Tips for Handling Tarantulas

There is always a certain measure of risk that comes with handling tarantulas.  So the very first question you should probably ask yourself is why do you want to do it?  Most keepers and hobbyists recommend against too much handling of tarantulas – not only do you run the mild risk of being bitten or having urticating hairs flicked at you, you also run the risk of your tarantula escaping, being injured by a fall, or simply experiencing the stress of being handled when it may prefer to simply be left alone.

You may never need to actually handle your tarantula by hand.  Even when you are moving your tarantula to a temporary container in order to clean out their cage, this can be done quite efficiently by prodding them with a brush and a cup. Some advocate learning how to handle your tarantula, while others feel it is unsafe and completely unnecessary.   Whether you need to or want to, always use caution and safe practices in handling this beautiful but wild and potentially dangerous creature.  In all cases, use your best judgment, and if you feel that the tarantula will not be tolerant of being handled, always err on the side of caution.

  • Always move calmly and slowly – too much or too fast movement can startle your tarantula or put it immediately on the defensive/offensive.
  • To pick up a tarantula, hold it between its second and third pair of legs using your thumb and forefinger.  Or you can gently nudge it into the palm of your hand – this is called free handling a tarantula.
  • Try to keep it in your hand as much as possible – don’t allow it to crawl over the rest of your body or elsewhere.  Always use both hands.  This is for both you and your spider’s safety.  Always handle it above a tall surface such as a table, with never more than 12 inches below.  A fall is potentially dangerous for a tarantula as it can result in their abdomen rupturing or bursting and resulting in their death.
  • Spiders do give warnings before they actually attack: a pose wherein the spider rears up on its back legs and then shows its fangs.  Use common sense – if you see your tarantula adopting such a pose, don’t even come near it.  Just leave it alone.
  • Keep it mind that a tarantula will never get “used” to handling; they will simply learn to tolerate it.  But tarantulas are also unpredictable, and their mood and temperament can change often – sometimes on a daily basis.  If you are going to handle a tarantula, you should first be familiar with its body signals and whether or not it appears like it will be tolerant in each particular moment.  Their defensive/offensive movements are often simply instinctual, a conditioned response to perceived threats that is the result of millions of years of evolution.  Be smart about it, and don’t handle your tarantula if the tarantula does not look like it wants to be handled.

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