Seeing your Tarantula dance is something that can be surprising for some owners, especially those that are new to having a spider as a pet. However, what is also surprising is that there can be a number of different reasons as to why they could go ahead and start dancing.
So, what are those reasons? I’ve kept tarantulas for over twenty years, and in my experience (as well as having carried out a lot of research into the topic) there are 7 of them.
The very idea of a Tarantula dancing sounds bizarre, but you are about to see that there are some very specific ideas behind these movements that will then make a whole lot of sense to you.
What Exactly is a Tarantula Dance?
We will get into the different reasons shortly, but first of all, let’s explain what we mean by an actual Tarantula dance.
It turns out that this spider has the ability to really get some moves going. These guys will spin themselves around in small circles while having some of their legs up in the air. They may even lift their body up to a certain extent.
Some people refer to it as the happy dance of the Tarantula, and if you see them doing it, then you will automatically understand why it has been given this name. Also, please don’t confuse these movements with some sort of aggression thing, as that’s not the case.
With aggression, there will be a clear difference between their movements in comparison to a dance. When it’s an aggressive move, they will not spin around in circles. They will stay in the one position, but with their body and legs raised upwards. That in itself is the easiest way to know that your Tarantula is not happy compared to when it’s doing its dance.
Also, when a Tarantula is doing a dance, it’s going to be less focused on anything else that is around it, but this does depend on the exact reason as to why it’s performing this move to begin with.
One thing to notice though, and you do need to pay close attention to see this, is that the dance can sometimes come with the Tarantula working their spinnerets. However, this is not always the action that will follow, and then some people are actually unaware that a Tarantula spins a web in the first place.
But now, let’s get onto the different reasons behind the moves.
Reason 1 – They are Trying to Avoid a Predator
The first reason is that they are trying to avoid a predator. Making these movements is designed to confuse the potential predator, as they are just not sure as to what’s going on, or what the Tarantula is going to do next.
Also, by moving around and effectively making themselves look bigger in size, they are going to perhaps make the possible predator think twice about attacking them. It’s the same idea of you standing up big and strong to look more powerful, so if there was some hesitancy in someone attacking you, then the concept is they will wonder who they are dealing with.
This is a clever approach to take, as the Tarantula does know that it will be prey for other predators, and they have relatively few options available to them when it comes to methods to defend themselves.
They want to give off a completely different vibe to predators. They want to come across as being big and strong compared to others around them. Also, they hope that these movements will give them some vital space and the opportunity to get away and hide somewhere else.
So, in short, this method is all about moving attention away from them rather than attracting some interest. However, you are about to see that this is not always the case when it comes to a Tarantula dance.
Reason 2 – They are Looking for More Prey
The next reason flips everything on its head from reason number one, and it’s because the Tarantula is doing this in order to look and search for more prey for themselves. So, the hunted now becomes the hunter.
Once again, this makes absolute sense. They are brilliant at sensing out prey and are acutely aware of what is going on around them, but the Tarantula is willing to do anything it can to make sure it has any sort of an advantage over its prey.
You need to keep in mind that the Tarantula doesn’t have the best eyesight in the world. Actually, it’s very poor. They need to do anything they can to enhance their ability to pick up on any possible prey that is surrounding them.
These dances and moves, which helps with them rearing up and lifting different joints up into the air, is going to result in more of their hair on their body picking up on any movement that is close to them.
In other words, the dance can help them to avoid missing out on something to eat.
A Tarantula is very adept at hunting. They instantly know when something is nearby that could be consumed. The dance can help them to ascertain where the prey is located and what they should do next. However, we must stress that it’s not their first port of call when it comes to dealing with prey. In saying that, it can still happen, and it does.
Reason 3 – It Could Be a Mating Thing
Another reason is that it can be related to the mating ritual. This is going to mean the male is the one dancing, as he needs to try to impress the female, and she’s not easy to impress. [Source]
The dancing can sometimes lead to the female taking an interest, and at that point it is known for her to start dancing, as well as a way of letting the male know that things are advancing. It’s going to be quite a sight if you see both male and female doing their dancing thing.
If you do have both a male and female Tarantula, then pay close attention to what is going on, and you may spot at least one of them doing this dance. It does seem strange that something that can be used to deflect prey or attract prey can also be used to attract a mate, but the Tarantula will surely know what it’s doing.
Reason 4 – It May Be Done to Lay Down Some Webbing
A Tarantula does spin a web, but not in the usual sense when we think of a spider. Instead, they put down something that is more like a form of netting, and this is used to then pick up on vibrations of prey that’s walking on by.
The reason why some people believe that this dance is connected to this is because they have been observed spinning webs while dancing. So, it makes sense that the two are then potentially connected when you take that into consideration. [Source]
This reason does sort of link into the hunting part. The Tarantula does enjoy setting everything up to make it easier for it to then be alerted to a potential kill being close to their lair, so setting up these sorts of tripwires can be a wonderful tool for them.
The fact that they do this while carrying out their little dance is just a cool additional feature that we simply cannot ignore telling you about.
Reason 5 – It’s a Hygiene Thing
This reason is also sort of connected to the webbing idea, but with a twist. It turns out that some experts believe a Tarantula does this dance to spin their web in order to create some sort of mat for their food.
You see, a Tarantula is very particular in keeping its area clean, and it doesn’t want to have remnants of its prey hanging around all over the place and getting tangled up in its hairs. After all, that would make their hairs far less effective at sensing various things.
So, the idea here is that they create this layer to keep the rest of their place spotless. Yes, it turns out that a Tarantula does tend to be rather house proud.
Reason 6 – A Placemat for Their Food
But perhaps the reason that is going to be the most accurate is linked to the way in which most owners believe the Tarantula is effectively laying down a placemat for their food. However, even with here there are two possible explanations as to what they are thinking when they are doing their dance.
The first reason is that they create the space where they can leave some of their prey for them to come back and devour later on. This does make sense when they have caught something quite large as they may decide to not go ahead and eat it all at the one go, as it feels as if it’s too much for their digestion.
The other reason is that they use this mat to hold their prey, which is obviously dead, while they consume it. This process of consuming their prey can take a long time in some instances, so the Tarantula is not going to want to tire itself out by holding the prey for an extended period of time.
This feeding mat stops the prey from touching the floor of their lair while still giving them a platform to dine off. This alone is quite a cool explanation of what’s going on with a Tarantula that’s performing this particular move.
Reason 7 – It Really is an Expression of Joy
While we have been focusing on reasons that try to explain this behavior, it does also mean we need to consider the possibility that they are simply happy at something in their life. The logic behind this is because of when you are most likely to see your own pet Tarantula performing the dance.
If you pay close attention to the timing, then you will often see them performing the dance after they have had something to eat. It’s almost as if they are indeed celebrating the fact that their belly is full, and they have had a successful hunt.
Now, there’s no way of knowing if this is the case, but it certainly does put a different slant on the idea of it being a happy dance.
So, there you have it, seven different reasons as to why your Tarantula may end up doing their own happy dance. It’s a cool thing to watch, and it’s something they will do on quite a regular basis, especially when comparing to other movements they would tend to do, so you should have no problem with catching them in the act.
Just keep in mind that it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with them. Instead, it means they are doing something that comes naturally to them, so leave them alone and let them get on with the action as they are doing something that a Tarantula loves to do.
The most important thing for you to do as an owner is to simply provide your pet Tarantula with everything they need to live a long and happy life. As long as you do, then you will be giving them every opportunity to go ahead and perform this move at different times. As their owner, it should make you quite happy to see that your pet Tarantula is as content as this with their living conditions as it means you are doing something right.