Tarantula keeping is a fascinating hobby. Tarantulas are docile pets that are fairly easy to keep. They have large hairy bodies and legs that send the creeps to people. Tarantulas are not dangerous to man but deliver painful bites or release irritating urticating hairs when threatened. It is therefore necessary to learn how to properly handle a tarantula if you have to.
I do not recommend picking up a tarantula unless it is really necessary. Tarantulas have very delicate bodies. If picked wrongly you may accidentally injure or dismember one or more of their delicate legs. Worse, the tarantula may fall off your hands and rupture the abdomen which could be fatal.
The following is a guide on how to properly handle a tarantula.
Preparing to pick a tarantula
You may need to pick up a tarantula for one reason or another. It is necessary to prepare yourself before deciding to pick up the tarantula. You can do this by observing the following steps
- Dress appropriately – tarantulas have huge fangs and will bite if they feel threatened. They also release urticating hairs as a first line of defense. It is necessary to wear gloves, a long sleeved t-shirt and pants tucked into socks. Additionally have a face mask and goggles to protect your eyes. You may decide not to wear protective gear but remember you run a high risk of being bitten.
- Know your species – some species of tarantulas are more aggressive than others and should not be picked. Do a thorough research of the species of tarantula you have if you are planning to pick him up for the first time.
- Use forceps and a capture cup – the best way to handle a tarantula is using tools such as a pair of round nosed forceps and a capture cup. This ensures the safety of both your tarantula and you.
- Be gentle – tarantulas are fragile spiders. They can easily be damaged during handling or fall to their death. Therefore be gentle and use both hands if you have to pick your tarantula using your hands.
- DO NOT PLAY AROUND – tarantulas are gentle spiders. They however may bite if threatened or release urticating hairs that cause irritation. They may also fall to their death. As such DO NOT do the following when handling a tarantula;
- Don’t wave, point or chase anyone with a tarantula as a joke
- Don’t speak loudly at a tarantula as they may feel threatened
- Do not poke the tarantula on the abdomen, they may release urticating hairs that cause a lot of irritation
- Don’t blow on a tarantula they may attack or release urticating hairs on you
- Do not observe the tarantula too closely with bare eyes
- Test the tarantula’s attitude – tarantulas are wild animals. They are naturally docile spiders if not disturbed. Some species are more docile than others. Tarantulas do not get tame by repeated handling therefore you do not need to handle them to make them gentle. Additionally, the gentleness of a tarantula can be different based on occasion. As such, a tarantula that is about to molt or hungry may be more aggressive than they usually would. Therefore, before deciding to handle a tarantula it is wise to test their attitude.
How to properly handle a tarantula
Assuming that your tarantula has passed the attitude test and that you are prepared for the task, you can now proceed to pick up your tarantula. There are a number of notable methods you can use to properly handle a tarantula including;
- Using tools
- Cupping or palming
- Use of free hand
This method involves use of tools such as a pair of round nosed forceps and a capture cup.
To handle your tarantula using this method
- Place the capture cup flat on the ground facing the tarantula
- Gently coax the tarantula into the capture cup using the forceps
- Once the tarantula is inside the capture cup, seal the cup with a lid
- Gently lift the capture cup and move the tarantula as desired
I advocate for this method of handling tarantulas as it ensures the safety of both the tarantula and you. It also feels natural as the tarantula moves into the capture cup willingly.
Pinching is another method that has been used to pick tarantulas.
I do not advocate for this method as it requires precision and expertise. Furthermore, it is one of the most dangerous with high risk of being bitten or injuring the tarantula.
Basically it involves gripping the tarantula between the second and third pair of legs.
- Coax the tarantula into a flat surface
- Quickly grip the tarantula between the 2nd and 3rd pair of legs – the tarantula will stop moving
- Gently lift the tarantula such that all the legs leave the ground at the same time
Do not attempt this method if you have no experience of handling tarantulas.
Cupping or palming
This is another method that I do not advocate for unless you are experienced. It involves swiftly using your hands to “cup” the tarantula into your palm
- Coax the tarantula into a flat surface
- Swiftly cover the tarantula using your right hand from above such that your right thumb will be against the left leg, index finger against the chelicerae and the rest of the fingers on the right side
- Swiftly turn the tarantula upside down them move him as desired
Do not attempt this method unless you are well experienced in handling tarantulas. If you are not swift enough you risk being bitten. Furthermore, ask yourself why you would need to handle the tarantula this way. If you do not have valid reasons then DON’T.
Use of free hand
This is my favorite method. It is relatively safe and easy and natural.
- Hold out a flat hand in-front of the tarantula – place the hand flat on the floor of the tarantula cage
- Coax the tarantula into your hand using a pair of forceps – gently encourage the tarantula to move into your hand from behind until all legs are on your hand
- Slowly move the hand and the tarantula over a low soft object away from the cage – placing your hand and therefore the tarantula over a soft object such as a bed ensures that if your tarantula falls, the fall will not be fatal
- Move your hands as necessary – at this point allow the tarantula to move as necessary on your hands from one hand to the other. You can even let anyone else who wants to hold them to do it at this point. Just be careful how far you allow the tarantula to ascend up your hand.
- Place the tarantula back into his cage. You can do this by placing your hand next to his cage and allowing him to walk into the cage. Alternatively place your hand flat on the floor of the cage and allow him to gently walk into the cage. If necessary, coax him gently from your hand.
Wash your hands thoroughly after you are done handling your tarantula. Especially if you were using bare hands. Tarantulas contain urticating hairs on their abdomen that cause irritation on mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or on open skin.
Tarantulas are gentle spiders that are easy to care for. They do not need to be handled unless it is really necessary. It is important to learn how to properly handle a tarantula.
If you have to handle your tarantula ensure that;
- You are dressed appropriately – wear gloves, long sleeved shirt, face mask and goggles
- Have the appropriate tools you need to handle the tarantula such as a pair of round nosed forceps and a capture cup
- Be gentle as tarantulas are very fragile and do not play around with the tarantula
- Know the species of the tarantula and test to see whether they are aggressive
There are many methods you can use to pick up your tarantula including;
- Using tools
- Cupping or palming
- Use of free hands
I do not advocate for tarantula handling as tarantulas are wild animals. They are gentle but if they feel threatened they may bite. Additionally, they may release urticating hairs which cause irritation on mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or open skin. Furthermore, tarantulas do not need to be handled.