Tarantulas in Missouri (Pictures & Facts)

There is a range of spiders found in Missouri, but only one type of tarantula calls this state home. It is the same tarantula commonly found in other nearby states, and across other regions in North America.

Tarantulas in Missouri

The Missouri Tarantula

The largest spider found in the state of Missouri is the Missouri tarantula. This tarantula is one of the most common tarantulas found in the United States, and it is known by more than one name. Since this large spider is found in other states, its common names can vary based on the states it is found in.

Scientific Name

Texas Brown Tarantula | image by Andrew Meeds via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0

The scientific name for the Missouri tarantula is Aphonopelma hentzi. It is also known by more than one common name, depending on the state it is found in.

For example, when found in Texas this large spider is called a Texas brown tarantula. It is also sometimes just called the brown tarantula, due to its coloring. This spider is also part of the Theraphosidae family and Araneae order.

Size

Aphonopelmas | image by Dallas Krentzel via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

The Missouri tarantula is the biggest spider found in the entire state of Missouri. Females are slightly larger than males, averaging around two inches in size, not accounting for the length of their legs.

Males average around one and a half inches in size. The legs of these spiders can reach around six inches long. Their bodies and legs are covered in reddish brown hairs that appear coarse to the touch. The rest of them is more of a chocolate brown color.

Life Cycle

Missouri tarantulas can be found living in burrows, where the females will lay their eggs and keep them secure with webbing. For the first week of life, hatched tarantulas stay with their mothers.

After that first week, young tarantulas spread out to live on their own. In the wild, these spiders don’t have long life expectancies, usually only living for one season.

However, Missouri tarantulas are popular pets, and in captivity, they can live for several years. Females can live much longer than males, sometimes reaching 30 years old.

Males, on the other hand, are known to live for around 7 years in captivity. Wild tarantulas have an average lifespan of a little over a year.

Habitat

Aphonopelma hentzi on rocks | image by Andrew Meeds via iNaturalist | CC BY 4.0

Tarantulas will burrow, and spend a lot of time in these burrows. They can do this best in rocky and dry areas. Sometimes they will find tunnels dug by reptiles and use those as burrows. Tarantulas use silk to line their burrows, and females will let their eggs here.

Missouri tarantulas prefer to live in places far from people and a lot of human activity, which is why they are typically found in mountainous regions or desert areas. Missouri tarantulas are most active during the summer and fall, and may be spotted in southern regions of the state.

Predators

While Missouri tarantulas are predators in their habitats, these large spiders have their own predators to deal with. In addition to their bites, the best defense mechanism tarantulas have for predators is hiding in their burrows.

The main predators of the Missouri tarantula include;

  • Birds
  • Skunks
  • Lizards
  • Snakes

Diet

Cricket is one of Tarantula’s food by Hans from Pixabay

Missouri tarantulas are fierce predators, and they will hide in wait in their burrows for unsuspecting prey to wander by. These large Missouri spiders have fangs with enough venom to hurt enemies, though it poses no harm to humans.

The Missouri tarantula diet consists of:

  • Small lizards
  • Other spiders
  • Crickets
  • Grasshoppers

These large spiders prefer to hunt at night, spending most of the day in their burrows.

Human Interaction

Missouri tarantulas are not dangerous to humans, despite the small amount of venom in their fangs. Bites from these insects have been compared to bee stings. They are not aggressive either and have become popular pets over the years. Missouri tarantulas are docile spiders, and when in captivity many don’t mind being handled.

They are unlikely to bite humans unless they feel threatened. In the wild, they are shy animals and will hide from any people they see. While Missouri tarantulas look frightening, they are harmless and docile spiders.

Interesting Facts

There are several interesting facts about the Missouri tarantula. They are one of the most unique spiders found in the state and serve an important role in the ecosystem.

  • Missouri tarantulas are mainly found in central and southern Missouri, due to the Missouri River that divides the northern part of the state.
  • They arrived in Missouri and surrounding regions about 8,000 years ago.
  • These spiders are helpful in controlling the populations of the insects they feed on.
  • They are ambush spiders, and ambush prey instead of trapping them with webs.

Similar Species

Wolf Spider
Wolf spider | image by Jean and Fred Hort via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

While the Missouri tarantula is the only tarantula known to live in the state, there are similar spider species found in Missouri as well. Spiders similar to the Missouri tarantula include dark fishing spiders, wolf spiders, and tan jumping spiders.

Dark fishing spiders (Dolomedes tenebrosus), are big enough to be mistaken for tarantulas. Wolf spiders (Lycosidae), are ferocious hunters that are known to run quickly after their prey. Tam jumping spiders (Platycriptus undatus) are small, fuzzy spiders named for their jumping abilities.

Conclusion

Missouri tarantulas appear in many states in North America, and they are the only tarantula found in Missouri. Despite these, there are a few other spider species in the state that are frequently mistaken for tarantulas, including wolf spiders and dark fishing spiders. While they have a scary appearance and prominent fangs, Missouri tarantulas are not harmful to humans and are actually helpful to the state’s ecosystem.