the tarantulas actually enjoy it. They might tolerate being handled, but they’re not really affectionate animals that crave human touch or anything like that.

Of course, the risk of being bitten increases a lot if you handle them and since your spider will likely not enjoy being handled it’s often best to simply leave them be and observe them from a distance.


Final words

Tarantulas generally do not bite humans. They only do so if they feel threatened and have no other option. Luckily, most pets are New World species that have very mild venom that’s not dangerous to humans unless you’re allergic.

However, some people do keep Old Wold spiders like the P. Regalis and P. Metallica as pets. Those species do have very potent venom and if you get bitten by an Old World spider such as these you should seek medical attention.

Jesse A.