What Do Tarantulas Eat? Surprising Facts You Won't Believe | Kidadl


What Do Tarantulas Eat? Surprising Facts You Won't Believe

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Tarantulas can be quite scary, because of their ferocious and intimidating appearance.

However, they are quite docile in nature, and make great pets for insect lovers! They can be fed an array of small insects and other creatures from the pet store which makes them easy to care for.

In the wild, tarantulas live in dry, arid places like in the desert and in open countryside and grasslands. They have a unique method of hunting for and ingesting their food, which stems from their lack of teeth for tearing and chewing their prey. As tarantulas are carnivorous in nature, they need a lot of meat in their diet to fuel their daily activities. Though the ideal recommended prey for tarantulas is given as insects half the length of their enormous leg span, using their potent venom, they can take down animals much bigger than themselves! But not to worry, as this venom is quite harmless to humans, apart from causing an itchy bite. To learn more about these spectacular spiders, read on!

If you enjoyed this article, do check out our other pages on what do swans eat and what do squid eat?

What do tarantulas eat in captivity?

Though tarantulas eat a wide array of insects, small reptiles, and amphibians in the wild, feeding your pet tarantula live insects from the pet store works well too.

Baby spiders eat more, as younger spiders require more energy to keep up with their frequent moltings. You can feed your pet tarantula large insects like crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms, super worms, cicadas, and Dubia roaches. Always buy these from a reputed pet store, as insects in the wild could be infected with parasites or other harmful bacteria, which can cause health problems if ingested.

As tarantulas grow, they require fewer feedings. Young tarantulas must be fed at least one to three times per week, whereas for adults once every one to two weeks is sufficient enough. The recommended amount to feed your tarantula is around four to six crickets or roaches per week.

Tarantula spiderlings can be fed smaller insects such as fruit flies and pinhead crickets, as they are easy to catch and consume. After they molt two to three times, you can start feeding them the same diet as adults. Feed your baby tarantula as much as it can eat, as almost all its energy will be used up in the first few times it molts.

Make sure not to give your tarantula any aggressive live prey during its molting period, as it can cause your spider distress during its vulnerable state and end up severely hurting it. When tarantulas molt or are preparing to do so, it is very important to give them their space and not force them to eat or drink water as they are in a sensitive state, and will do so in their own time.

Gut loading insects before feeding them is highly recommended so that spiders can take in nutrients through them. Gut loading means feeding crickets or cockroaches nutrient-dense greens, and multivitamins before feeding them to your pet, so that their nutritional value increases.

You can feed your tarantula live insects, as they receive exercise by chasing them over the enclosure. Simply drop them into the tank near your tarantula. Always use tweezers, and never approach your adult tarantula with any prey in your hands as it may attack your hand in an attempt to get to its food.

Though the ideal size of prey for tarantulas is smaller prey which they can easily catch, for some larger tarantulas, feeding them small snakes, frogs, lizards, and mice is also an option. As every adult tarantula may eat different amounts of food, make sure you keep an eye on how much your pet tarantula eats and adjust its diet accordingly. The ideal size for prey is about half the size of your tarantula's leg span. Tarantulas do not really have a favorite food and will eat pretty much anything you give them.

As tarantulas can be cannibalistic in nature, it is advised to house them alone and not with other tarantulas. This is especially common if you keep male and female tarantulas together, as in many cases, the female tarantula will cannibalize the male after mating with him.

If you are worried about your tarantula potentially biting you or scared of tarantula venom hurting you, do not be afraid. Tarantulas are not the scary, aggressive creatures they are made out to be and are quite docile and shy. They would never attack unprovoked, and even if they do, they actually have very weak venom akin to that of a bee sting which would not severely affect anyone unless they are allergic. Removing your tarantula's fangs in an attempt to 'tame them' takes away its ability to bite and inject digestive enzymes into its food, which makes it difficult for it to consume it in its solid form. This may cause your tarantula to die of starvation.

Lastly, always keep a shallow dish of fresh water for your tarantula. Do not keep more than 0.5 in (1.3 cm) of standing water as pet tarantulas are prone to drown in deep water bowls. As tarantulas get most of their moisture from the prey they consume, do not worry if you do not see your tarantula drinking out of the bowl that often.

What do tarantulas eat in the desert?

Despite its scary appearance, the arid habitat-dwelling desert tarantula is very docile and shy. Many tarantulas live in dry pockets of soil in the open country and grasslands, as well as in the desert. As they consume their prey in a liquid form that fulfills all their hydration needs, living in arid areas is not a problem for them. Tarantulas are very commonly found in the desert areas of North America, Mexico, and South America.

Similar to other tarantula species, the desert tarantula uses similar tactics to stun and dissolve its prey before sucking it into its stomach in order to digest it easily. These nocturnal spiders come out of their hidden burrows to hunt at night, preying on crickets, beetles, cicadas, millipedes, spiders, and even other tarantulas! As they are large in size, they are often seen feeding on larger insects like caterpillars, other large spiders, and even scorpions which are quite common in the desert!

Some wild tarantulas also spin silk, which is very useful for covering their burrows and hunting prey. Covering their burrows with silk webbing keeps away predators during the day, and silk linings help to keep a tarantula's deep burrow stable and cozy. The silk may also help in entangling small insects and other prey, which they can then consume. Though most tarantulas in the desert are ground dwellers, living under the soil, other species can also be found living in caves, along cliffs, or in trees and logs.

These hairy spiders use the urticating hairs on their abdomen and legs as a defense mechanism, as well as to hunt. If an intruder approaches, they shoot these tiny, spiky hairs into their eyes, causing them distress and leading them to abandon the pursuit of the tarantula which can then escape safely. They may also rub their legs together or rub the hair on their abdomen, making a hissing sound to intimidate predators.

Though wild tarantulas may seem scary, they are actually nothing to fear. The goliath birdeater tarantula, for instance, has a very fearsome reputation, with its diet consisting of small birds as well. However, it is known to be very shy and docile, wrongly garnering an aggressive reputation.

Sadly, tarantulas in the wild face a lot of problems due to the destruction of their habitat as well as constant collection, as they are very popular in the pet trade. Over-collection may cause their numbers to drop in the wild, which can create a big problem in the food chain, with tarantulas being an integral predator of smaller insects, mammals, and reptiles like lizards and snakes.

Tarantula on the tree.

Ingestion and Digestion of Tarantulas

Unfortunately, tarantulas do not possess sharp teeth like other spiders with which they can tear and chew their prey. This is quite perplexing, as they are inherently carnivorous in nature and feed exclusively on prey that they hunt down. So how exactly do they eat their prey?

Tarantulas hunt their prey using their strong protruding fangs, in order to subdue them. By inserting their fangs into the prey's body, they also inject a special venom, which includes an enzyme that breaks it down from the inside. This is similar to how digestive enzymes in our bodies break down food in our stomachs once we chew it. However, as tarantulas do not have the option of chewing their food they rely on external digestion instead. The enzymes slowly work on the body of the prey, turning it into a liquid-like substance which the spider then sucks up into its body.

Tarantulas have specially built stomachs, which have muscles that expand and contract like a pump. This allows them to take in the liquified prey, and the muscles can expand in order to store more food. This allows them to keep food in a series of storage sacs in their stomachs, and convert it into energy slowly over a long period of time. This allows tarantulas to store food which they do not need immediately in order to internally digest later, due to which they do not need to feed again for one or two weeks.

This method allows tarantulas to feed on prey larger than them, like small lizards, pinky rats, snakes, and even small birds and bats!

How do tarantulas hunt?

Tarantulas have two dangerous features which help them hunt down their prey.

Tarantulas come equipped with two large fangs, which they use to inject venom into the bodies of their prey. Once they come into the reach of their prey, they ambush them by wrapping their long legs around them and injecting them with their sharp teeth. The venom injected into the prey will slowly liquify it from the inside, making it easier for the tarantula to digest.

These large spiders also rely on their unusually strong jaws, with which they press down upon and crush their prey. For most tarantulas, their strong bite alone is what manages to bring their prey down.

Tarantulas also possess special hairs on their legs and abdomens called urticating hairs. These tiny, sharp hairs can be flicked towards prey or intruders, causing great discomfort when lodged into their eyes or any other soft body part. Tarantulas then take this opportunity to attack the struggling creature and inject it with venom using their strong teeth. The venom contains a special digestive enzyme which when released into the prey's body turns it into a liquid, which is then easily sucked up by tarantulas.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what do tarantulas eat then why not take a look at what do sharks eat, or tarantulas facts.

Written By
Tanya Parkhi

Tanya always had a knack for writing which encouraged her to be a part of several editorials and publications across print and digital media. During her school life, she was a prominent member of the editorial team at the school newspaper. While studying economics at Fergusson College, Pune, India, she got more opportunities to learn details of content creation. She wrote various blogs, articles, and essays that garnered appreciation from readers. Continuing her passion for writing, she accepted the role of a content creator, where she wrote articles on an array of topics. Tanya’s write-ups reflect her love for traveling, learning about new cultures, and experiencing local traditions.

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