Trapdoor Spider Facts

Some trapdoor spiders have thick, stiff leg hairs to help them dig.
Some trapdoor spiders have thick, stiff leg hairs to help them dig. (Image: stevelenzphoto/iStock/Getty Images)

Trapdoor spiders are unique arachnids who make interesting, if somewhat difficult, captives. Many specimens offered for sale are stressed or dehydrated, and they often bear questionable identification, so it is crucial to acquire your animal from a reputable dealer. The general care of most species is broadly similar; with adequate effort and skill, you may be able to keep a pet trapdoor spider successfully.

Trapdoor Spider Basics

Although diversity exists among the various species bearing the common name trapdoor spider, most have short, squat bodies, shiny legs and large chelicerae. Most animals in captivity are female, as the males are rarely discovered in the wild. This is because, in contrast to females who remain in their burrows for much of their lives, males spend lots of time prowling the habitat, looking for breeding partners.

Wild and Captive Habitats

Trapdoor species are found in dozens of locations around the globe, and they inhabit different habitats in each. However, they all make small burrows in the sand or dirt, with hinged lids. In captivity, trapdoor spiders require deep substrate that will facilitate a burrow. Keep the substrate damp to prevent desiccation, but do not make the medium wet, as this will lead to fungal growth. You can use a variety of enclosures to house your pet, including 10-gallon aquariums, plastic storage boxes or large glass jars.

Feeding and Diet

Trapdoor spiders are predators who consume large invertebrates and small vertebrates. They catch their prey by ambush, lurking in their burrows until they feel the vibrations caused by the footsteps of potential prey. In a flash, the spider lifts the trapdoor, rushes out of the burrow, grabs its prey, envenomates it and drags it back into the burrow. In captivity, feed trapdoor spiders a suitably sized cricket or roach once or twice each week. Do not allow more than one live cricket to wander the cage at a time, to prevent them from fouling the cage or depositing eggs.

Temperament and Venom

The venom of trapdoor spiders is poorly understood and likely varies widely from one species to the next. Fortunately, trapdoor spiders are typically shy critters, content to remain in their burrows for their entire lives. However, when disturbed, many become quite defensive; some even raise their chelicerae to intimidate would-be predators. Given the lack of information regarding their venom and the incredible running speed many of the species possess, beginners should avoid keeping trapdoor spiders.

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