ARTHROPOD MUSEUM NOTES
Number 5 • 2002 • Jeffrey K. Barnes
Arkansas chocolate tarantula
Genus and species: Aphonopelma hentzi (Girard)
Tarantulas are among the largest and most iconic spiders in North America. Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana form the eastern limit of tarantula distribution. In Arkansas, these spiders occur throughout most of the state, but they are apparently absent from the Mississippi delta region. The Arkansas chocolate tarantula, Aphonopelma hentzi , is presumed to be Arkansas' only tarantula species. Two other species reported from the state, A. baergi and A. odelli, are probably synonyms. Females of this hairy spider average 2" long, and males average a little over 1 1/2". The body and legs are uniformly dark brown. Tarantulas occur in dry, rocky glades, where they inhabit silk-lined burrows in abandoned rodent or reptile tunnels or in other natural cavities. They plug their burrows for the winter months and emerge in spring. They may hunt at night, but apparently they prefer to remain in their burrows waiting for prey to come by. Crickets, June beetles, ground beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas, and caterpillars are favored dietary items. In June, gravid females, which had mated the previous autumn, begin constructing egg sacs for some 200 to 800 eggs. They guard their egg sacs until the young have hatched and departed. The white spiderlings hatch in August and remain grouped around their mother for several days before dispersing. Spiderlings molt 2 to 4 times each year for their first several years and only once each year thereafter. Males tend to wander in search of females in late summer and fall (August through November), and they are often found crossing roads. Females have been known to reach sexual maturity at 11 years and have lived as long as 25 years in captivity. Males have been known to reach sexual maturity in 10 years. Tarantula bites are not considered particularly dangerous.
Baerg, W. J. 1958. The tarantula. University of Kansas Press, Lawrence.
Smith, A. M. 1994. Tarantula spiders: tarantulas of the U.S.A. and Mexico. Fitzgerald Publishing, London. 196 pages.
Warriner, M. 2008. Distribution and taxonomic status of tarantulas in Arkansas (Theraphosidae: Aphonoplema). Journal of the Arkansas Academy of Science 62: 107-114.
• Arkansas tarantulas