Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Rose Hair Tarantula

(Grammostola rosea)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in South American rainforests.

Size: Average leg span of 5 inches

Wild Diet: Primarily large insects like crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, and roaches; sometimes other tarantulas, frogs, spiders, and baby mice.

Predators: Coatis and the tarantula hawk – a wasp that stings the tarantula to paralyze it, then drags the tarantula home to be eaten alive by its larvae.

Lifespan: Up to 30 years

Reproduction: The male spins a special web and deposits droplets of sperm onto its surface, then loads the bulbs of his pedipalps (mouthparts) with the droplets and pursues a female. The male subdues the female with caresses, then bends her backwards and inserts his pedipalp bulbs into her reproductive slit. He then scrambles away as fast as he can, because females occasionally kill their suitors! The female’s abdomen swells with eggs until they are ready to be released into a cocoon. After breeding, the female lays about 400 eggs on a silk patch she has formed. Each egg cell’s yolk is packed with energy used by the embryo to develop into a juvenile tarantula. The mother guards her eggs for 2 months until they hatch. When fully grown, they molt up to twice a year.

Behavior: Rose hair tarantulas are nocturnal, spending their days in their burrows and emerging at dusk to hunt. They lie in wait to catch their prey, then hold on with their fangs and jaws. Venom comes out of the fangs to paralyze the victim, and digestive juice is regurgitated to digest the meal externally before it is sucked up. They do not weave webs, but they do spin silk to line their burrows. They have at least three different silk glands within their abdomen. While inside the glands, the silk is liquid, transformed to a solid by the tension produced as the silk is excreted through the spinnerets. The silk is incredibly strong – half the tensile strength of steel!

Conservation

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

Tarantulas are often misunderstood and feared even though most cannot cause death to humans. In the wild, they are caught for the pet trade. We need tarantulas because they eat insects and other animals that we consider pests.

Did you know?

  • They can smell using organs on their feet and taste using sensitive hairs on their legs.
  • There are no known human deaths from tarantula bites. The venom is not poisonous to people, although some people can have allergic reactions to a bite.
  • When disturbed, the rose hair tarantula can flick hairs off its abdomen with its hind legs. These hairs can impale the intruder, causing irritation or temporary blindness if hit in the eyes. However, this species is one of the most docile of spiders and does not flick abdomen hairs easily.