What Do Tarantulas Eat?

This article was co-authored by Pippa Elliott, MRCVS. Dr. Elliott, BVMS, MRCVS is a veterinarian with over 30 years of experience in veterinary surgery and companion animal practice. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in 1987 with a degree in veterinary medicine and surgery. She has worked at the same animal clinic in her hometown for over 20 years.

What food do tarantulas eat?

Tarantula Diet. Tarantulas are carnivores, meaning that they feed on meat. They eat many kinds of large insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, June beetles, cicadas, millipedes, caterpillars, and other spiders. Larger tarantulas will also eat frogs, toads, fish, lizards, bats, and even small rodents and snakes.

Do tarantulas bite humans?

If you come across a tarantula, don’t bother it or try to play with it. These spiders will not bite you unless they feel threatened — if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.

Do tarantulas eat everyday?

Feed juveniles daily, adults every other day. Since they are nocturnal, feeding should occur at night. Be sure that food is smaller than the tarantula; pink toes eat small crickets; remove any uneaten live food as it may cause injury to a resting tarantula.

How long can a tarantula go without eating?

Tarantulas are able to survive several months and up to two years without having regular access to food.

Science, Tech, Math Animals & Nature The Carnivorous Diet of a Tarantula Share Flipboard Email Print Snowleopard1 / Getty Images Animals & Nature Insects Spiders Basics Behavior & Communication Ants. Bees, & Wasps Beetles Butterflies & Moths Ticks & Mites True Bugs, Aphids, Cicadas, and Hoppers Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Marine Life Forestry Dinosaurs Evolution View More By Debbie Hadley Entomology Expert B.A., Political Science, Rutgers University Debbie Hadley is a science educator with 25 years of experience who has written on science topics for over a decade. our editorial process Debbie Hadley Updated September 17, 2019 Tarantulas are highly skilled spiders capable of conquering just about any organism, even those larger than themselves. Their clever hunting tactics make them formidable apex predators and allow the animal to thrive in many environments. They are generalist hunters and opportunists that will always be able to find something to eat and few will be able to stand in their path. Tarantula Diet Tarantulas are carnivores, meaning that they feed on meat. They eat many kinds of large insects such as crickets, grasshoppers, June beetles, cicadas, millipedes, caterpillars, and other spiders. Larger tarantulas will also eat frogs, toads, fish, lizards, bats, and even small rodents and snakes. The Goliath birdeater is a South American species whose diet is known to consist partially of small birds. Ingestion and Digestion of Prey Like other spiders, tarantulas cannot eat their prey in solid form and can only ingest liquids. Because of this, when a tarantula captures a live meal, it bites the prey with sharp fangs, or chelicerae, that inject it with paralyzing venom. The fangs can also help to crush the prey. Once the prey is immobilized, the tarantula secretes digestive enzymes that liquefy its body. The spider then sucks up its meal using straw-like mouthparts under its fangs. A tarantula has a “sucking stomach” that enables the ingestion and digestion of liquids. When the sucking stomach’s powerful muscles contract, the stomach inflates, creating a strong suction that permits the tarantula to drain its liquefied prey up through the mouth and into the intestines. Once the liquefied food enters the intestines, it is broken down into particles small enough to pass into the bloodstream through the intestinal walls. The nutrients are spread and absorbed throughout the body in this way. After feeding, the carcass of the prey is formed into a small ball and disposed of by the tarantula. Where Tarantulas Hunt Tarantulas hunt close to where they live, which is why they can be found preying on organisms in a wide range of habitats. Some genera of tarantulas hunt prey primarily in trees, while others hunt on or near the ground. They may choose where to seek food based on what is available nearby or what type of prey they are after. Silk is very useful in hunting prey for many species of tarantulas. While all tarantulas can produce silk, it can be used in a variety of ways. Tree-dwelling species typically reside in a silken “tube tent” where they can watch for prey and eat their meals. Terrestrial species line their burrows with silk that stabilizes the burrow walls and enables them to climb up and down when it is time to hunt or mate. Unlike other spiders, tarantulas do not use their silk to trap or web prey. Predators of Tarantulas Though fearsome predators themselves, tarantulas are prey to many creatures. A certain type of insect, one that is much different from the small and defenseless prey a tarantula is accustomed to, is the most specialized predator to feed on tarantulas. Tarantula hawks are aptly named members of the wasp family. These large and ruthless wasps track and attack large tarantulas with a sting that paralyzes them, but the catch is not for themselves. They carry their live prey to secluded nests where they lay an egg on the tarantula’s back. When the egg hatches, the newborn wasp larva burrows into the tarantula’s incapacitated body and feeds on its insides. The tarantula is eaten from the inside out and kept alive for as long as possible until the larva pupates and consumes it entirely. Giant centipedes and humans also prey on tarantulas. Tarantulas are considered a delicacy by certain cultures in Venezuela and Cambodia and can be enjoyed after roasting them over an open fire to remove the hairs that irritate human skin. Featured Video Cite this Article Format mla apa chicago Your Citation Hadley, Debbie. “The Carnivorous Diet of a Tarantula.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/whatdotarantulaseat-1968548. Hadley, Debbie. (2020, August 27). The Carnivorous Diet of a Tarantula. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/whatdotarantulaseat-1968548 Hadley, Debbie. “The Carnivorous Diet of a Tarantula.” ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/whatdotarantulaseat-1968548 (accessed December 6, 2021). copy citation

Tarantulas are hairy massive spiders that have a rather intimidating public image. Once you are aware of exactly how tarantulas consume their prey, you may understand all of the hype. The carnivorous creatures use their venom as a means of securing prey for upcoming yummy meals.

Some examples of larger tarantula prey include lizards, snakes, bats, toads, frogs and rodents such as pinky rats and mice. Certain varieties of tarantulas — think the Goliath birdeater — often also consume hatchlings and birds, hence the fitting moniker.

Once the nocturnal ambush predators are through slurping up their unsuspecting prey, they often leave behind empty “shells” as evidence of their mealtime victories.

Tarantulas are large, carnivorous spiders. They are skilled hunters, capable of taking down large prey, but their exact diet depends on where they live and whether they live in captivity or the wild.

American species are ground spiders but some reside in trees, caves, and even in food crops like bananas. Whereas most animals rely on acids in the stomach to break down food, spiders including the tarantula inject their prey with a digestive enzyme.

It is a large spider that can be handled and is not considered dangerous to humans, although its urticating hairs can cause discomfort and its venom painful. They are easy to get hold of from pet shops or even online, and they can be dusted with supplements to ensure that the tarantula gets all of their dietary requirements. As well as being fast and capable of hiding in bushes and trees, and behind rocks, the tarantula uses its sensitivity to vibrations to determine when danger is close.

These hairs are fired at predators and they irritate the eyes and cause difficulty with breathing, giving the tarantula time to get away. It grows to full size quickly and the female will live ten years, which is one of the shorter life expectancies for this type of spider.

How They Eat

The tarantula approach to eating is a rather fascinating and unconventional one. The first step entails placing the razorlike fangs into the prey. Ouch. With one bite, the tarantula effectively renders the prey motionless. Digestive enzymes transform the prey into a liquid through deconstruction of soft tissue. Only then can the tarantula, which is unable to eat solids, dine on the prey by sucking it up. The amount of venom a tarantula needs to stop prey is minimal. If a tarantula isn’t too hungry at the time and wants to store away his prey for consumption later on, he may conceal it in silk.

What They Eat

A wide array of animals are frequent victims to the unconventional and frightening tarantula. Smaller tarantulas predominantly eat fellow bugs, such as cicadas, crickets, grasshoppers, sow bugs, caterpillars and beetles. They also sometimes eat other varieties of spiders. Some examples of larger tarantula prey include lizards, snakes, bats, toads, frogs and rodents such as pinky rats and mice. Certain varieties of tarantulas — think the Goliath birdeater — often also consume hatchlings and birds, hence the fitting moniker.

Empty Shells

Once the nocturnal ambush predators are through slurping up their unsuspecting prey, they often leave behind empty “shells” as evidence of their mealtime victories.

Natural Habitat

Tarantulas live in dry areas abundant in soil. American species are ground spiders but some reside in trees, caves, and even in food crops like bananas. They are found around the world, including in southern states of the US, Mexico, Central, and South America.Because of their popularity in the pet trade, some species of this impressive spider are considered endangered and are a protected species. Other species, however, are considered common which means that they are not protected and are considered abundant.Captive and pet tarantulas are usually provided with an artificial habitat that closely mimics the features of their wild habitat. This means that they should be provided with the right temperature, humidity, and need to be given décor and decorations like trees and hides. Similarly, their diet should closely match that of their wild diet.

Digestion

Spiders are unable to digest solid food within their body, so digestion is completed outside the body. Whereas most animals rely on acids in the stomach to break down food, spiders including the tarantula inject their prey with a digestive enzyme. This enzyme breaks down the tissues within the body so that the spider can then suck up the liquified prey.

Wild Diet

The exact diet of a tarantula, in the wild, depends on the variety of tarantula and what food is available. However, these hunters will generally feed on insects including grasshoppers.They may also eat other, smaller spiders, and will even consume animals like frogs, toads, and small lizards. Certain species are known for their ability to catch and eat birds.The tarantula is capable of eating prey that is larger than itself, especially because it does not need to be able to fit the food in its mouth.

Nocturnal Hunting

Unlike a lot of spiders, which spin webs and use these to trap their prey, the tarantula does not use webs. Instead, they hunt on the ground, in the same way larger animals do.Similar to other species of spiders, though, they are very sensitive to vibrations. While other types of spider use this capability to determine when the prey has become stuck in their web, the tarantula can determine when prey is nearby and when it is running, by feeling vibrations in the ground. The spiders are nocturnal, which means that they do most of their hunting at night. This also means that, when kept as pets, they are more active at night and this is when they are more likely to eat.

Diet In Captivity

The tarantula is a very popular pet breed. It is a large spider that can be handled and is not considered dangerous to humans, although its urticating hairs can cause discomfort and its venom painful.When kept as a pet, owners must attempt to replicate their life in the wild as closely as possible. This not only means meeting the temperature and humidity that they would have but also providing them with suitable food.It is common for tarantula owners to feed their spiders insects like grasshoppers. They are easy to get hold of from pet shops or even online, and they can be dusted with supplements to ensure that the tarantula gets all of their dietary requirements.

Tarantula Predators

Tarantulas are predated by birds, lizards, snakes, and even coyotes, and some foxes. As well as being fast and capable of hiding in bushes and trees, and behind rocks, the tarantula uses its sensitivity to vibrations to determine when danger is close. They also have urticating hairs. These hairs are fired at predators and they irritate the eyes and cause difficulty with breathing, giving the tarantula time to get away. They also have a venomous bite that is enough to take down some animals.