Friday, January 21, 2022


Be thankful you are not a tarantula

By Chuck Woodbury
Be thankful you are not a tarantula. It is not a good life.

First, a little background on the big hairy spider, then the bad news about its lifestyle.

We can thank the Italians for naming the tarantula. It seems that 15th century Italy was hysterical over “tarantism” which was thought to be caused by the bite of the tarantula, which, by the way, was named for the southern Italian town of Taranto. I bet you didn’t know that.

Tarantism, it seems, would really mess somebody up. Only by dancing frenziedly until dropping from exhaustion could an afflicted person be cured of the melancholy and stupor caused by the bite. That’s what everybody thought, anyway. Even today, the “tarantella” is a popular Italian folk dance.

Unlike other spiders that spin webs, tarantulas dig burrows where they spend most of their life, which can be pretty long: a female, for example, can live to be 30 years old. At night, the females climb out of their burrows to hunt in their neighborhood, eating other insects and even other spiders.

A female is ready to breed at 10 to 12 years, a male at 8 to 10 years. Mating is sort of complicated, but basically the male transfers his sperm to the female by placing it in her abdomen. If he’s smart, he’ll then get lost pronto before she decides to eat him. Talk about a crummy deal!

The female eventually lays between 600 and 1,000 eggs. They hatch about seven weeks later; the babies then hang around the burrow with Mom for days or even weeks. That must be one crowded burrow! Finally, they go their own way.

Tarantulas have quite a few enemies, but none more dreaded than the cold-blooded tarantula hawk, a large blue-black wasp with orange wings. If one of these creatures latches onto a tarantula, it’s really big time bad news for the spider. Here’s why: First the wasp will paralyze the tarantula with its stinger. Then it will drag it into a burrow where it will lay a single egg right on top of it. Finally, it will cover everything with dirt.

And then comes the bad part: One day, a worm-like wasp larva emerges from the egg. And do you know what it does? It starts eating that poor, paralyzed tarantula while it’s still alive! And this could last up to three months!

Can you imagine? I thank my lucky stars I was born a person.


Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

In the early 90s I took my son hunting while loving in Phoenix. Hunted in Casa Grande. He caught 3 tarantulas, brought them home having them for 5 years and releasing them before returning to the east coast. While living in New Mexico we camped during their migration south of Tucumcari NM. An awesome sight and a very interesting fauna to observe. Note they will also do a small mouse as dinner.

1 year ago

I don’t know, if you compare cancer, it slowly “eats” you alive until you die from it and many times it is a horrible death for us!

1 year ago

I’ve seen similar wasps doing the same with caterpillars in my yard each summer in South Jersey. Amazing to watch and follow them to where they’ve dug their hole. When they are done they cover the hole by scratching all around it like a cat in a litter box.

Glen Scofield
1 year ago

When I was a boy, growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, I would occasionally see a Tarantula Hawk flying around our yard looking for Tarantulas, I guess. It was huge, menacing and beautiful. I remember thinking that I was happy it was not called a “People Hawk.”

Mike Albert
1 year ago
Reply to  Glen Scofield

The hawk is an insect similar to a bee, not a bird of prey.

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Albert

Hi, Mike. Just to be clear, Glen didn’t say anything about it being a bird of prey. But I did just look it up and it’s a spider wasp, and can grow up to 2 inches long. That would look pretty big flying around when you’re a kid, I think. 🙂 —Diane at