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Are Tarantulas Poisonous?

People refrain from handling tarantulas due to fear of being poisoned. They wonder how to care for a tarantula and how to bring it home as a pet if it's poisonous. However, are tarantulas poisonous? Read more to find out...
PetPonder Staff
Tarantulas are hairy creatures found in the rainforests and deserts of Southern Europe and have been named after the city of Taranto in Italy. These dull brown to brightly-colored arachnids are one of the biggest spiders in the world. Tarantula, unlike the other types of spiders do not spin webs. These large spiders instead dig burrows and line it with silk. So our dear tarantula lives in deluxe silk apartments! Though majority of the world looks upon tarantulas as dangerous creatures, some have managed to look beyond the creepy appearance of the eight legged arachnid. Scores of people cringe from the idea of having tarantulas as pets, however, tarantula enthusiasts have found them intriguing creatures and have even gone an extra mile by getting them as pets.
Are Tarantulas Really Poisonous?
Tarantulas have been often depicted as deadly, poisonous creatures in movies. Well, their creepy appearance with eight creepy-crawly legs can cause anyone to freak out; stay away from them and spin tales of how venomous they are! This myth about tarantulas being poisonous has been advantageous to quite a few people. For example, there have been some jewelry store owners who placed tarantulas in display windows at night, with the aim that thieves won't dare to steal jewelry guarded by the spider. What's even better, the store owners found that this trick worked!
Moreover, in the middles ages people were of the school of thought that tarantula bites caused their victims to enter a humdrum state. They termed this effect as 'tarantism' and believed music to be the only method of stirring the victim out of the dullness. The victim was made to dance with the music, until he or she collapsed due to exhaustion. Once the victim woke up he or she would become normal. This belief spearheaded the origin of the popular Italian dance, 'tarantella'.
Contrary to popular belief, tarantulas are not deadly poisonous. Some tarantula facts will help us transform our minds and break the age-old mindsets we have. Tarantulas have two lines of defense: fangs and poisonous abdominal hair called urticating hair.
Tarantulas have two fangs structured and designed to bite their prey, such as insects, small birds and rodents. When the tarantula encounters its prey, it knavishly overcomes its prey and sticks its two fangs into the prey. The tarantula's salivary glands secretes a digestive enzyme via the fang into the prey's body, whose function is to dissolve the tissues of the prey's body. The liquid tissue is then sucked out by the tarantula. Though this liquid secreted has the power to kill insects and small birds, it is not capable of killing humans.
If one encounters a tarantula and it bites the person, the least that can happen is swelling accompanied by pain. The pain resembles a wasp or bee sting. To treat the bite, wash the site with regular water and soap. This will reduce the possibilities of infections. To reduce swelling place an ice cube onto the bite site. Meat tenderizer helps reduce irritation, thus, apply a paste of it by mixing in some water. You could even apply topical cortisone onto the bite site.
Urticating Hair
Tarantulas possess a dense blanket of stinging or urticating hair on the abdomen. These structures protect the tarantula from enemies like skunks, tarantula hawk wasps, etc. In cases where the tarantula comes across its enemy, it raises its legs and brushes its urticating hair onto the enemies face. The hair penetrates into the skin, mucus membranes and eyes of the enemy. Once the hair comes into contact with soft tissues, it conduces to skin irritation, watering of the eyes, itching in the nose, lips, tongue and swelling of air passages.
If a human comes in contact with the hair on the abdomen, it can cause some skin irritation, inflammation of the eyes and nasal passage. If you have urticating hair stuck in your skin, use tweezers or duct tape to pick up as many loose hair from the skin as possible. To prevent this condition, always make sure you keep the tarantula away from your face while handling them! Also wash your hands after you are done with them and make sure you don't inhale any urticating hair. However, if you feel you might have inhaled some urticating hair into your lungs, it is best to seek medical attention as early as possible.
Though tarantulas are not poisonous in normal circumstances, people allergic to tarantula bites can experience life-threatening symptoms. They should keep away from tarantulas and seek immediate medical attention if contracted a bite.