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Question Are Pet Tarantula Bites Dangerous? (Posted by: Anonymous )

Heather Answered by: Heather, an
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People unfamiliar with the hobby of tarantula keeping often assume that such large spiders pose a significant danger to a human bitten by one. However, though the assumption seems logical, the reality is a bit different.

It is true that all tarantulas, in fact all spiders, are venomous. But only a very few species of tarantula posses venom that poses any kind of threat to humans, and there is no verified case of human death by tarantula bite. The majority of tarantulas found in the pet trade are wild-caught, so there is no difference between wild and "domestic" tarantulas. That said, pet tarantula bites are quite rare, as are bites from wild tarantulas. Tarantulas in general are reluctant biters; given the choice between biting or retreating, the vast majority will choose retreat every time.

Tarantulas can be broken into two generalized groups; old world and new world species. It is among the old world species, particularly those from Africa and India, that the more serious venom is found. Unfortunately these species rely on their painful venom as a means of defense and so are more prone to biting when they feel threatened. Luckily for beginners, these species are usually available only through hobbyists or importers who mark the species as potentially dangerous, and are very rarely found at the local pet store.

New world species have venom that is very weak to humans, but they rely on a different defense- urticating hairs. When threatened, new world species, rather than biting, will use their back legs to flick a cloud of hairs from the top of their abdomen. These hairs are barbed and can produce a maddening itch that lasts for days- particularly if the hairs get in the mouth or eyes. The hairs, once shed, will not regrow until the spider molts; some tarantulas have completely bald abdomens as a result of vigorous hair flicking.

For most people, keeping pet tarantulas is rather like keeping fish- you look but don't try to interact. Tarantulas tend to be very solitary animals and have no desire to socialize with their keepers or any other creature, including other tarantulas. General care, such as feeding, changing water or cage cleaning, is very unlikely to provoke the animal into biting or hair flicking.

This is not to say that people never handle their pet tarantulas- to the contrary, an experienced handler can pick up even the most flighty or defensive species with relative ease. The majority of pet tarantula bites seem to be the result of hasty attempts to capture escaped animals. Confident, calm handling seldom results in a bite.

It is important to note that tarantula venom, like all venom, can affect different species of animals differently. So while one can confidently claim that no new world species of tarantula is dangerous to humans, the same might not be true of other pets- a particular type of venom might be fatal to pet cats, dogs, rabbits and so on. Of course it is also possible that it is NOT dangerous to these other animals; there is no master list of the effects of different types of tarantula venom on different species of animals. In fact surprisingly little is known about the subject at all; scientists have barely scratched the surface investigating properties and possible medical uses of tarantula venom.

Pet tarantulas can be fascinating to watch, are very inexpensive and easy to care for, and are not messy or noisy like many other pets. Some species are thought to live as long as 60 years, certainly not a commitment to make lightly!

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Awesome and totally helpful! I always knew that their bites weren't poisonous and that they hardly interacted with anything alive, but I wasn't completely sure until I read this. Thx. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?ยง???(Cool symbols, huh) By Anonymous on 15-05-13 at 06:21pm
Perfect! By Raven on 01-10-13 at 11:31am
I'm newly in this pet...I. need more .advices about tarantulas... . By kloyd niel lopez on 23-11-13 at 05:40am
I had a tarantula in my preschool room years ago. It was fascinating for the children to watch it, especially when it was feeding time. The crickets I put in the cage would crawl all over the tarantula, she only ate them when she was hungry. Tarantulas also shed their skin, including their face, once a year. The old skin was lifted out and they had a chance to see it up close. My tarantula, "Fifi", never attempted to bite me. She was very timid and easy to care for. The biggest problem I had was that other teachers would not come into my room.... sometimes that is a plus!!! By Barb on 30-01-14 at 09:13am

Follow-Up Question What necessarily qualifies, as a person who is experienced enough to handle a tarantula? In other words, how do you know if you are fit enough to handle one? (Posted by: just curious )

Heather-6784 Answered by: Heather-6784, an
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Anyone can handle a tarantula. The question is not "can I handle a tarantula," but rather, "which tarantula is best to handle."

To start with, there are several major categories of tarantulas. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, but for the most part you can largely predict a tarantula's behavior and its potential for causing injury if you know where it falls in these categories:

New World - from North, South or Central America, New World tarantulas are not significantly venomous, but they do have urticating (itching) hairs which can be extremely uncomfortable.

Old World - from everywhere that isn't New World; Europe, Asia, India, Australia and so forth. Old World species often have medically significant venom and should not be handled unless experienced.

Arboreal - found in both New World and Old World, arboreal tarantulas live up high, in trees, rock faces, rafters, etc. They are lightweight, skittish and fast---and won't hesitate to leap. A poor choice for inexperienced handlers.

Semi-Arboreal - mostly found in the Old World, semi-arboreals are also lightweight and fast---and tend to be relatively aggressive, more likely to bite than other types. These usually make webby nests on or near the ground, but also sometimes up high. Experienced handlers only.

Terrestrial - when most people think of a tarantula, they think of terrestrial species---large, plump and sluggish. These types are reluctant to bite and are very poor climbers or jumpers. Terrestrial tarantulas live in self-dug or opportunistic burrows. Terrestrials are the best choice for a new handler---but being that they are heavy, even a small drop can cause fatal injuries. Beginners should never lift these spiders more than a few inches above a solid surface until confident enough to prevent the animal from falling.

In summary, your best bet for learning to handle a tarantula is to start with a New World terrestrial species, such as a Grammostola species, or an Aphonopelma species, both of which are very mellow. You might want to start by just touching the spider though, and wait a few days to find out if the urticating hairs bother you before letting it crawl all over you.

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Follow-Up Question hi ill b greatful if u could answer my question about the tarantula in my house there rso many and theyve been living there 4ever what 2 do (Posted by: Anonymous )

Heather-6784 Answered by: Heather-6784, an
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This is tough to answer without knowing what sort of tarantulas we're dealing with! I'm assuming they're wild---where do you live? Do they hang out on the ground or up high?

Something many people don't realize about tarantulas---in fact, all spiders---is that they need moisture. A spider that can't get a drink now and then is a dead spider. If possible, try to reduce the humidity in your house and don't leave standing water around.

I'm afraid I can't help you more without knowing more about the spiders involved!

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