9 Types of Tarantulas in California (with Pictures)

Tarantulas are well-known spiders, known for their hairy bodies and legs, along with their size.

These spiders are not easy to find or capture. Therefore, the tarantulas you find in California are all based on people reporting seeing them, though there could be other species which have not been identified or seen yet.

If you are keen on finding a tarantula in California or you have been lucky enough to see one and wondering which one you saw, continue reading.

Where To Find Tarantulas In California

All the tarantulas in California are ground-dwelling hunting spiders. They are nocturnal for the majority of their lives, which is why you don’t often get to see them.

They live in burrows, only leaving at night to hunt for food, which includes beetles, lizards, mice, spiders, and other insects, including scorpions.

The male will remain in his area until he fully matures, which is anywhere from 5 to 10 years, he then leaves his area to find a mate.

Males only live a few months after maturity, while females can live up to 25 years.

So where can you find tarantulas in California? You will find them in the fall when the male travels sizable distances to find a mate. You often see them during September and October along with grasslands, trails, and roads.

They can often be seen in Malibu Creek State Park, along with the Topanga State Park in Santa Monica.

They have also been seen in the San Gabriel Mountains, Anza-Borrega Desert State Park, the Mojave Desert, and Joshua Tree National Park.

Tarantulas In California

There are 9 tarantula species you may be lucky enough to spot in California, these include:

1. Aphonopelma iodius

Aphonopelma iodius female

Scientific name: Aphonopelma iodius.

Common name: Fresno County blond, desert tarantula, Great Basin blond, Salt Lake City brown.

This tarantula lives in a webbed burrow, which is under the surface in California desert areas. They will obstruct the burrow entrance with their webs, which protects them against predators and the desert heat.

Aphonopelma iodius California map
Great Basin blond tarantula distribution in California

These are also popular pets and go by a number of different names including the Fresno County blond, desert tarantula, Great Basin blond, and the Salt Lake City brown.

2. Aphonopelma eutylenum

Aphonopelma eutylenum male

Scientific name: Aphonopelma eutylenum.

Common name: California ebony tarantula.

This tarantula is known as the California ebony tarantula and ranges in color from dark brown and ebony to light beige.

Females can grow to a leg span of five inches (13cm), living up to 25 years.

Males, which are smaller than the female, only leave their burrows to search for a mate when they reach sexual maturity, which is anywhere from 8 to 12 years. Males die a few months after finding a suitable mate.

Females have large abdomens and fangs. They are also often lighter in color than males.

When they feel threatened, they shed spiky hairs on the abdomen, as a defense mechanism.

As they age, older spiders will have a different color spot on their backs and their abdomens are hairless or missing hairs.

These tarantulas spend most of their time in their burrows, waiting for prey to come close to them. The spider then comes out of the hole and catches the prey.

Aphonopelma eutylenum California map
California ebony tarantula distribution in California state

3. Aphonopelma steindachneri

Aphonopelma steindachneri female

This tarantula is common in California, but not often observed due to it preferring to hide in its burrow until suitable prey passes by.

These nocturnal spiders only leave their burrows when prey comes past or when the male is mature enough to search for a suitable mate.

Their burrows protect them against heat and predators, where the spider places a web across the burrow entrance.

Aphonopelma steindachneri California map
Aphonopelma steindachneri distribution in California

4. Aphonopelma johnnycashi

Aphonopelma johnnycashi female

Scientific name: Aphonopelma johnnycashi.

Common name: Johnny Cash tarantula.

This tarantula is known as the Johnny Cash tarantula after it was first found in Foiso Prison in 2015.

The males tend to be black in color, with females being more dark brown.

They grow up to 6 inches (15cm) in length and are unlikely to bite with their venom being mildly irritating.

Aphonopelma johnnycashi California map
Johnny Cash tarantula distribution in the California

5. Aphonopelma xwalxwal

Aphonopelma xwalxwal male

This particular species can be found in the Coachella Valley and Borrego Springs as of February 2016.

These are large spiders that spend most of their lives in their burrows, which protect them from the heat and predators.

The male will only leave their burrow when searching for a suitable mate.

It is the largest dwarf species with males fourth femur being 1.05cm long.

Aphonopelma xwalxwal California map
Distribution of Aphonopelma xwalxwal in California

6. Aphonopelma icenoglei

Aphonopelma icenoglei female

You may be lucky enough to see this tarantula in California when it is searching for a mate.

With its nocturnal lifestyle and burrowed habitat, most are seldom lucky to spot one of these tarantulas.

They are harmless to humans and are very unlikely to bite.

Aphonopelma icenoglei California map
Distribution of Aphonopelma icenoglei in California

7. Aphonopelma joshua

Aphonopelma joshua male

The joshua tarantula is another of the species you may be lucky enough to see in California with the species hiding in a burrow, which is protected by a thin web, which helps offer privacy, security and reduce heat exposure.

As with other tarantula species, this spider will remain in their burrows, coming out quickly to grab any prey that passes their burrow, or when the males are mature, they will leave their burrow, some traveling a mile or more, to find a suitable mate.

Aphonopelma joshua California map
Aphonopelma joshua range in California

8. Aphonopelma chalcodes

Aphonopelma chalcodes

Scientific name: Aphonopelma chalcodes.

Common name: western desert tarantula, Arizona blond tarantula, Mexican blond tarantula.

This species is better known as the western desert tarantula.

This species has pale hairs with all dark legs and a dark abdomen.

They have a very long lifespan with several offspring over their lifetime.

They can grow up to five inches (13cm) and are often seen in the summer months when it’s raining in the southwestern desert regions.

They are large bodies with females being a tan color, males have black legs with red abdomens.

Females are larger than males, growing up to 5 cm in body length, where males only grow to 4 cm in body length.

Aphonopelma chalcodes California map
Distribution of western desert tarantula in California

9. Aphonopelma mojave

Aphonopelma mojave male

Scientific name: Aphonopelma mojave.

Common name: Mojave Dwarf.

Mojave tarantulas are small tarantulas which are seen in the Las Vegas desert.

They are black in color, eating small insects.

This species is still unprescribed and the name is not official.

They are harmless to humans, even though they have fangs and produce venom, their bite isn’t any worse than a bee sting.

Aphonopelma mojave California map
Mojave dwarf tarantula range in California

Further Reading: