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Tarantulas In California

There are 10 different species of tarantula in California. All species currently found in California are non-aggressive and make excellent pets. If you go looking for these spiders, it’s best to wait until the breeding season when males wander around looking for a mate. 

Tarantulas of this state prefer habitats like dry deserts or grassy fields. If you come across a coin-sized hole in the ground covered in webbing, it’s most likely a tarantula burrow. Be careful not to try and reach into their den, for the tarantula can become aggressive and try to bite you though most species are pretty docile. 

Though there are currently 10 recognized species in California, it’s possible there are many more to be discovered due to how difficult it is to differentiate them from each other. Even with proper tools and experience, it can be challenging to identify the species. Hopefully, this article will give you some knowledge to help you next time a tarantula crosses your path.    

Tarantulas In California

1. California Ebony Tarantula

California Ebony Tarantual (Aphonopelma eutylenum) on dry, rocky dirt near Blackwells Corner, California, USA
A California Ebony Tarantual (Aphonopelma eutylenum) on dry, rocky dirt near Blackwells Corner, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma eutylenum
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 3.5 to 4 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 25 years/Males: 5 to 15 years
  • Average Price Range: $25 to $75

The California Ebony tarantula is commonly found in Southern California along the coast from Santa Barbara to San Diego. They have also been spotted near San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay. These spiders prefer habitats like deserts or grasslands.

They create burrows or use abandoned rodent burrows and line the inside and the entrance with webbing. This species is nocturnal, and they only leave their shelter to hunt when prey wanders past or when traveling to find a mate during the breeding season. 

This species can vary in color between dark brown, black, and tan. Like most tarantulas, the females are larger than the males, and the females of this species tend to be lighter in color.

Older spiders usually have a different colored spot with missing hairs on their abdomens. 

These spiders eat a wide variety of creatures. They will eat almost anything small enough that passes their burrow, such as lizards, birds, mice, and insects.

These tarantulas are very docile, and it’s scarce to be bitten by one. This species venom is not strong enough to cause any physical damage. Their fangs are large so that a bite may be slightly uncomfortable, and it has been compared to the pain beesting.  

2. Desert Tarantula

Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma Iodius) on rocks and dry dirt at Mission Peak Regional Preserve, Fremont, California, USA
A Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma Iodius) on rocks and dry dirt at Mission Peak Regional Preserve, Fremont, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma Iodius
  • Other Names: Fresno county blond, Great basin blond, Salt Lake City brown, Bay Area Blond
  • Adult Size: 4.5 to 5.5 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $30

You can find the Desert tarantula in the Mojave Desert and west of the Colorado River. They have also been spotted near counties in the Central Valley like San Joaquin and Stanislaus.

During their breeding season, this species can be seen wandering around during the day in large numbers, searching for a potential mate. Like other tarantulas, these spiders don’t leave their burrows often, and finding one wandering around is unlikely unless during the breeding season. 

This species has a tan head, tan legs with some black spots, and a dark brown or black abdomen. The females are usually more prominent than the males and lighter in color.

These spiders are considered slower moving compared to other tarantulas in the area. You can differentiate this species from most tarantulas found in the region by their larger size, lighter colors, and the more significant number of hairs on the feet. 

Desert tarantulas survive primarily off a diet of insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, other tiny spiders, and sometimes lizards or small rodents. They line their burrows with webbing, including the entrance, so when prey passes their hole, they can quickly inject it with venom from its fangs and swallow it.

This spider can make an excellent pet, but it’s best to avoid handling it too often as it can get agitated a bit easier than some species. 

3. Aphonopelma Icenoglei

Aphonopelma Icenoglei (Aphonopelma Icenoglei) in desert sand at Apple Valley San Bernardino County, California, USA
An Aphonopelma Icenoglei (Aphonopelma Icenoglei) in desert sand at Apple Valley San Bernardino County, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma Icenoglei
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 1.5 to 2 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The Aphonopelma Icenoglei is found in the Southern region of California along the foothills of the San Gabriel and San Bernadino Mountains. These spiders have been found in Los Angelos, San Bernadino, Eagle Mountain, Apple Valley, and Joshua Tree National Park.

A mound of soil and webbing typically surrounds their burrows. This species is very secretive, and it’s rare to see one outside of their hole.

You may be able to spot one during daylight hours from October to November when the breeding season occurs. Males and females are similar in color and size, being either dark brown or black.

Their abdomens are coated in short black hairs, with a small amount of long red or orange hairs dispersed on the lower body. Their legs are also covered in a small amount of nettle-like hair that they use as a defense mechanism to deter potential threats. 

This tarantula species make their home in small holes in dead trees, natural crevices, or loose dry soil. Like the other species of California, they line the inside and entrance of their den with dense webbing.

They use the webbing on the door to know if threats or prey are outside. These spiders eat small insects no bigger than the size of their abdomen. 

4. Johnny Cash Tarantula

Johnny Cash Tarantula (Aphonopelma johnnycashi) in some rocks and sand near Yosimite National Park, Hornitos, California, USA
A Johnny Cash Tarantula (Aphonopelma johnnycashi) in some rocks and sand near Yosimite National Park, Hornitos, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma johnnycashi
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $80 to $100

The Johnny Cash tarantula lives in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Central California foothills, and Coastal Mountains. They can also be found in Mariposa, Madera, Tulare, Kern, Fresno, and Calaveras.

This species uses burrows in dry soil, under rocks, and in or under logs. This species was discovered near Folsom prison, and due to its all-black color, it’s named in honor of Johnny Cash, who was also called ‘the man in black.‘

Females of this species tend to be dark brown or black, while males are typically lighter colors like brown or tan. The female spider grows to be noticeably bigger than the male.

This species can look similar to A. Iodius but can be differentiated by the male coloring. The males of A. Iodius tend to be brown or tan, while the males of A. johnnycashi are generally black.

A. johnnycashi likes to live in areas with loose, dry, sandy soil or grassy hills. Like most species, the johnny cash tarantula likes to stay in its burrow most of the year, but males can be found wandering around during their breeding season in the fall.

These are common tarantulas in the Sierra Nevada foothills, and you’re likely to see one if you visit during September – November.

5. Aphonopelma Joshua

Aphonopelma Joshua (Aphonopelma Joshua) in white rocks and sand at Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, California, USA
An Aphonopelma Joshua (Aphonopelma Joshua) in white rocks and sand at Joshua Tree National Park, Twentynine Palms, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma Joshua
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 1.5 to 2 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Aphonopelma Joshua is species of tarantula found mainly in Joshua Tree National Park and surrounding areas in south-central San Bernadino and north-central Riverside counties. This species is much less common and rarely seen outside of its burrow.

Like other species, the male leaves it home to wander around to find a mate, sometimes more than a mile.

Tarantulas of this species can be differentiated from other species in the region by their smaller size and lack of scopulation (tufts of hair) on the feet.

The male tarantulas are generally black with a thick coating of black hairs on their abdomen and longer, interspersed red/orange hairs. The females are either black or dark brown with a thick layer of short and long black hairs on their abdomen.

This species of tarantula uses burrows or small crevices as a home. They thinly line the inside and entrance of their home with silk webbing.

This webbing acts almost like a doorbell, and it alerts the tarantula of passing threats and prey so they can quickly eat without having to leave their home to hunt. The males also use this webbing during mating season to alert a female of their presence outside her burrow.

6. Mojave Dwarf Tarantula

Mojave Dwarf Tarantula (Aphonopelma Mojave) in some dry earth near Grass Valley Wilderness Area, Hinkley, California, USA
A Mojave Dwarf Tarantula (Aphonopelma Mojave) in some dry earth near Grass Valley Wilderness Area, Hinkley, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma Mojave
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 1.5 to 2 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

The Mojave dwarf tarantula is found in a small portion of the western Mojave Desert and extreme southeastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in eastern Kern and northwestern San Bernadino counties. Their breeding season takes place from October to November, which is an excellent time to see these spiders wandering around during the day.

This species can be distinguished from similar ones in the area by their smaller size and lack of hairs on their feet. Both males and females are brown or faded black, but the females are generally larger than the males.

Mojave dwarf tarantulas live in habitats with dry, sandy soil. They create burrows in the ground or out of webbing and then surround their homes with mounds of loose dirt and webbings.

Mojave dwarf tarantulas have a diet consisting of mainly small insects such as cockroaches, crickets, and beetles.

These spiders can eat as little as once per month if the meal is big enough. Their bites are venomous, but the venom is harmless to humans. 

7. Steindachner’s Ebony Tarantula

Steindachner's Ebony Tarantula (Aphonopelma steindachneri) in desert sand near San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, Jamul, California, USA
A Steindachner’s Ebony Tarantula (Aphonopelma steindachneri) in desert sand near San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, Jamul, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma steindachneri
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 4.5 to 5.5 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: $50

The Aphonopelma steindachneri is very common and can be found along the southern coast of California, the Mojave Desert, through the Tehachapi Mountains, and the southern portions of the Sierra Nevadas. They have been found in counties like Orange, Kern, Riverside, San Bernadino, San Diego, and Ventura.

If you visit these areas during their breeding season in July and August, you may be able to see these spiders wandering around.

More so than other species in overlapping areas, A. Steindachneri can be distinguished by their extreme lack of hairs on their feet. Males are a shade of faded black or dark brown and covered in short black hairs with numerous long red/orange hairs found on the abdomen. Females are typically a deep shade of black covered in short black or gray hairs with interspersed longer red/orange hairs.

Like other tarantulas in California, these spiders live in burrows found in the ground, in logs, and in natural crevices found on the sides of mountains. They line the inside and entrance of their homes with webbing that acts as a trip alarm to alert the spider of passing prey. This species either eats bugs or small creatures that pass its home or hunt at night for food. 

8. Cahuilla Ebony Tarantula

Cahuilla Ebony Tarantula (Aphonopelma xwalxwal) on rocks of similar color near Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Imperial County, California, USA
A Cahuilla Ebony Tarantula (Aphonopelma xwalxwal) on rocks of similar color near Anza Borrego Desert State Park, Imperial County, California, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma xwalxwal
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Aphonopelma Xwalxwal is only found in the southernmost portion of California. They have been spotted in the mountains west of Palm Springs, San Bernadino County, and Riverside County. These spiders only leave their burrow during the breeding season in October. This is a highly secretive species, rarely seen outside of breeding season. 

This tarantula species is considered a dwarf tarantula though it’s larger than the other dwarf tarantulas in the state. Females of this species have not been studied, so while it is possible to find one, it may be hard to identify. Males are usually a faded black, almost gray color and are covered in short black hairs with interspersing long orange/red hairs. 

It’s challenging to find A. Xwalxwal burrows because of the rocky habitat and the dry environment that keeps them inside their shelters for most of the year. They create their homes in dry soil, in natural crevices such as under rocks or logs, or out of webbing. Like other dwarf species, these tarantulas eat small insects like beetles, grasshoppers, and cockroaches. 

9. Aphonopelma Prenticei

Aphonopelma prenticei (Aphonopelma prenticei) on red sand and rock near Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Washington County, Utah, USA
An Aphonopelma prenticei (Aphonopelma prenticei) on red sand and rock near Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, Washington County, Utah, USA. – Source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma prenticei
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 2.5 to 3 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Aphonopelma Prenticei has a wide range through the eastern Mojave in southeastern California. They are commonly spotted in Death Valley National Park and San Bernadino County. These tarantulas can be seen in the daytime during their breeding season in September through November. 

This species can be differentiated from others in the area by its small size. Male A. Prenticei is usually smaller, darker, and has longer legs than females. The males are generally black or dark brown, while the females are brown or tan with larger abdomens. These spiders have tiny black/brown hairs all over their abdomen and legs. 

Like many tarantulas in California, these spiders eat small insects and invertebrae. They live in burrows in loose, dry soil with mounds of dirt and webbing surrounding the entrance. These spiders are nocturnal, so they hunt for their food at night. A. Prenticei only needs to eat about once every week., and a.

10. Atomic Tarantula

Female Atomic Tarantula (Aphonopelma atomicum)
Female Atomic Tarantula (Aphonopelma atomicum) – source
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Family: Theraphosidae
  • Scientific Name: Aphonopelma atomicum
  • Other Names: N/A
  • Adult Size: 2.5 to 3 inches
  • Lifespan: Females: 20 to 40 years/Males: 5 to 10 years
  • Average Price Range: N/A

Aphonopelma Atomicum is one of the smallest tarantulas in the United States. Tarantulas of this species are found only around the southeastern portion of Inyo County in California, specifically within Death Valley National Park.  You might be able to find these spiders during daylight hours from October to November looking for a mate. 

This species’ female and male tarantulas are brown, light brown, and sometimes black. Females are usually larger than males though the males typically have longer legs. These tarantulas are covered in short brown and long light brown hairs. 

A. Atomicum lives in harsh heat and dry loose soil. They create burrows in the ground and surround the entrance with hills of dirt and silk webbing. They line their home and door with webs to protect them from the harsh climate and potential threats. Like most dwarf tarantulas, this species eats tiny bugs like cockroaches and beetles.

FAQ’s

How common is it to see wild tarantulas in California?

Tarantulas can be very common if you’re in suitable habitats like grassy fields or dry deserts. Tarantulas are nocturnal, but males can be found traveling during the day during their breeding season. 

How dangerous are California tarantulas?

California tarantulas are not especially dangerous. Some species are more skittish than others, so they’re more likely to bite or kick their nettle-like hairs at you, but their venom is not harmful to humans, and their bites feel similar to a beesting. If tarantulas feel threatened, they might stand up and kick the hair on their hind legs at you. It is possible to have an allergic reaction to these hairs, but they will more likely make you itchy and a bit rashy. 

What is the most dangerous tarantula in California? 

The tarantulas in California are not dangerous, and most species are very docile and non-aggressive. Females tarantulas are aggressive after breeding season while protecting their eggs, but otherwise, these creatures are harmless.

Wrapping up

California tarantulas are great for crops because they’re insectivores and regularly eat agricultural pests. Tarantulas don’t catch their prey using a web, like other spiders.

Instead, they have tiny hairs all over their body that help detect movement in surrounding areas. Their main predator is the tarantula hawk, a spider wasp that can sting tarantulas and paralyze them instantly. 

Tarantulas can make excellent pets due to their docile nature and non-aggressiveness. These spiders can live for over a decade and only need to eat once every few days and sometimes as little as once a month, and they can survive off of just insects. 

Tarantulas are a common spider in the desert and can be found in fall and summer during the day. They are nocturnal and don’t like to leave their homes often, but when they do, they can sometimes be seen in large groups traveling for over a mile.

These spiders have many different predators in the wild, like lizards, snakes, foxes, birds, and coyotes. Though these spiders make excellent pets, if you encounter one in the wild, it’s always best to leave it alone and just observe to keep local populations thriving.

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