Tarantula Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

You've probably seen different kinds of spiders inside and outside your home. Tarantulas are a kind of large spider that are similar to other spiders in some ways and different in others. In this lesson, you'll learn about tarantulas and how they live.

What Is a Tarantula?

Eight long, hairy legs creep slowly out from behind a rock. The legs belong to a huge, furry spider with eight beady eyes and two pointy fangs, and it's looking right at you! You freeze up and can't move. This is no ordinary spider! It's a tarantula!

Tarantulas are the largest kind of spider in the world, are hairy, come in different colors like brown, black, orange and blue, and females can live up to 30 years. The average adult is about five inches long, with a leg span of a little over four inches. The largest, a Goliath Bird-Eating tarantula, has a leg and body span up to one foot long, with inch-long fangs! If you're a bird, or other small animal or insect, you'd better watch out!


Like all spiders, tarantulas have eight legs and an exoskeleton. This hard outer shell protects them from predators and supports their body, like our bones support us, except our support is on the inside. A tarantula's body is like a gumball, hard on the outside and soft on the inside.

Despite their frightening appearance and long, sharp fangs which inject venom into their prey, their bite is similar to a bee sting, and is usually not serious. In fact, their venom is not even as strong as an ordinary bee.

Even though they look like they crawled out of a horror movie, they would rather run and hide than bite you. Most tarantulas are not aggressive unless threatened, but they will defend themselves if you pick a fight with them. Besides biting, some tarantulas have special hairs on their stomach with sharp, tiny barbs at the tip that they fling like arrows at an enemy. These little, piercing hairs are very irritating and can work their way into your skin, eyes and nose!

What Do Tarantulas Eat?

Tarantulas are carnivores, which means they eat only meat, including birds, snakes, mice, lizards and insects. They don't spin a web to catch their prey, however. They hunt and ambush their dinner before paralyzing it with a venomous bite.

They use long, sharp fangs to inject venom into their prey. Once the prey is paralyzed, tarantulas use their mouthparts to chew and tear at it while coating it in their saliva, breaking it down. Once they've gnawed it and sucked up what turned to liquid, all that's left of their prey is a sticky glob. After that feast, they may not eat again for a month!

Tarantula Fangs
Tarantula Fangs

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