Are Tarantulas Nocturnal? The Complete Guide

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Tarantula at night

So, are Tarantulas nocturnal? You may have noticed that for most of the year tarantulas do prefer to roam around at night. But if you know anything about spiders, then you know that they are not always the most straightforward of creatures to understand.

For the majority of their lives tarantulas are nocturnal. They hunt at night, and they rest and sleep in the daytime. Their sources of food are plentiful at night, and also it is safer as there are less predators. Exceptions to this are the mating season, when you will see males during the daytime.

What we are going to do is to examine when Tarantulas are indeed nocturnal, and when they are not. What makes them act in a certain way, and why do they prefer to be up and about at night?

To be honest, you are going to find out that the Tarantula has perfectly plausible reasons for only going out at night. It’s all part of their ability to survive and knowing what is best for them. Let’s face it, you probably already knew that your pet Tarantula was an intelligent spider, and their actions in the wild do help prove this theory.

The Day is Dangerous

Quite simply, the day is dangerous for the Tarantula, and they know this, which is why they end up hiding away until it’s dark. They realize that it’s in their best interest to stay away when it’s light, and they know this for various reasons.

Venturing out during the day will mean they are more likely to encounter us humans, and they certainly do not want to do that. They are acutely aware that we could easily stand on them, and that they may be killed. Spiders are intelligent in that they know where dangers lie, and they will seek to avoid those areas as much as possible.

Also, even though a spider is a predator to some, it is also prey to others. Coming out during the day will bring the Tarantula into potential contact with their main predators, such as lizards, snakes, and certain birds. It’s safer to stay hidden away until those kinds of creatures are all sleeping, and then the Tarantula can come out and roam.

Keep in mind that all spiders have this ability to know when danger is around. They learn that a certain situation or location could spell disaster, and natural instinct has led them to know when they must avoid those areas.

The Tarantula understands that its main predators are out there during daylight, and also that they are incapable of beating them due to the sheer size of some of their predators, so they seek to protect themselves.

But there is another reason why they will look at avoiding daytime, but more on that later.

Tarantulas Are Nocturnal Hunters

The main reason why Tarantulas are out at night is because they are nocturnal hunters. They love to feed on small insects, and a number of them only really come out when it’s dark, in order to avoid predators. Of course, that means they can be easy targets for an astute Tarantula.

Unfortunately for them, the Tarantula has picked up on this fact, and as a result, they too come out at night as they understand that there’s a feast out there just waiting for them. Of course, they can also target slightly larger prey, such as mice and toads, and they too will tend to come out later on in the day.

Basically, if a Tarantula was more active during the daytime, then they would struggle to survive. No animal is going to operate like that, which is why the Tarantula rests throughout the day and prepares itself for night. As we have said before, they know what is best for them, and that is to be active at night when conditions are more favorable.

What you also need to remember is that the wild Tarantula is not going to use a web in order to catch their prey. Yes, they do sometimes spin some parts of a web, but they are designed to act in the same way as a trip wire. The aim is to then alert them that some potential prey is in the area. After that, they will then scurry out of the shadows and grab whatever’s there. However, we will look into their nocturnal hunting habits shortly.

Once again, they use the dark to help them with this form of hunting. It’s easier to hide in the shadows when everything is dark.

Large tarantula on a leaf and log at night

More On Tarantula Hunting

What you have to remember is that a Tarantula is a solitary animal. They don’t live in groups, unlike so many other animals, and do everything alone. That does mean they must rely on themselves when it comes to hunting and catching prey. If they don’t, then they will die, and that’s a harsh reality.

The Tarantula will use the cover of night to catch its prey. They rely on picking up sensations and movements through hairs on their legs. That’s because their eyesight is very poor, so they cannot depend on seeing things in the more usual sense.

Of course, a number of creatures that are nocturnal will have good eyesight, so the Tarantula must use the cover of night to perfection. They have honed their methods and techniques throughout evolution, making them an astute hunter.

They rely on a combination of both ambushing prey as well as chasing after it. For their size, this spider is fast, and they use this speed to catch those insects, or whatever it is they are hunting. The art of surprise is certainly something that they try to use especially when tackling prey that is around the same size as them. [Source]

When they catch their prey, they will bite it with their razor-sharp fangs. This then allows them to inject their prey with some venom that is deadly. Also, the venom will effectively dissolve the skin of the victim. At times, the Tarantula will use its powerful jaws to crush some of their prey. Either approach is just as successful as the other.

Of course, all of this takes place in the dark. It just shows how they can really use their ability to sense things happening that having no real vision makes no difference to them.

They Sleep During The Day

The Tarantula does then have to sleep during the day. They will hide in their burrows and rest in order to preserve energy for a hard night of hunting. However, some have been observed hanging outside their burrows during the day. This will happen when it’s more overcast, and it will certainly not occur during the midday sun. At that point, the Tarantula is hiding in the shadows.

But don’t think that the Tarantula is going to be sleeping for eight hours a day, or that they laze around, as that’s not the case. Yes, they do preserve their energy for a busy night hunting, but we don’t know exactly how they sleep as no real studies have been carried out regarding this.

During the day, the spider may spend time laying down some additional webbing in their burrow. They spin this to stop dirt coming into their lair, so they will use part of daylight hours basically doing some DIY. [Source]

Apart from that, they will sit and wait until things cool down. Remember, the heat would also zap their energy, so they would not be in perfect condition for hunting at night.

It’s Too Hot During the Day

Considering they are often found in desert or tropical areas, it’s no surprise that they stay hidden underground or in the shade during the day. They are not designed to withstand the scorching temperatures that the desert can reach while the sun is out, so they go as far underground as possible where it’s significantly cooler.

However, one thing we do know is that as the temperature starts to drop, the Tarantula begins to move closer to the entrance to their lair. They sense the change in temperature, and start to make moves to then allow them to start hunting as soon as it’s possible to do so. In a sense, they use the change in temperature as a way to judge the time of day.

A problem for the Tarantula is that they can actually overheat, and that’s not a good thing. That would become a major issue if they were out in the sun during a scorching hot day, and it also explains why they will seek to burrow even deeper into the ground if temperatures continue to soar. When you live in the desert, being unable to cope with the heat is a major problem.

As an aside, it also explains why it’s not a good idea to heat your Tarantula enclosure from the base up. They will always look at going down deeper if they are too warm, so feeling heat coming in that direction is going to stress them out as they struggle to then understand what to do.

Mating Changes Everything

Mating season really does change absolutely everything, and that’s the time when most people will come across a Tarantula in the wild. If you do see one, then it’s likely to be the male who has ventured out of their protected lair in order to start searching for a mate.

It seems that the desire to mate makes them partly forget about the inherent dangers that exist during daylight hours. The male is willing to run the risk associated with their predators being on the prowl in the hope of finding a mate. They do this as they know the females will be in their lair, so they have to hunt them out.

When they find a lair, they will deliberately trigger the trip wire that the female has laid in order to alert her to prey. But even this comes with its own set of risks for the male.

It may end up going well for him, and she decides that she too wants to mate. However, she may reject his advances and decide to attack him instead. Imagine having that pressure on your shoulders as a male spider.

You may even notice this increase in activity with your pet spider during the day when it’s in mating season. Your male Tarantula will be very busy at times when they are often quite docile and lacking in energy. So, if you notice your male becoming more active, then this will explain it.

Ultimately, the Tarantula is indeed nocturnal, and for very good reasons. It gives them the best chance of survival due to the ease with which they are then able to catch their prey. Also, they know they cannot survive in daytime temperatures or they will potentially die, so only dire circumstances will lead to them venturing out when it’s light.

But, of course, we did say that mating season will lead to them appearing, and that does mean when you see a Tarantula, then it’s going to be a male. In fact, you will only ever really see a female in the wild if you manage to disturb her lair in some way. They keep well out of the way of everything. Yes they will be hunting at night, but will you be out there to find them?

So, if you want to see a Tarantula, then stay up late and go check out where they could be hunting. But don’t worry, they are not going to bother you or attack you. Instead, they will run away, or will be so focused on hunting their prey that they do not even realize that you are there.

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