Discover 3 Incredible Tarantulas in Arizona

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: October 28, 2022
© bloomphoto/Shutterstock.com
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Tarantulas really are the size of your hand, sometimes bigger with their legs spread out. If you live in area of the world where there are not any tarantulas you would be surprised at how large they actually look in person. Some can have bodies that are 3-4 inches long with a longer leg span. The good news is that tarantulas are harmless to humans. Some people like to keep them as pets.

There are many different tarantula species that are native to Arizona. While you won’t see them most of the year, there is a “tarantula season” when male tarantulas come out of their burrows to look for their mates. To find out when the tarantula season is and where you will most likely find tarantulas in Arizona, read on!

What kind of Tarantulas live in Arizona?

pet Tarantula
Tarantulas really are the size of a human hand. Although they are very large they are harmless to humans.

©iStock.com/waldru

There are many different species of tarantulas, but the main three in Arizona are the Arizona blonde tarantula (also called the Desert tarantula or Western tarantula), the Texas Brown tarantula, and the Grand Canyon Black tarantula.

What is an Arizona blonde tarantula?

western desert tarantula
The 3-4 inch Arizona blonde tarantula is the most common tarantula in Arizona.

©Ryan M. Bolton/Shutterstock.com

The Arizona blonde tarantula is the most common tarantula in Arizona. The males have a dark brown body (covered in tiny hairs) and a blonde-colored head. Its legs are segmented and dark brown at the first and last segment but blonde in-between. Females are all tan in color and a little bigger than males.

Arizona blondes can get to be 3-4 inches long and are commonly the species kept as pets due to their docile nature. Since they live mostly in their burrows, they are not seen very often. However, during the summer rainy season, they are more frequently seen out and about.

What is a Texas brown tarantula?

texas brown tarantula
The Texas Brown Tarantula is a little smaller but still a big spider. They prefer to live under rocks and rocky crevices.

©texas brown tarantula/Shutterstock.com

An Arizona tarantula bearing the name of another state is a rather curious affair. Found in southeastern Arizona, you can imagine this spider came over the border from Texas. They are 2 ½ – 3 inches long and have a dark brown body and light tan head. Their hairy legs are typically dark brown. Texas brown tarantulas have a leg span that can reach 4 inches or more. They prefer to live under rocks or in rocky crevices out of harm’s way.

What is a Grand Canyon black tarantula?

Grand Canyon Black Tarantula
Grand Canyon black tarantulas are black across their bodies.

©Losonsky/Shutterstock.com

This species is easier to identify because of its universal black coloring, black body, head, and legs. They are a large tarantula 3-5 inches long and can be found in northern Arizona including at Grand Canyon National Park. They prefer higher elevations and live in burrows underground. If you see a hole in the ground with the door covered with a spider web it might be a tarantula home.

Where do you find tarantulas in Arizona?

Tarantulas live in the desert and are burrowing animals so they find loose-dry soil to burrow a home and spend much of their time there. There are areas in Arizona where there are not any tarantulas and other areas, like the southwest, have large populations. Since they do spend much of their time underground it is difficult to get an accurate count. Some of the most active populations of Arizona tarantulas can be found in and around:

  • Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
  • SE of Phoenix
  • Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
  • International Biosphere Reserve

Is there a “Tarantula Season” in Arizona?

Yes! Most of the time you won’t see a tarantula out and about in Arizona, but at the start of the monsoon season in June to late October Arizona tarantula males come out in numbers. Thousands of male tarantulas will leave their burrows in search of a mate. During this time period, it is much more common to see squished tarantulas on the side of the road. The Tucson area sees an abundance of the Arizona blonde species as the males try to locate a suitable female. As nocturnal animals, you are much more likely to see them on the move at sunset or after dark.

Do female tarantulas eat their “spouse” after mating like black widows?

Animals That Molt - Mexican Red Knee Tarantula
Female tarantulas will eat their mate after mating. Females live nearly twice as long as the males.

©Dean Pennala/Shutterstock.com

Yes. The females will eat the males if they stick around too long. The “meal” provides nutrients for the developing eggs.

How long do tarantulas live?

Tarantulas have a very different life span depending if they are male or female. Males only live to be 7-8 years, which is kind of long for a spider when you think about it. Females on the other hand can live for 25-30 years! This is one reason why people like having them as pets. 

What do tarantulas eat in Arizona?

Tarantulas eat insects like grasshoppers and crickets, but will also eat small mammals and birds. As nocturnal hunters, they come out at night and actively pursue prey. If they are lucky they will find “dinner” caught in the web at the entrance to their burrow, saving them a nightly hunting trip.

What eats tarantulas in Arizona?

The circle of life in the desert includes birds, snakes, and other tarantulas that hunt for tarantulas as prey. Tarantula hawks also live in Arizona and prey on tarantulas.

What are tarantula hawks?

tarantula hawk close up
This 2-inch long wasp will sting tarantulas and paralyze them. The wasp lays an egg on the spiders back and when the wasp hatches it will eat the tarantula!

©Robert Briggs/Shutterstock.com

Tarantula hawks are not hawks at all; they are a kind of wasp. The very large – 2 inches long – tarantula hawk wasp has a unique system of feeding its young. They will swoop down on tarantulas and sting them releasing venom that paralyzes the tarantula but keeps it alive. It will then drag it to its nest and lay one egg on the tarantula’s back. When the egg hatches the new baby wasp will eat the paralyzed tarantula as its first meal.

Did a dad find his young daughter playing with a tarantula in Tucson, Arizona?

A viral video from Tucson shows a little girl, 18-month-old Blake, playing on her back patio with a coffee can. Her dad comes in and asks what she’s got and she replies “Bug”.

Dad casually wanders over and then sees a giant tarantula! He scoops his daughter up quickly and gathers his wits as he realizes what just happened! The girl (and the tarantula) were just fine after the incident. Tarantulas do have venom but they are not harmful to humans. Their venom is too weak to have an effect. But I know I would be startled if my little one was “playing” with a tarantula!


The Featured Image

Arizona Blonde Tarantula
© bloomphoto/Shutterstock.com

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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".

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