Tarantula Webs: What Do They Look Like and How Are They Built?

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Written by Abdulmumin Akinde

Published: October 24, 2022

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When you think of spiders, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Chances are, it’s their silk web. All spiders can secrete webs from their body. Although they use it in different ways, the web is made of silk material and has impressive physical properties. It has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any material and is considered one of the strongest substances. But when it comes to making webs, the tarantula is different. This isn’t surprising in itself since tarantulas themselves are a bit of an oddity. 

These fuzzy creatures spin silk for several purposes aside from capturing prey. Unlike other spiders, these creatures would prefer to live in their burrows and then go out to hunt and feed on their prey. This post explains what tarantula webs look like, how they build them, and what they are used for. 

How Are Tarantula Webs Made?

Unlike other spiders,

tarantulas prefer to live

in their burrows and then go out to hunt and feed on their prey.

©monster_code/Shutterstock.com

Tarantulas do not build webs like other spiders. However, they still spin silk in a very interesting way. The spiderman movie is probably one of the most famous superhero movies of all time. While the scientific accuracy of a spider bite giving someone superpowers is nothing but fiction, we can still learn a thing or two about spiders from it. 

Just like spiderman, the tarantula shoots silk to anchor on slippery surfaces to keep itself from slipping. But since tarantulas don’t have hands like Peter Parker, they use the next best thing, their legs, to shoot silk out. 

This silk-slinging theory has been controversial for years and was only confirmed recently. Scientists first proposed the theory in 2006. While some experts think they shoot silk from their hair-like structures on their feet to stick to surfaces, others think they simply take the silk from silk-producing organs (spinnerets) on their abdomen and use it as a sort of glue to attach to surfaces. 

This controversy has now been laid to rest after some scientists at the University of Newcastle experimented to show how tarantulas use their silk. They placed a tarantula in a clean tank lined with microscope slides and set up cameras to observe it. When they tipped the tank to the side, the tarantula released a web to stay anchored on the glass surface without sleeping. 

A video review showed that the spider’s feet were the only part of its body that touched the glass. They also examined the glass slides and found silk secretions on the tarantula’s footprint, confirming the theory that the spider has tiny silk-producing spigots on its feet in addition to the regular abdomen spinneret present in other spiders. 

What Tarantula Webs Look Like

The typical spider web is the round, intricately-woven web with spokes that are common in Halloween cartoons and scary movies with giant spiders. But since tarantulas don’t like to conform, they don’t make their webs this way. Instead, theirs look like a jumbled mass of cobwebs similar to what common house spiders make. 

The intricately woven webs made by other spiders are meant to catch prey. Tarantulas don’t catch prey this way, so they do not need to weave their webs into complex traps. That’s why they stick to the heavy mass of thin silk threads instead. The silk threads still have remarkable tensile strength and great extensibility as well. 

What Tarantulas Use Their Webs For

Green bottle blue tarantula chromatopelma cyaneopubescens

Tarantulas are also fond of covering the floor of their burrows with layers of silk to create some sort of carpet.

©tempisch/Shutterstock.com

So if tarantulas don’t spin webs to catch prey, what exactly do they use their webs for? There are a few other distinct ways a tarantula uses its silk. They’re highlighted below: 

To Line Their Burrows 

One common use is to line and protect their burrows. Ground-dwelling tarantulas are solitary animals that spend most of their time in underground burrows. They’ll only emerge at night to feed. The entrance of these burrows is typically covered with webbing. The web sometimes serves as additional support to burrow structures too. 

Tarantula species that live in trees spin silk to connect different objects. Tarantulas are also fond of covering the floor of their burrows with layers of silk to create some sort of carpet. The reason for this is not exactly known. But it is generally believed that they prefer to rest on their soft “floor.”

For Protection During Molting 

Tarantulas can also make molting mats out of their webs. The molt mats make them comfortable while molting and reduce the susceptibility to damage and injury during the molting process. They usually leave these mats in place even after the process has ended.

Anchoring On Surfaces 

Perhaps the most important use of their silk is anchoring on surfaces. Though they are somewhat heavy, tarantulas have fragile bodies. Their bodies may suffer from serious injury if they fall while climbing. So, they use their webs for structural support during the process. 

For Reproduction 

Mature male tarantulas construct sperm webs on the small appendages near the front of their head (pedipalps). They load this web with a lot of sperm cells before they go in search of a female. Sperm webs do not have a specific shape. They are small and barely noticeable.

On the other hand, females create a bowl-like structure with silk to keep their eggs. A single egg sac can contain more than 100 eggs. They use the web to form a sort of protective cocoon around the egg and carry it about. Once the incubation period is over, the little tarantula babies burst open the egg sac themselves.

Reasons Why a Tarantula May Not Spin Webs

The probability of a tarantula not spinning web may also increase with stress.

©iStock.com/skydie

There are also situations where tarantulas won’t make webs at all. This often happens with tarantulas in captivity. Since the reasons they primarily produce webs differ from those of other spiders, it means they may not need to make webs at all. It takes a lot of energy to produce silk. So some species may not spin the web unless it is extremely necessary. 

The probability of a tarantula not spinning web may also increase with stress. Since it already takes a lot of energy to make webs, an already stressed tarantula would most likely refrain from making webs. If the temperature or humidity isn’t right or if your spider lacks proper hiding places in its tank, it might be too stressed to make webs. 

A tarantula kept in captivity will not make webs if it does not like its home. Factors like proper lighting, good ventilation, and the right humidity have to be in place. An injured or unhealthy tarantula would also not spin webs. 

Is There a Way To Stimulate Tarantula To Spin Webs?

How often your tarantula will produce webs largely depends on the spider’s species, individual preferences, and several external factors. Some species actively make lots of webs. Indian violet tarantula, greenbottle blue tarantula, orange baboon tarantula, and Antilles pinktoe tarantula are good examples of tarantulas that make a lot of webs. Ideally, a healthy tarantula in a habitat with good living conditions will be encouraged to spin webs. Overfed or underfed tarantulas would not spin webs too. 

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

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