Tarantula Ecology

Butterfly Pavilion is studying how tarantulas interact with their environment to understand the conservation needs of our native tarantulas

Did you know that we have tarantulas right here in Colorado? In our southern prairies and western steppes, the Texas brown (Aphonopelma hentzi) and Grand Canyon black (Aphonopelma marxi) tarantulas build burrows in the ground and patiently wait for unsuspecting insects to walk across their webs.  

Under the supervision of our Director of Research and Conservation, Jackie Billotte, a PhD candidate at Colorado State University, is studying tarantula ecology in southeastern Colorado. With Butterfly Pavilion researchers, Jackie has been surveying tarantula burrows to study why tarantulas live where they live. Does the vegetation around their burrows matter? What about cattle grazing on the grassy prairies they inhabit? Or the presence of tarantula hawk wasps that parasitize the spiders? We are excited to find out!  

It is important to study the ecological needs of wild tarantulas so that we know how to conserve habitat to protect these spiders which serve important ecological roles as predators controlling insect populations and prey for other species. Jackie is also studying tarantula rearing practices and how interacting with Butterfly Pavilion’s charismatic ambassador, Rosie the Chilean rose hair tarantula, changes people’s perceptions of invertebrates.