Do Tarantulas Eat Snakes?

Written by Jeremiah Wright
Published: April 9, 2022
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There are obvious size differences between tarantulas and snakes. It’s difficult to believe that tarantulas could eat snakes. But what if we told you that recent discoveries and studies have shown that it’s possible? What if we told you that widow spiders and tarantulas were responsible for more than half of the snake deaths around the world? A curious thing, right?

Let us tell you how and why this is possible. To help you understand this, we’ll first go through some information about tarantulas, what they eat, and how they hunt. Then we’ll discuss tarantulas eating snakes.

What is a tarantula?

Goliath tarantula on a rock
The body of a tarantula is between two and five inches long and three to twelve inches with leg span.

©Milan Zygmunt/

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Tarantulas are large and hairy species of spiders from the family Theraphosidae. The body of a tarantula is between two and five inches long and three to twelve inches with leg spans. Tarantulas can weigh up to three ounces. The Goliath birdeater, the largest tarantula globally, weighs six ounces. Tarantulas are common in the United States, Mexico, and Central and South America. Some species may occur in Africa, much of Asia, and Australia. Certain tarantula species can be found in Europe, mainly in Spain, Turkey, Portugal, southern Italy, and Cyprus. 

Tarantulas are carnivores, which means they hunt and eat animals that are smaller than them. They eat insects, other spiders, and lizards. Bigger tarantulas eat rodents, birds, bats, frogs, and, as recently discovered, snakes as well.

How does a tarantula hunt?

Most Dangerous Spiders
A tarantula’s venom is not deadly to humans.


Tarantulas are very skilled and clever spiders. They can easily adapt to almost any circumstance. They are extremely powerful predators. How exactly do they hunt? What advantage do they have compared to snakes?

Tarantulas usually hunt at night, using their sensitivity to vibrations from the ground. They raise their prosoma and lift their front legs, spread and extend their fangs, and some species can also make a loud hissing sound right before attacking. This is how tarantulas show that they’re in a threat position, whether they’re in danger or preparing to attack prey. After the initial attack, they catch the prey and bite it, releasing a paralyzing venom. 

A tarantula’s venom is not deadly to humans. It can cause prolonged discomfort. Some bites can be very painful and can cause spasms that last several days. People can be allergic to their venom. Some tarantulas’ venom can even cause hallucinations. While tarantulas are not a deadly threat to humans, to snakes, despite their much larger size, a tarantula’s venom is decisive. It paralyzes the snake, dissolves its flesh, liquefies it, and makes it possible for the tarantula to suck the liquid up. 

Do tarantulas eat snakes?

Yes, surprisingly. While the saying goes, the smaller the spider, the smaller the prey, recent studies have shown that even small spiders can catch snakes and feed on them. There’s a study published in the Journal of Arachnology investigating whether or not spiders can feed on snakes.

Scientists were amazed at how common this actually was. Spiders eating snakes were reported on all continents except Antarctica. Tarantulas were among those species that were most likely to feed on snakes. 

Most spiders use webs to catch and immobilize snakes. You’d think a snake could easily break it off and escape the silk, but it turns out spider silk is much more resistant. Tarantulas, unlike other spiders, rarely use their silk to catch prey. They spend most of their time under dry soil, so they only use their webs to line the walls of their burrow hole. The silk strings “tell” them when prey is nearby. Instead of relying on their web, tarantulas often catch the snake by the head, release the venom, and hold on to it until the snake is paralyzed.

Some studies show that tarantulas in captivity also eat snakes, but scholars consider it irrelevant because this doesn’t happen in natural circumstances.

Can tarantulas feed on venomous snakes?

Biggest Spiders: Colombian Giant Redleg Tarantula
Tarantulas are extremely powerful, skilled, agile, and clever predators.

©Milan Zygmunt/

Now you most probably wonder if tarantulas can feed on venomous snakes. Can venomous snakes defend themselves or poison tarantulas?

Tarantulas can eat venomous snakes. Around 30 percent of all snakes eaten by spiders are venomous. Venomous snakes such as rattlesnakes or coral snakes are only some of the species that are known to be eaten by spiders. Evidence shows that even the brown snake from the cobra family can be caught and eaten by powerful species of spiders.

While constrictors will defend themselves by coiling around the threat, in our case, a tarantula, venomous snakes will bite it and wait until it dies. Their venom is useless on small spiders because snakes can barely pierce them to release the venom. Smaller spiders have an advantage here.

But tarantulas are a pretty big species of spiders? Snakes could use their venom to poison them only if they’re fast enough. Tarantulas are not immune to a snakes’ venom. They are extremely powerful, skilled, agile, and clever predators instead, making it unlikely for them to get bitten. While hunting, they ambush their prey and bite it immediately, releasing the venom. If tarantulas catch snakes by the head as research articles state, then even venomous snakes wouldn’t be able to defend themselves.

Can a tarantula kill a python?

The first recorded instance of a tarantula eating a snake suggests tarantulas can kill pythons. In 2015, in Serra do Cavera, Brazil, a student stumbled upon a tarantula called Grammostola quirogai eating a non-venomous, large snake called Erythrolamprus almandesis. The front and the middle parts of the snake were ripped to shreds, and the gigantic spider was feeding itself from the liquefied snake meat.

In the Serra do Cavera region, tarantulas usually hide in the rocks. Researchers believe the snake came across the tarantula accidentally, “breaking into” its home. The tarantula had the option of using its hunting skills to kill the python with its 0.8-inch long fangs.

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I hold seven years of professional experience in the content world, focusing on nature, and wildlife. Asides from writing, I enjoy surfing the internet and listening to music.

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