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White Knee Tarantula

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Whiteknee Tarantula

Photo © 2006 Lianne McLeod, Licensed to About.com, Inc.
Big hairy spider: need I say more? Tarantulas vary in size, with some of the larger species reaching a leg span of about 10 inches! Most tarantulas commonly kept as pets are quite a bit smaller than that, with a leg span closer to 4-6 inches.

As it turns out, for many species of tarantulas their hair is scarier than their venom. Tarantulas are not as venomous as many people beleive (a bite will definitely hurt, but it will be more like a bee sting. While painful, a tarantula bite is not likely to be fatal unless you are allergic to their venom). However, many new world (from North or South America) tarantulas have special hairs on called urticating hairs which can cause a severe itchy and irritating reaction if they get on your skin. Worse, these hairs can be quite damaging to your eyes.

Tarantulas can be very good pets, though, especially if you need something compact and quiet. They do not require a lot of attention or care, but you must pay close attention to temperatures and humidity so they are not completely low maintenance. Different species vary in their tendency to be aggressive, so beginners should select a species with a reputation for docility. Tarantulas are not great for handling, partly because of their defenses, but mainly because they are actually quite fragile and can be severely injured by falls or rough handling.

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