Tarantulas rely on their survival instincts to avoid potential danger, and one of those includes a ‘fear’ of larger animals. Humans are much larger than tarantulas which makes us very intimidating to them. Our presence can be a threat to their existence.
Tarantulas and spiders are scared of humans, but it’s still uncertain if and how they feel fear. While their emotions are much more limited, tarantulas can still feel something. It is thought they mostly rely on their survival instincts which tell them larger animals, such as humans, are a threat.
In this article, we will cover if tarantulas are scared of humans, why this might be the case and how we can help our pets feel safer with us around. It’s easy to see why tarantulas and other invertebrates might be scared of us, but there are ways to reduce this.
Are Tarantulas Scared of Humans?
Tarantulas do not feel fear like humans do, but they’re still instinctively afraid of us. They have a strong survival instinct that tells them to be especially careful around larger animals which may eat them. Even if we don’t intend to eat them, we could kill them by accident.
Larger animals are always a threat to tarantulas. As a result, tarantulas know to be scared of larger animals. They don’t have strong emotions like us, but it’s thought they are intimidated by our presence and scared if we get too close. This is why tarantulas often react so strongly when we disturb them.
While tarantulas are generally scared of humans, they can get used to our presence. Over time they can learn that humans don’t want to hurt them, so there’s no need to be so fearful of us. Pet tarantulas may feel more comfortable with us over time, but there’s no guarantee. It depends on the species and individual tarantula.
Can Tarantulas Feel Fear?
Tarantulas are innately scared of humans, predators and animals larger than them. It’s uncertain how strongly tarantulas feel fear and other emotions, but it’s thought to be very limited. Tarantula brains don’t allow for strong emotions, but it’s thought they can feel something.
Tarantula emotions is a tricky topic since research into it is so limited. We have an article dedicated to it here (LINK TO TARANTULA EMOTIONS ARTICLE). We know that tarantulas feel fear on an instinctual level, but there’s still uncertainty if they can feel the emotion. This means that tarantulas know certain things are dangerous and should be avoided, but they might not feel scared.
However, it’s unlikely that tarantulas can feel fear on the same level as humans. Tarantula brains don’t allow for complex emotions, but how much they feel depends on the definition of ’emotion’ used. In short, tarantulas feel ‘fear’ on some level, but we have no idea how much.
How do Tarantulas React when Scared?
Tarantulas will try to avoid potential threats or run away when possible. If they cannot escape, then the tarantula may kick urticating hairs towards the danger, perform a threat posture or attempt to bite the threat.
When a tarantula is scared, they will try to run from the threat, but they will stand their ground if that’s not possible. This means that some tarantulas will kick urticating hairs into the air while others will immediately perform a threat pose. Reacting this way doesn’t mean the tarantula is aggressive. They are being defensive as they are scared of being killed. We’ve covered how tarantulas protect themselves in more detail here (LINK TO HOW TARANTULAS PROTECT THEMSELVES ARTICLE).
What are Tarantulas Scared of?
Tarantulas are afraid of anything that might kill them. They prefer to run from danger and will only become ‘aggressive’ when it’s not possible to escape. Tarantulas are scared of being picked up and eaten by larger animals. This also means they are afraid of being confronted by larger animals.
While tarantulas don’t feel fear the same way as us, they are innately scared of certain things that might pose a danger to them. This is due to them having a strong survival instinct.
As a result of their survival instinct, this means they are scared of things such as:
- Larger animals (including humans!)
- Loud noises such as cars, motorbikes, music, etc
- Being picked up
- Having their home disturbed (the entire enclosure, not just the den)
Supposedly, there are things that tarantulas and spiders dislike, but there is a limited scientific basis for most claims. Pest control companies from regions where tarantulas are native (https://romneypestcontrol.com/what-color-do-spiders-hate/) suggest that spiders and tarantulas might be repelled by light blue colours, smells such as citrus or eucalyptus and peppermint oil. It’s unknown how these things affect tarantulas, but it might be worth remembering.
How To Help Your Tarantula Not Feel Scared Around You
To help a tarantula feel more comfortable, trying to reduce the amount of vibrations you produce will help them feel safer. Tarantulas are scared of being picked up since, in nature, only predators will do this when trying to eat them. Not disturbing the tarantula or picking them up will make them less scared.
Tarantulas ‘see’ the world through vibrations that they feel. This makes them very sensitive to vibrations such as humans walking, cars, airplanes, music, etc. Understanding this allows keepers to work around the tarantulas’ needs to help them feel safer living in an urban environment. We have a more detailed article about tarantula’s vibration sensitivity here (LINK TO HOW TARANTULAS HEAR ARTICLE).
Being picked up isn’t natural for animals, and tarantulas will naturally be afraid of any animal that picks them up. This is one of the reasons why it’s a bad idea to hold a tarantula when you don’t need to. Disturbing a tarantula will stress them and make them feel like their lives are in danger. This is why it’s essential to not do work inside the tarantulas’ enclosure unless you need to.
Some tarantulas will get used to human interaction and become more comfortable being held or someone working inside the enclosure. This takes a lot of time, and some tarantula species are more likely to tolerate humans than others. Not all tarantulas will become comfortable with humans touching them or working inside the enclosure.
Tarantulas are naturally scared of humans since we are much bigger than them and pose a risk to their life. They can get used to us over time once they learn we don’t intend to hurt them, but this isn’t a guarantee. It’s best not to disturb the tarantula inside the enclosure unless necessary. Tarantulas might not feel fear like humans do, but they feel it on some level, so it’s important to avoid scaring them. A scared tarantula will become defensive.