The Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) is a tarantula that is so big that it easily take down large prey like mice and birds. As if that is not scary enough, the giant arachnid then liquefies and sucks the internal organs of its prey.
Its weight has earned it the title of the heaviest spider in the world with a weight of six ounces (175 g), and that, naturally, makes it unmistakable to anyone who crosses paths with it.
The Goliath birdeater has a fist-sized body with light or golden hue color. The spider's body is covered with barbed hairs, which are painful to the touch and also incredibly scary. The fangs on this creature are also quite fearsome.
Can The Goliath Birdeater Actually Eat Birds?
Most people would expect this giant insect to eat birds regularly based on its name. With a width of about a foot, the spider is undoubtedly capable of such feats. The truth is that the spider rarely catches and eats birds, but this has been known to happen.
The spider got its name from an 18th-century engraving that showed a tarantula eating a hummingbird. The spider in question was not even this species, but the name was adopted to describe the entire genus (Theraphosa), including the Goliath birdeater.
Instead, it likes to prey on insects like earthworms and cockroaches, rodents, and even frogs.
Goliath Spider Attacks
During attacks, the spider raises itself using its hind legs to have a bigger and more intimidating appearance. This also gives it a chance to display its scary fangs, which measure about an inch in length. The spider makes the spectacle even more frightening by rubbing its hairy legs together.
This technique, known as stridulation, is also used by snakes and insects. For instance, crickets and grasshoppers use the method to create a chirping sound.
The giant insect makes a hissing sound that can travel as far as 15 feet by rubbing its legs together.
The process also makes the Goliath birdeater release sharp hairs that make the animal seeking to attack it uncomfortable and irritated. This gives the spider a perfect chance to get away from threats.
The Spider Is A Nocturnal Predator
The Goliath birdeater has one major weakness: it has poor eyesight. Fortunately, that does not affect its ability to go on with its life as it does its hunting at night. In fact, the giant insect has a massive appetite.
Otherwise, the Goliath birdeater makes up for its poor eyesight using the hairs on its hind legs, which can record slight vibrations from any animals nearby.
How Do Goliath Birdeaters Hunt?
Basically, the goliath tarantula prefers to wait until the prey is close before pouncing and trapping the animal with its legs. In short, the Goliath birdeater is an ambush predator, which means it does not like to chase down its prey.
After that, they make use of their fangs, which are powerful enough to slice through human flesh to inject the prey with venom. The neurotoxic venom paralyzes the target and makes them helpless.
Since it has no teeth, the spider liquefies the insides of its prey and sucks them as food. To achieve this, the spider has to regurgitate its own digestive juices onto the prey so that it can break down the soft tissue into a liquid it can suck.
Due to this unique feeding style, when the spider is done, what remains of its prey is usually bones, skin, and fur.
What Happens When You Encounter A Goliath Birdeater?
Most people would obviously suffer from paralyzing fear after coming face-to-face with the Goliath birdeater. Fortunately, crossing paths with the giant tarantula is rarely deadly. Apparently, their venom is considerably non-toxic to humans.
Still, a bite from this insect would cause some swelling and pain. Allegedly, the pain from this spider's bite is somewhere between getting stung by a wasp and having a nail hammered into your hand.
Luckily, the spiders tend to be defensive, which means they will leave you alone if you back off. Also, the bites are not always venomous, and a more significant reaction is more likely to come from the spider's urticating hairs, which can irritate the skin and the eyes.
Nonetheless, anyone with an allergic reaction to the venom can end up dead after a bite. Similarly, if the bite wound gets infected, it can result in death.
Therefore, the scariest thing about the Goliath birdeater is its massive size and frightening appearance. That is not to say you should mess around with this insect.
The Life Of A Goliath Birdeater
These spiders prefer a solitary life, and they only seek the company of other spiders during the mating season. The egg sacs have about 50 to 200 eggs, and females cover them in their urticating hairs. The egg sacs are about the size of a tennis ball, and the eggs hatch after about 6 to 8 weeks.
After the eggs hatch, the spiderlings stay around their mother until they mature, which takes two to three years.
Females can live to be 20 years in captivity, and they are larger than male Goliath Birdeaters. In the wild, female spiders live for about 10 to 15 years.
Males tend to die a few months after mating for the first time. They don't live long after attaining their maturity at about three years. The female Goliath Birdeaters don't eat males during mating, as is typically the case with other tarantula species.
Since the spiders have exoskeletons, they have to keep shedding them in order to keep growing. During this process, the Goliath birdeater finds a safe place and breaks out of its old exoskeleton waits for several hours as the new exoskeleton hardens.
During molting, the spider is usually very vulnerable, but it can regenerate its missing limbs.
Tips On Keeping A Goliath Spider As A Pet
You can decide to get a Goliath birdeater as a pet. Still, it is not a decision you should take lightly.
As pets, they go for between $10 and $500, but the price depends on the spider species, age, and rarity. They are not recommended for beginners as pets as they are not that easy to take care of, mainly due to their defense mechanisms.
To begin with, they require a relatively large space as they require at least 20 gallons. The spiders should also get a large enough substrate made of moss or mulch so that they can dig easily into it and create an underground burrow.
You also can't put two Goliath Birdeaters in the same cage as they easily feel threatened and turn aggressive.
Although they prefer to eat a huge selection of insects, they should be fed larger prey such as mice every once in a while.
Where Can You See The Goliath Birdeater Today?
The Goliath birdeater likes to live on the forest floor in forests in northern parts of South America in Venezuela, Brazil, and French Guiana. They stay in burrows covered in silk. It is, however, believed that their population might be under threat as they don't pose a lot of risk to humans.
Goliath Birdeaters are also available in other places around the world, such as the Wellington Zoo in New Zealand. The zoo even managed to hatch several goliath spiderlings in 2020. The tiny spiders were quite big, and they had a brown mahogany appearance.
Surprisingly, the Goliath birdeater is edible and eaten in northeastern South America. The urticating hairs have to be removed to prepare it as a dish. The spider is then roasted in banana leaves. Seemingly, the spider tastes like shrimp.