It's that spooky time of year -- when plastic bats and spiders abound. The real critters are not as scary as people think, and bring benefits.
There's one type of tarantula in Missouri. They prefer dry rocky glades. Tarantulas are nocturnal and use the venom in their fangs to subdue and digest prey like crickets. Tarantulas are shy and avoid people. Their bites are not normally serious, with a pain similar to a honey bee sting.
There are 14 types of bats in Missouri. They're the only mammals that can fly. Bats are clean, shy and smart. They consume mosquitoes and other insect pests that damage crops and forests. Bats use a type of sonar to capture insects and avoid obstacles in flight. They rest by hanging upside down and use gravity for a quick takeoff.
- This stocky, hairy species is Missouri's largest spider.
- There are more than 50 species of tarantulas in North America, but the Missouri tarantual is apparently the only one native to Missouri.
- Despite what you might see in horror movies, tarantulas don't spin webs to catch their prey. They walk on the ground and grab insects that they encounter, or that amble past them.
- Like other spiders, tarantulas have fangs that deliver a venom that both subdues their prey and helps digest it. However, tarantulas are not aggressive to humans.
- The venom of tarantulas has no medical significance for humans, being something like a bee sting.
- The tarantula's large size and shaggy look scares many people, making them think it has a ferocious nature. But it is actually quite shy and quick to evade humans. Many people keep tarantulas as pets and feed them crickets, cockroaches and the like.
Discover more about tarantulas with the MDC Field Guide.