Zebra Tarantula

Aphonopelma seemanni

Last updated: November 1, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff
© Milan Zygmunt/Shutterstock.com

They can stay hidden in their burrows for months!

Zebra Tarantula Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Arthropoda
Class
Arachnida
Order
Araneae
Family
Theraphosidae
Genus
Aphonopelma
Scientific Name
Aphonopelma seemanni

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Zebra Tarantula Conservation Status

Zebra Tarantula Locations

Zebra Tarantula Locations

Zebra Tarantula Facts

Prey
insects, crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, small lizards
Main Prey
insects
Name Of Young
spiderlings
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
They can stay hidden in their burrows for months!
Most Distinctive Feature
White striped legs
Other Name(s)
Costa Rican Zebra Tarantula, Striped Knee Tarantula
Temperament
nervous, skittish
Habitat
dry forest, terrestrial, burrowing
Predators
tarantula hawks, snakes, lizards, coyote, fox
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Nocturnal
Location
Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras

Zebra Tarantula Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
  • White
  • Dark Brown
Skin Type
Bristled hairs
Lifespan
Males 8-10 years, Females 20 years
Weight
1-3 ounces
Height
1-2 inches
Length
4-5 inches
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Low

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“A zebra tarantula is a black spider with white stripes!”

The zebra tarantula is a medium-sized black spider with white stripes. Their eight long legs have white stripes that run vertically. Sometimes they are called striped knee tarantulas because the stripes pass over their knee joints. Zebra tarantulas are native to Central America and are also sometimes called Costa Rican tarantulas. These hairy tarantulas can have a leg span of 4-5 inches.

Amazing Zebra Tarantula Facts

  • These tarantulas have vertical white stripes on their legs.
  • Zebra tarantulas live in Central America.
  • Sometimes the females eat the males after mating.
  • Females live much longer than males. Females can live to be 20 years old.
  • Zebra tarantulas can flick urticating hairs off their abdomens in self-defense.
  • They secrete silk from their feet, which allows them to cling to vertical surfaces.

Zebra Tarantula Scientific Name

The scientific name of the zebra tarantula is Aphonopelma seemanni. The genus Aphonopelma includes many of the tarantulas in North America, Central America, and South America. Other names for the zebra tarantula include the striped knee tarantula and the Costa Rican zebra or Costa Rican stripe knee. They look very similar to skeleton tarantulas, which have a similar vertical white striping pattern.

Zebra Tarantula Appearance

The zebra tarantula has a solid black body with vertical white stripes on its legs. It is covered in long brownish bristles called setae that give it a furry look. Depending on variation in color, some are more brown than black, but they still have the characteristic white stripes. Their bodies have two segments: the large abdomen and cephalothorax. The hair covered chelicera and pedipalps are located in the front and two spinnerets are towards the back. The pedipalps look like additional legs, but they are appendages used for grabbing prey. Additionally, the males use these during mating.

Female zebra tarantulas are bigger than males and can have a leg span of 4-5 inches. The males are just a bit smaller and less stocky than the females.

zebra tarantula
The zebra tarantula has a solid black body, vertical white stripes on its legs, and is covered in setae.

©iStock.com/Natalie Ruffing

Zebra Tarantula Behavior

Zebra tarantulas are deep burrowers. In captivity they can dig deep to the bottom of their enclosures and stay there for months! They do not even need to eat during this time. In their wild habitat, similar burrowing and inactivity occurs.

During more active times, they wait at the entrance of their burrows at night for prey. The web at the burrow’s entrance serves as a motion detector that can alert the spider to movement.

If a zebra tarantula feels threatened, it can flick its urticating hairs off its abdomen. These hairs can be very painful if stuck in a predator’s skin or eyes.

Zebra tarantulas are a skittish species and not as docile as other Aphonopelma. They are not aggressive, but they are nervous.

Like other tarantulas, they go through a molting process where they shed their exoskeleton to accommodate their growing bodies. A new exoskeleton grows and hardens. They molt most frequently when they are young.

Zebra Tarantula Habitat

Zebra tarantulas live in Central America in Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua. They are a burrowing spider and like to make deep holes in the ground where they can sometimes stay for months. They can live in scrublands and dry forests, and they are accustomed to hot temperatures. Webbing at the entrance of their burrows helps keep them safe, alerting them to movement nearby.  

In the per trade, it is recommended to have an enclosure that has lots of substrate (something like coconut fibre) so they can dig deep burrows. Keep the enclosure between 72°-76° and a relatively low humidity of 50-60%.

Zebra Tarantula Predators and Threats

The biggest predator of the zebra tarantula is the tarantula hawk. It is not a hawk at all, but a wasp that can grow to be 2 inches long (about the size of your index finger). These wasps are parasitic in that they capture a tarantula and lay an egg on its abdomen. The paralyzed tarantula is buried alive in a burrow until the egg hatches. The newly hatched wasp then eats the tarantula!

Zebra tarantulas stay away from predators by burying themselves in their burrows and only coming out at night. The entrance to their burrows is webbed as well. If they are approached by a predator, they can flick urticating hairs that are itchy and painful. Since they don’t go far from their burrows, they are more likely to run back to their burrows than stick around for a fight.

Besides tarantula hawks, other predators are lizards, snakes, coyotes, foxes and some birds. Predators that are nocturnal and also out at night are more likely to be a threat to tarantulas.

What Eats Zebra Tarantulas?

Some of the common animals that eat zebra tarantulas are tarantula hawks, lizards, snakes, some birds, coyotes, and foxes.

What Do Zebra Tarantulas Eat?

Zebra tarantulas eat insects, crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, small lizards, and mice. They can go for long periods without eating, sometimes for months. When they do eat, they bite their prey, releasing venom that stuns. Then, they wrap their catch in web and liquefy it with digestive enzymes, making it the perfect consistency to drink.

What is the Conservation Status of Zebra Tarantulas?

Zebra tarantulas are not listed by the IUCN as a threatened species. They have been documented in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Honduras, but could also be in nearby countries.

Reproduction, Babies, and Lifespan

When mating season rolls around, the male zebra tarantula does have to leave his burrows. He searches for a receptive female, stopping at a burrow and tapping his leg on the ground outside her door. If the female comes out, the male will spin a sperm web and deposit its sperm on the web, then transfer it to the opening in the female’s abdomen.

The female returns to her burrow where she can lay 50 to 1000 eggs. She creates an egg sac out of webbing for the eggs to mature in. After around six to eight weeks, the spiderlings hatch and scurry about the burrow. The mother will watch over them for a few more days before they go off on their own.

The life span of the females is around 20 years, but the males only live about eight to 10 years. Males have to be careful when they are mating because if they stick around too long, females will eat them. If a male is spared, he still ends up dying a few weeks or months later.

Population

With a whole population of zebra tarantulas hiding in their burrows for months, it is difficult to get an accurate population count. They are not listed by the IUCN as a threatened species.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

Zebra Tarantula FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are zebra tarantulas venomous?

Yes, zebra tarantulas are venomous, but only mildly so. Their bites are not medically significant to humans. 

 

 

Do zebra tarantulas make good pets?

They can be kept as pets by experienced tarantula hobbyists. They can be a bit skittish or nervous and can hide for months on end. 

Can you pick up a zebra tarantula? 

It is best not to handle zebra tarantulas. It can stress them so it is better to keep them as display pets. 

 

 

Are zebra tarantula carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?

Zebra tarantulas are carnivores.

What do zebra tarantulas eat? 

They eat insects, crickets, grasshoppers, roaches, small lizards, and mice. 

Do zebra tarantulas make webs? 

Zebra tarantulas don’t use webs to catch their prey. The webs they make are used to cover the entrance of their burrows and to create an egg sac. 

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.

Sources
  1. The tarantula collective, Available here: https://www.thetarantulacollective.com/caresheets/aphonopelma-seemanni
  2. tarantula friendly, Available here: https://tarantulafriendly.com/costa-rican-zebra-tarantula/
  3. NWF.org, Available here: https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Tarantulas
  4. TAMU.edu, Available here: https://entomology.tamu.edu/studylist_all/tarantula-hawk/#

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