Aphonopelma chalcodes, commonly known as the western desert tarantula, Arizona blond tarantula or Mexican blond tarantula is a species of spider belonging to the family Theraphosidae. It has a limited distribution in the deserts of Arizona and adjacent parts of Mexico but can be very common within this range. The common name “blond tarantula” refers to the carapace, which is densely covered in pale hairs, and contrasts strongly with the all-dark legs and abdomen. The female body length is up to 56 mm, males only reaching 44 mm.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Subphylum: Chelicerata
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Araneae
- Infraorder: Mygalomorphae
- Family: Theraphosidae
- Genus: Aphonopelma
- Species: A. chalcodes
- Binomial name: Aphonopelma chalcodes
Aphonopelma chalcodes often resides in desert soil. It makes its home in burrows by digging itself under stones or by utilizing burrows discarded by rodents. It may live in the same burrow for decades. Since it lives in the desert, A. chalcodes is acclimated to harsh weather conditions. It does not require much water to survive, and can therefore survive in the extreme heat of the desert.
Size and feeding
The A. chalcodes is a medium-sized tarantula reaching a max size of about 6″. So far, mine has proven to be an excellent eater, and I’m currently feeding her 2 large crickets a week. However, I have noticed that my other Aphonopelmas seem to pick up on environmental factors during the late fall months, and they will forgo eating for most of the winter. In the wild, this species will spend the winter fasting in its burrow, so I wouldn’t be surprised if mine did the same once the temps drop again.
This spider is often recommended as a great beginners species due to ease of husbandry and a tractable disposition, and for the most part, this is a good tarantula for novices. However, behavior varies wildly between individual specimens. Many folks report their chalcodes being a bit more feisty and prone to biting; others keep specimens that are quick to kick hairs.
This information is important to keep in mind when performing maintenance or interacting with your animal. My A. chalcodes can be a bit skittish, but she has yet to show me a threat pose or any defensive behaviors. Still, her bald abdomen is an indication that she may kick.
Male tarantulas mature when they are 10 to 12 years of age, at which time they leave their burrows in search of females. Upon finding the burrow of a mature female—she’s usually at least 10 years old—the male will announce himself by stroking the silk at the top of the burrow and tapping particular sequences that the female responds to.
During mating, the male must reach under the female to insert his pedipalp into her gonopore to deposit sperm. He is particularly vulnerable to predation by the female when mating. The male’s first pair of legs has a “spur” located behind the knee which he uses to hold the female above him during copulation. After copulation the male makes a hasty retreat. The female lays her eggs in a burrow, sometimes staying with them. The young remain in the burrow until they disperse.
While sexual dimorphism is apparent in adult A. chalcodes, it is not as drastic as seen in other species. Males have a diameter of 49 to 61 mm, whereas females range from 49 to 68 mm, with a leg span of approximately 98 mm. Desert tarantulas, like other tarantula species, have a body covered entirely with hair. Like all spiders, they are divided into two body segments: the cepholothorax and the abdomen. The cepholothorax is gray to dark brown and the abdomen is dark brown to black.
Aphonopelma chalcodes images