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Tarantula Terminology

Tarantula Terminology

Greenbottle Blue Tarantula, GBB (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens)

There are a lot of terms in the tarantula hobby, and it might seem a bit overwhelming for a beginner. Here is a list of some common tarantula terms and their meanings to help you understand more of what experienced keepers have to say.


DKS: Dyskinetic Syndrome, a series of symptoms of unknown causes, including jerky, involuntary movements, and an inability to eat. This usually ends in the death of the tarantula, as there is nothing you can do to save it.


GBB: Greenbottle Blue Tarantula (Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens)


LP: Brazilian Salmon Pink Birdeater Tarantula (Lasiodora parahybana)


MF/AF: Mature/Adult Female


MM/AM: Mature/Adult Male


NW-New World: Native to the Americas


OBT: Orange Baboon Tarantula (Pterinochilus murinus)


OW-Old World: Native to anywhere else


T: Tarantula.


Death Curl: A position in which all 8 of a tarantula’s legs are curled tightly under its body. The abdomen may appear shriveled. A tarantula will assume this position if it is dehydrated, or dead or dying.


Hooked Out: Referring to the hooks on a mature male tarantula’s pedipalps used for mating.


Hot: Highly venomous.


Invert: Invertebrate, any animal lacking a backbone.


Molt: The shedding of an arthropod’s exoskeleton so that a new, larger one can take its place. Molting is the most vulnerable time in a tarantula’s life.


Molt Mat: A layer of silk that tarantulas put down to protect themselves during molting.


Premolt: The period of time when a tarantula stops eating and becomes sluggish in preparation for a molt. A tarantula may be in premolt from a few days to months.


Scorpling: Baby scorpion.


Sling: Spiderling, baby spider.


Stress Curl: A position in which a tarantula curls up, hiding its body with its knees. This is a sign that your tarantula is probably stressed.


Stridulation: When a tarantula rubs its fangs together to make a hissing noise in an attempt to scare off a threat.


Tagged: Bitten.


Threat Pose: When a tarantula raises its front legs and shows its fangs in an effort to scare off a perceived threat.


Brown Recluse Look-Alikes

Brown Recluse Look-Alikes

One of the most infamous spiders in the U.S. is the Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa). Also known as the Violin Spider for the patterns on the cephalothorax, these arachnids possess strong venom, and bites are very painful. The venom sometimes even causes the skin around the bite to rot. 

A Brown Recluse Spider (Loxosceles reclusa).

There are many spiders that look similar to the Brown Recluse, causing harmless spiders to be confused with the recluse. One such spider is the Brown Spitting Spider (Scytodes fusca). These small, harmless, slow moving spiders are brown in color and share the same natural range as the recluse, but they can be identified by their trademark large, dome-shaped cephalothorax.

A Brown Spitting Spider (Scytodes fusca) with egg sac. Notice the dome-shaped abdomen and the 3 sets of 2 eyes.

Another similar spider is the Wolf Spider (Lycosidae sp.). There are many species of Wolf Spider, most being a brownish color. They are very fast and some can get quite large. Their bites are mildly painful, about that of a bee sting, but they are not aggressive and are usually docile. The best way to identify a Wolf Spider is to look for the large front facing pair of eyes. 

A large adult female Wolf Spider (Tigrosa cf. helluo). Note the large front facing eyes.

 There are many, many brown colored spiders out there, but it isn’t possible for me to name all of them here. Those listed are just a couple of the most commonly mistaken for Brown Recluses. Remember: Just because its a brown spider doesn’t mean that its a Brown Recluse! If you find a spider that you would like identified, just send a few good pictures of it to me at and I will get back to you as soon as I can!

Wolf Spiders: Caring Mothers

Wolf Spiders: Caring Mothers

Did you know that Wolf Spiders are excellent mothers? When a female Wolf Spider is ready to lay eggs, she weaves a sheet of silk to lay them on. Then, she lays a hundred or more tiny little eggs on the silk mat. After the eggs are laid, the spider then weaves a sac of silk around them. She attaches this egg sac to her abdomen and carries it around for a couple of weeks until the eggs hatch.

Wolf Spider with newly hatched spiderlings. Note that the egg sac is still attached, as there are still some spiders that have not yet emerged.

A close up of some of the newborn spiderlings. 


 When the eggs begin to hatch inside the egg sac, the mother rips a small hole in the sac to allow the spiderlings, or baby spiders, to climb up onto the mother’s back, where they will stay for the next few weeks. Once they are fully developed and ready to fend for themselves, the spiderlings will climb off the mother’s back and skitter away into the undergrowth, fully capable of catching food and defending themselves.

The Spider Pharm

The Spider Pharm

Chuck and Anita Kristensen live on a pharm. Literally. These two arachnologists have dedicated their lives to keeping and caring for 75,000 spiders, scorpions, and centipedes to milk them for their venom. These creatures include the most venomous arachnids in North America: Black Widow Spiders (Latrodectus mactans) and Arizona Bark Scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus).

A Southern Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus Mactans)                                    An Arizona Bark Scorpion (Centruroides sculptratus)

Just a tiny portion of the Spider Pharm. Each one of those tiny plastic cups holds an adult female Black Widow Spider, while the netting containers hold thousands of feeder flies.

 But why get the venom? The reason is for scientific and medical purposes. The venom of a spider or scorpion, such as a Black Widow Spider, can be modified to reverse the effects of the venom of the same species, creating an antivenom. Antivenoms are a hugely important discovery, because now if you are bitten by certain deadly venomous animals, you can receive this life saving solution at a hospital, instead of potentially dying. One example of this is the Sydney Funnelweb Spider (Atrax robustus). People in Australia used to die from bites from this highly venomous spider. But since the introduction of an antivenom for this species in 1981, there have been no deaths, even though 30-40 people are bitten by this spider every year. Pretty incredible, huh? 

But how is the venom extracted from the spiders safely? First, the spiders are knocked out with carbon dioxide. Then, it is picked up with tweezers and given an electric shock, which stimulates the spider to release a tiny droplet of venom, which is collected and put into a vial, which then goes in a special cooler. This process has to be repeated 50,000 to 100,000 times to produce a single gram of venom! Wow! You would have to have pretty steady fingers and a whole lot of nerve to do what this couple does!

Learn more at the Spider Pharm website: