Tarantulas as pets seem to be a real trend as of late. You can often see images of pet tarantulas sitting on hands and you might be wondering, isn´t that dangerous?
As a whole, pet tarantulas only very rarely bite humans and only if they feel threatened. While tarantulas are venomous the venom in their fangs is usually not dangerous to humans. But tarantulas have hair that they eject from their abdomens when they are threatened that can irritate the skin.
So the bite isn´t really the biggest issue when handling a pet tarantula it’s actually the hair that they eject from their abdomen, the so-called Urticating Hair.
The Urticating Hair is the main defense mechanism of the tarantula and thus it will eject them when it feels threatened or when it is startled.
While it is very rare that tarantulas bite a human it isn´t all that rare that tarantulas “attack” a human with their Urticating Hair.
So it is generally not recommended to handle a tarantula without wearing gloves or eye protection until you know the tarantula and until you are sure that it won´t attack you under any circumstances.
These hairs can cause serious skin irritations and they can be dangerous if they have lounged in your eyes.
Is it Safe to Hold a Tarantula?
Now you are probably wondering why so many people are holding their pet tarantulas on their bare hands without worrying about being bitten or hurt by their Urticating Hairs.
As a whole, it is safe to hold a tarantula but only if that tarantula is used to humans and doesn´t get frightened or startled easily. If the tarantula is not used to humans then it is highly recommended to wear eye protection and gloves to protect yourself from their Urticating Hairs that can irritate the skin.
I would never handle a tarantula that I don´t know without eye protection and gloves. But that is mainly because I have very sensitive skin and I tend to react quite badly to Urticating Hairs on my skin.
I also know some people who don´t react at all to the hairs even if they are stuck in their skin.
But generally, I would recommend not handling any tarantulas no matter how docile without protection if you don´t know that tarantula yourself.
Are Tarantulas Venomous?
I think there is a common misconception that big spiders are dangerous because they are venomous but generally in nature the most venomous spiders are smaller than tarantulas (with a few exceptions).
As a whole, tarantulas are venomous but the venom of the tarantula is not dangerous for humans unless the person who was bitten is allergic. A tarantula bite is painful and often leads to swelling similar to a bee sting but much stronger.
But tarantulas don´t use biting as their primary defense mechanism. They use their bite and their venom for hunting their prey.
The primary defense mechanism of a tarantula is its Urticating Hair. This hair is located at its abdomen and can be kicked off. It then usually gets launched in the attacker’s eye or skin where it causes irritations.
Lisa is one of the two founders of Animal-Knowledge. She has been very interested in animals and insects from a very young age and has owned different kinds of pets such as snails, ants, fish, turtles, mice, rats, hamsters, rabbits, a dog, … you get the idea 🙂