Do you suffer from a fear of spiders or arachnophobia? If so, you probably don't want to see the world's biggest spiders. But remember: knowledge is power! Get the facts about these creepy crawly species and find out exactly where they liveso that you can plan your vacation accordingly.
Key Takeaways: The World's Biggest Spiders
- Most of the world's biggest spiders belong to the tarantula family.
- The largest spiders can eat small birds, lizards, frogs, and fish.
- Giant spiders tend not to be aggressive, but they will bite to defend themselves or their egg sacs.
- Most large spiders are relatively nonvenomous.There are exceptions.
- Male spiders have specialized appendages called setae used to produce sounds for defense and sexual communication. The largest spiders produce sounds (stridulation) loud enough for humans to hear.
Goliath Birdeater: 12 Inches
The Goliath birdeater(Theraphosa blondi) is the world's largest spider by mass, weighing in around 6.2 oz (175 g). It is a type of tarantula. The spider can bite and sometimes delivers a venom comparable to that of a wasp sting. Its barbed hairs present a greater threat, as they can lodge in the skin and eyes, producing itching and irritation for days.
As its name implies, this spider sometimes eats birds. It does not eat humans. Instead, people catch it and cook it (tastes like shrimp).
Where It Lives: In burrows in the rainforests and swamps of northern South America. If you like, you can keep one as a pet. Feeding it birds is not necessary. The spider readily accepts insects as food.
Giant Huntsman Spider: 12 Inches
While the Goliath birdeater is the most massive spider, the giant huntsman (Heteropoda maxima)tends to have longer legs and a bigger appearance. Huntsman spiders are recognizable by the twisted orientation of their legs, which gives them a crab-like walk. These spiders can deliver a venomous bite that may require hospitalization. If you live in a warm climate, listen for the rhythmic ticking sound made by the males, which resembles that of a quartz clock. Walking in the opposite direction of the ticking sound protects you from the males, but the females do not tick. Take from that what you will.
Where It Lives: The giant huntsman is only found in a cave in Laos, but related enormous huntsman spiders live in all the warm and temperate regions of the planet.
Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater: 11 Inches
The third largest spider, the Brazilian salmon pink birdeater (Lasiodora parahybana)is only an inch smaller than the biggest spider. Males have longer legs than females, but females weigh more (over 100 grams). This large tarantula readily breeds in captivity and is considered to be docile. However, when provoked, the salmon pink birdeater can deliver a bite comparable to that from a cat.
Where It Lives: In the wild, this species lives in the forests of Brazil. However, it's a popular captive pet, so you'll see them in pet stores and possibly your neighbor's house.
Grammostola anthracina: 10+ Inches
Be sure to visit South America if you're seeking enormous spiders. Grammastola anthracina is another large species. It's a popular pet tarantula that's unlikely to bite you unless you forget to feed it mice or crickets. Grammostola species can live up to 20 years.
Where It Lives: This spider lives in Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.
Colombian Giant Tarantula: 6-8 Inches
The Colombian giant tarantula or Colombian giant redleg (Megaphobema robustum)eats mice, lizards, and large insects, so you could keep one for home pest control. However, Megaphobema is best known for its aggressive temperament. It's not the bite you need to worry about. Real (or imagined) threats may cause the spider to spin, striking out with spiked rear legs.
Where It Lives: Find it in a pet store or near logs in the tropical rainforests of Brazil and Colombia.
Face-Sized Tarantula: 8 Inches
Tarantulas don't only live in Central and South America. The face-sized tarantula(Poecilotheria rajaei) has adapted to deforestation in Sri Lanka, to make its home in abandoned buildings. The spider's common name is self-explanatory. Its scientific name, Poecilotheria, translates from Greek to mean "spotted wild beast." It likes to eat birds, lizards, rodents, and even snakes.
Where It Lives: Old growth trees or old building in Sri Lanka and India.
Hercules Baboon Spider: 8 Inches
The only known specimen of the Hercules baboon spider was captured in Nigeria about one hundred years ago and resides at the Natural History Museum in London. It got its name from its habit of eating baboons (not really). Actually, it's named for the resemblance between its legs and a baboon's fingers.
The king baboon spider (Pelinobius muticus) lives in East Africa and slowly grows to 7.9 inches (20 cm). Harpactirinae is another subfamily of spiders commonly called baboon spiders. They are tarantulas native to Africa that deliver a strong venom.
Where It Lives: The Hercules baboon spider may (or may not) be extinct, but you can get somewhat smaller baboon spiders as pets (often inaccurately identified as the Hercules baboon). However, this tarantula seems permanently angry, and is not a good choice for a beginner.
Camel Spider: 6 Inches
This spider gets its name because it eats camels for breakfast (not really). The camel spider (order Solfigae) is often camel-colored and lives in the desert. It's sort of a cross between a scorpion and a true spider, with two gigantic chelicerae (fangs) that it uses for biting and for making creepy spider sounds (stridulation). Unless you're a sprinter, this spider can chase and catch you, with a top speed around 10 mph (16 km/h). Take comfort in the knowledge it is nonvenomous.
Where It Lives: Find this beauty in any warm desert or scrubland. You're safe (from this spider) in Australia. It has never been seen in Antarctica, if that helps.
Brazilian Wandering Spider: 5.9 Inches
It's not the biggest spider on the list, but it's the scariest. The Brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria fera)or banana spiderlooks like a tarantula, but it isn't one. That's bad, because tarantulas, as a whole, aren't out to get you and aren't particularly venomous. The Brazilian wandering spider made the 2010 Guinness World Book of Records as the world's most venomous spider. Guinness doesn't have a category for aggressiveness, but if they did, this spider would likely top that list too.
When it's relaxing at home, this spider eats mice, lizards, and large insects. As its name implies, it wanders searching for a meal. Its travels have taken it to a Whole Foods in Oklahoma and a Tesco in Essex. The spider is said to be so venomous, it can kill a person within 2 hours. It's also said to cause a 4-hour erection in men. You can do the math and puzzle that one out.
Where It Lives: While it's from South America, you might encounter it in the produce section of your local grocery store. Large spiders on bananas are not your friends.
Cerbalus Aravaensis: 5.5 Inches
Dehydration and sunburn aren't the only threats you'll face if you find yourself in the hot sand dunes of the Arava Valley of Israel and Jordan. Be on the lookout for the largest huntsman spider in the Middle East. This spider constructs its den within the shifting sand, but comes out to party at night. Scientists don't think it's particularly venomous, but no one has tested the hypothesis.
Where It Lives: You should see the Sands of Samar before these unique sand dunes vanish, but do watch out for spiders. They mostly come at night. Mostly.
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