Insect Identification logo

Desert Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes)

Detailing the identifying qualities of the Desert Tarantula, including physical features and territorial reach.

 Updated: 1/7/2014; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  Desert Tarantula  
Picture of Desert-Tarantula
Picture of Desert-Tarantula

The Desert Tarantula is a creature featured in scary movies, old westerns and even the Brady Bunch.

Desert Tarantulas are a common sight in the Southwestern states and Mexico. They generally hide during the day, choosing instead to rest under rock collections or in protective burrows that are abandoned by desert rodents.

As with most arachnids, the male of the species is smaller than the female though Desert Tarantulas in general are noted for their large size compared to other spiders. Leg spans can reach up to 4 inches in diameter on the females, making it possible for them to cover the whole hand of a grown man. Their bodies are also covered in an abundance of hair. This bristly hair is the hallmark of identifying Tarantulas, in general. Males are generally all dark in color, whereas females tend to have light brown (blonde)hairs on their carapace ('shoulders') and legs.

This spider will work hard at avoiding contact with people, and it will strike if disturbed or threatened. It should be noted that Desert Tarantula bites are considered to be poisonous, though not deadly. Seeking medical assistance is advisable if bitten. In general, Desert Tarantula venom is reported to only be as dangerous as bee venom, but deadly allergic reaction may result in sensitive individuals as every body is different.

Given their size, Desert Tarantulas are able to take down and consume small reptiles in addition to insects. Spiderlings hatch from eggs laid by the female and young male spiders eventually develop the large hairy pedipalps at the front of the face. Females can have great longevity and some have been known to have life spans of up to 20 years.

Desert Tarantula Information

Category: Spider
Common Name: Desert Tarantula
Scientific Name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
Other Name(s): Desert Blonde Tarantula

Taxonomy Hierarchy

 Arrow graphic Kingdom: Animalia
  Arrow graphic Phylum: Arthropoda
   Arrow graphic Class: Arachnida
    Arrow graphic Order: Araneae
     Arrow graphic Family: Theraphosidae
      Arrow graphic Genus: Aphonopelma
       Arrow graphic Species: chalcodes

Size, Identifying Tags and Territorial Reach

Size (Adult, Length): Size (Adult, Length): 50 mm to 70 mm (1.95 inches to 2.73 inches)
Identifying Colors: gray, brown, black, beige, tan
Additional Descriptors: heavy, hairy, knees, biting, venomous, biting

North American Territorial Reach (Though Not Limited To): Arizona; California; New Mexico; Mexico

A Note About Territorial Reach: Keep in mind that an insect's reach is not limited by lines drawn on a map and therefore species may appear in areas, regions and/or states beyond those listed above. Insects are driven by environmental factors, food supplies and mating patterns and do not nescessarily work within hard-and-fast territorial lines like we humans do.

Images Gallery


BugFinder: What is it?