How to Train a Tarantula

By Dan Harkins
Tarantulas eat crickets, worms and grasshoppers.

Some pets are quick to train and easy to cuddle. Others, like tarantulas, require special training before you can even hold them. These brown, hairy arachnids have an infamous reputation for nasty bites, though their bite will feel about the same as a wasp sting. Spider handlers insist that most spiders don't require handling if you keep them as pets, but if you're interested in training your tarantula, follow the right steps to protect your own skin and the life of your spider.

Feed your tarantula a cricket, worm, grasshopper or locust a few times a week. Begin your training session right after a meal. A fed tarantula will be much more docile.

Keep your tarantula container at a comfortable temperature between 70 and 80 degrees. Being at an uncomfortable temperature could make your tarantula testy.

Open the lid to your tarantula container and gently press down on the middle section of the spider's body, called the cephalothorax, directly from above. This is the large section behind the head. Doing so will train your spider to get used to being touched.

Repeat touching the tarantula's cephalothorax over several days, a few times each session.

Determine when your tarantula is comfortable being touched from above. Once ready, touch the cephalothorax, then, from the rear, gently squeeze the sides of the spider's body with the thumb and index finger, between the front and rear legs and lift the spider from its container -- all legs at once.

Stay near the ground when lifting a tarantula. A fall of more than a few feet can kill a large spider, especially if it lands on a hard surface.

Place your tarantula on your hand, facing toward your arm, after lifting it from its container.

Release your grip on the cephalothorax once your tarantula is on your hand. Allow it to explore your arm.

Remove the tarantula from your arm, in the same fashion as you removed it from its container, if it starts to wander uncomfortably close to your head.

Repeat these training exercises to get your tarantula used to human contact.

Warning

Don't stick your hand in front of the spider and nudge it toward your hand. This could prompt a bite or provoke the spider's first defense mechanism, which is to rub its abdomen and shoot hairs at you. This can cause a rash.

About the Author

Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.