The Tarantula Species in California

Tarantulas inhabit the dry foothills and deserts of California.
Tarantulas inhabit the dry foothills and deserts of California. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

All tarantulas in California are of the genus Aphonopelma. They usually live in hills that are dry; the females burrow into the ground to build homes while the males wander in search of a mate. In California they are also found in pool filters or in gardens. The tarantulas of the genus found in California are not highly venomous and they are not aggressive toward humans. Like tarantulas in areas all over the United States, they are passive spiders.


Tarantulas in California are brown and black with hairy legs. The females are larger in girth than the males but they all have four pairs of legs that are 3 to 5 inches long. They have eight eyes in two groups on their foreheads, and their mouths have two fangs that point backward. The thorax is below the tarantula’s head, then a narrow waist and the abdomen. Their abdomens have spinnerets that produce silk. Although there are about 850 tarantula species in the world, only about 50 are found in the United States.


In California, tarantulas live in the desert basins burrowed into crevices in the ground, rocks, cliffs, tree roots or other places where they can conceal themselves. Although they will occupy nests, mainly with their young, they live generally solitary lives. They are sometimes joined by other insects that live in a crevice within the crevice where the tarantula cannot eat them. After tarantulas have built their burrows, they line the inside or the entrance with a web so they are alerted when an insect approaches.

Predator and Prey

Tarantulas will attack anything they can overpower and eat. The California tarantula’s diet consists of beetles, locusts, smaller spiders, lizards and mice. The tarantula uses its fangs to inject venom to kill its food. One of the California tarantula’s main predators is the tarantula hawk, a type of wasp that injects venom into the tarantula to paralyze it. The wasp then lays an egg on the tarantula so that her offspring will have live meat to consume. To escape some predators, tarantulas scratch their abdomens to toss fine hairs into the predator’s eyes.

Reproduction and Life Span

After it matures, the male tarantula, sometimes along with many other males, leaves his nest and seeks a female. Once he finds a tarantula burrow, he will call out and dance to see if the female is willing to mate. The female can accept or reject his advances. Whether he is accepted or rejected, the female may kill him as a source of protein, according to National Wildlife magazine. Males can live for several years, but females may live for several decades.

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