Tarantulas belong to a special group of spiders called Mygalomorphae. Although they are not considered true spiders, they still have the ability to produce silk. The silk is produced, like with every spider, in special organs called spinnerets. We all know that spiders use that silk to make a web and catch prey. But do tarantulas make a web the same as true spiders do? In what way do they use silk? Or do they don’t use it at all? In this article, we will search for the answer to this interesting question. And you probably wouldn’t expect this answer!
Tarantula spider doesn’t use their silk to make a web as true spiders do. However, tarantulas use silk for many other methods to survive, such as structural support of burrows, make a hammock or carpet, and make lines to detect prey.
Although tarantulas don’t make classical webs as true spiders do, they have developed many unexpected ways to use their silk-producing ability to thrive. I had some suspicion, but what I found was surprising.
7 ways tarantulas use webs
These giant spiders have developed interesting ways to use silk. Don’t think that they lost their ability to make webs; tarantulas just use it differently. Funny enough, as true spiders use webs, tarantulas don’t use it to catch prey with it. We can distinguish 7 ways in which they use their ‘sticky’ lines.
Tarantulas use webs to support and increase the strength of structures. When a tarantula digs a burrow, they cover al sides with a layer of silk. This layer supports that the burrow won’t collapse and makes it more durable.
Not only terrestrial tarantulas use it in this way. Arboreal tarantula species construct a web between different objects to connect them, making it stronger. It prevents that objects will fall over when climbing on.
Tarantulas cover the floor with a self-made carpet. Why they do this is not entirely sure. It is believed that tarantulas like it more to walk and rest on this soft carpet.
Climbing support and security measures
They also use silk for climbing support. Tarantulas are quite heavy, but also rather delicate. When climbing, they can’t permit to fall. When a tarantula falls, it can damage its body or rapture its exoskeleton. This can threaten its survival.
Therefore tarantulas have safety measures. We already talked about carpeting and structural support. Another feature is that it gives them more grip and better ability to climb.
Another feature recently discovered is that tarantulas can produce silk in all eight feet. These silk-shooting legs are used to get a better grip when climbing slack surfaces. Tarantulas (including the terrestrial species) can even climb glass walls. That’s pretty impressive with such bodyweight.
Some tarantulas make a moulting mat. A what? They make a carpet somewhere in the enclosure where they will moult on.
Moulting is a stressful and intense process for a tarantula. It costs a lot of energy. I can imagine a soft carpet to moult on will benefit this process.
When you see a tarantula building a mat in its enclosure, is a signal it will going to moult soon. Observe your tarantula closely; it’s beautiful to experience a live moult of a tarantula — although many of them prefer to moult at night.
Funny enough, they don’t use a moulting mat twice. Normally they will make a new moulting mat with the next moult.
Although they do not make a classical web to catch prey as true spiders do, they use silk lines to detect prey. Tarantula maybe has 8 eights, but their sight is very poor and limited. So they are depended on catching prey by sensing vibrations.
Silk lines and webs transfer small vibration from its surroundings. When prey is close and causing vibration, a tarantula can quickly pinpoint its location and will strike.
When (spot)cleaning the enclosure, try not to damage the web. Leave it be as good as possible.
Male tarantulas make special web called ‘sperm web’ before they look for a female. He makes a web and then loads it up with sperm cells. When the web is finished, he uses the web to load moisture emboli with sperm cells. It is an interesting sight to see how a male makes a sperm web. In the video below, you’ll see the whole process of a tarantula making a sperm web.
You do not always find the sperm web. After he charged his emboli, it will often eat its sperm web. Although it is beautiful to see, it also has a sad side. When a male makes a sperm web, it is a sign that the male nears the end of his life. Sperm webs will only be made after the final moult, and the male will soon die of old age.
The females also use silk to make a bowl to lay in their eggs. After she has laid their eggs, she will seal off the bowl making it a closed sac. Many female tarantulas will protect and guard their eggs.
The female will rotate the egg sac several times a day. You can compare this with a hen turning her eggs several times a day. It protects the eggs for laying to long on one side, which is because of gravity not good for the eggs.
4 reasons why your tarantula may not make a web
When your tarantula don’t make webs, or you can’t see any web, many people will get nervous. However, it is important to understand that tarantulas don’t web like true spiders do. We already showed you that silk is used differently than other spiders. And some tarantulas don’t web as much (or any) as other tarantulas do.
Your tarantula has no need to web
So, the number one reason that your tarantula does not build a web is that it does not need to build one. Silk production cost much energy, and a tarantula only produces silk if it is necessary.
Some species web a lot, but there are enough species that don’t have a need to make a web. And that is perfectly fine. It can even differ between individuals, and possibly it is also related to other factors (like for example how well-fed your tarantula is).
Now, if your tarantula is not making webs, but it is known to do so or have obvious benefit from it, you may want to investigate if there is something going on.
Your tarantula is stressed
When you have a tarantula that is known to make webs but doesn’t do that, it can be a sign that your tarantula is stressed. When a tarantula is stressed, it won’t take the time and energy to build a web. Stress will cost already enough energy, and webbing is not its priority at that moment. It needs its energy to cope with the situation.
Not webbing is only one signal that your tarantula is stressed. Often you will see that your tarantula is hidden most of the time in its burrow, is overactive exploring and wandering around in its enclosure, and often will not eat or grab prey if you feed them.
The first priority is to find the stressor and remove it. The stressor can be many things, like (but not limited to) non-adequate temperature and humidity, suboptimal substrate, and lack of proper hides.
Your tarantula doesn’t like its enclosure
It is also related to the previous reason: When your tarantula doesn’t like its enclosure, it can cause stress, what results in that your tarantula will not make webs.
There is a lot to consider when building an enclosure. You need to create the right temperature, the right humidity, the right light cycle, provide enough ventilation, have a good quality substrate that also is enough for you particular tarantula.
It would be best if you watched closely to the behaviour of your tarantula. It will tell you by its behaviour what is probably not optimal and on that, you can make improvements. A well-fed and healthy tarantula that lives in a proper enclosure with the right environment and habitat will generally make (at least some) webs.
Your tarantula is sick
When you tarantula is sick, or injured, can cause a tarantula to stop making webs. It needs all the energy at that moment to recover, which hinder the production of silk (which also cost a lot of energy).
However, when a tarantula is sick will often be seen (even sooner) on other signs than that it is not making any webs. Sick tarantulas will refuse food, will lose weight (often seen on the abdomen), and be lethargy. They often hide all the time in its burrow, where it feels safe and protected.
Can you stimulate your tarantula to make webs
A question a often get is if you can stimulate tarantulas to make webs. Although the need and will to make a web is highly depended on the species and individual, there are several things to consider that positively affect your tarantula and stimulate them more to build webs.
We already discussed in the previous section that producing silk cost energy. So your tarantula must be in good condition and healthy. Provide it with enough nutritious food, so it has all the energy for building webs. Please don’t overdo it, because you can overfeed a tarantula, make it too fat and obese. If you do that you will have just the opposite effect and make your tarantula less healthy.
Besides food, give your tarantula the best housing and habitat possible. That means it requires a good enclosure, and you need to create the optimal habitat. Provide an optimal temperature and humidity, and give your tarantula a good layer of a quality substrate. Actually, it comes down to provide everything your tarantula will require to keep them happy and healthy.
Although you can stimulate it by keeping and caring for your tarantula in the best way possible, it also depends on the species. Some species will just make more extensive webs than others.
Tarantula species that make a lot of webbing
There are some tarantula species that are well-known to make more webs than other tarantula species; however, that does not mean that every individual will behave the same way. There is always some variation in behaviour and characteristics, even within one species.
In the video below are some tarantula species that are well-known for their extensive web creations, which is often beautiful to see.
Species that include in the list of making extensive webbing are:
- Indian violet tarantula (Chilobrachys fimbriatus)
- Greenbottle blue tarantula (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens)
- Orange baboon tarantula (Pterinochilus murinus)
- Antilles pinktoe tarantula (Caribena versi)
- Brazilian blue dwarf beauty tarantula (Dolichothele diamantinensis)
- Guatemalan tiger rump tarantula (Davus pentaloris)
- Rear horned baboon tarantula (Ceratogyrus darlingi)
With that said, don’t pick your tarantula solely on its web-building ability. There is much more to it when choosing a tarantula. Not all tarantulas are good beginner species, and some need more experience to care for. The rear horned baboon tarantula (Ceratogyrus darlingi) and Greenbottle blue tarantula (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens), however, are great beginners species.
Want to know more?
If you like to know more about keeping and caring for your own pet tarantula, or if you are new to keeping tarantulas as a pet, I can recommend you to read the basics guide on caring for your tarantula.
The substrate is an essential part of the habitat of your tarantula. To provide you with all information you will need on this subject, we created a tarantula substrate guide packed with valuable information and practical tips.
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