Myths and truths about tarantulas

Myths and truths about tarantulas


Costa Ricans have learned to live with some unique phenomena, but it caught the attention of foreigners, we have earthquakes almost daily and they no longer frighten us, the variety of the weather is so exceptional that in less than an hour we can go from a Cartago-like cold to the burning sun of Alajuela. We have only seen soldiers in movies, and we live in a country of only 51,000 square kilometers of extension, but it accumulates 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. That is, there is wildlife around every corner.


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In many places of the country is very normal to find exotic species in backyards, in the neighborhood and even in our drawers. Yes, the natural wealth of Costa Rica abounds even in our homes, so it is not uncommon, for example, to find a tarantula in the bed of a Costa Rican. A tarantula? Yes, although we know that the word tarantula, awakens the most extreme emotions in people: fear, terror, phobia, curiosity, fascination, and in some cases, the liking of reproduce them and have them as pets.


Tarantulas are those spiders with hairy body and legs, and winding and quick movements which since ancient times have intimidated humans for their mysterious and even threatening appearance. In Costa Rica they are common in almost every corner of the country, in both wet and dry forests, at low elevation and upland areas, below 2,000 m.

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However, the lack of knowledge about the biology of these animals, both in urban and rural communities, has generated the most diverse myths and beliefs, among which is what many people in the country side calls “spider’s urine”.

According to this belief, the urine creates stains or burns on the skin of people and animals. This is absolutely false and far from reality because to protect themselves, tarantulas will only bite too hard or they can release hairs located in their belly and cause stinging or allergic reactions.


It is important to note that the size of the tarantula has no relation with the strength of its venom, as there are species smaller and more dangerous to humans as the Black widow or Wolf spiders of Phoneutria gender.

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Tarantulas, like many other spiders and various animal species, get into our homes accidentally, causing alarm and fear. For them, it is only a temporary shelter or they are simply looking for food like cockroaches and other insects. They are part of the world in which we live and share, and we must try to understand, respect and tolerate.

What to do if you find one at home?

For most people, the encounter with one of these species in their house is a very complicated and traumatizing event. However, this can be handle calmly and especially try to understand that these animals are not your enemies nor do they represent a potential hazard for humans. Ideally in such cases do not try to catch them with your hands nor hurt them or beat them. They can be scared away with a broom, directing them to an exit, or use a jar or a wide container that can be placed where the spider is and carefully go putting the lid on one side until it can be closed. Then you can take it to a  wooded site and release it.


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IMG_4873Getting to know the tarantulas and some interesting facts

  • Tarantulas are a large group of invertebrates that are classified within the group of arachnids, which also includes scorpions, mites and ticks.
  • They differ from insects by having eight legs (insects have six), lack of antennas and have appendages in the mouth in the form of tweezers or fangs, called chelicerae, to hold the prey.
  • Some species of this group have a highly toxic poison inoculated with these fangs, however, most of them are not dangerous for people. Tarantulas inhabit tropical, subtropical humid and arid regions around the world.
  • They live in burrows and tunnels dug by themselves. They can also be found in tree cavities and crevices of rocks. They can be found in the Americas, Asia, Southern Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
  • They range in size from small to some species that can be as bulky as the hand of an adult man. They have no internal skeleton but have a rigid outer exoskeleton structure, molting from two to three times a year until they reach maturity.

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