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Austin Spiders

david moellendorf

 David is the store manager of Zookeeper Exotic Pets, a local Austin exotic pet store and has studied native Tarantulas for over 37 years. He is passionate about teaching others about these amazing creatures!

In addition to his field work, David has worked on several television programs, including the Discovery Channel and the National Geographic. He even worked on a series called “Phobias” where he helped people overcome their fears of spiders and snakes. Most recently, David finished a movie shoot where he wrangled many arachnids and arthropods for an upcoming IMAX film.





All spiders venomous?

  • Yes, except for 2 obscure species that don't occur here in the US. However, most don't have the desire to bite because it takes their bodies too much energy to produce the venom, and lack the ability to envenomate people. 100% of all spider bites here in Central Texas are out of self-defense.

What are the top 3 spiders to cautious of?
  • Brown Recluse, Loxosceles, brownish/grayish spider, black fiddle on back is VERY hard to see without magnification. Some of the 5 species in Texas don't even have the pattern. Venom is necrotic, destroys tissue and blood cells, wound presents in 4-6 hours, swelling and dark center looks like a bruise, which transforms into a blister. A white area develops around center and within a day or two, the skin begins to slough and pain radiates surrounding the bite area through the nerve channels. Eventually, the center sloughs out and develops into a large open wound. Symptoms of a bite from this spider can last weeks or months. If bitten, immediate medical attention will shorten the duration of it's effects.
  • Agrarian Sac Spider, Cheiracanthium, White or ivory colored spider with black fangs, roll up inside a leaf and silk it shut where they raise their brood. Venom is high in seratonin, producing a very painful bite, similar to having a lit match placed against your skin. A bite can have effects lasting for weeks- discoloration, itching, etc.
  • Black Widow, Latrodectus, 4 species occur in Texas. Females are the ones to beware of and are identified as a medium sized shiny black spider, with a red hourglass on the ventral surface of it's abdomen. The hourglass can also be orange, pink or coral colored, and the top portion of the abdomen can sometimes exhibit markings such as stripes or spots. They tend to like dark and dry isolated places, their web is one of the strongest spider silks in the spider world, and it's usually an irregular cob web without any defined pattern or symmetry. Venom is a neurotoxin that effects the neurotransmitters to the autonomic nervous system, causing possible paralysis, weakness, difficult breathing, irregular heartbeat, priapism. Bite is rarely fatal, but can be very painful. People bitten by a Black Widow usually recover within a couple days without any lasting effects. They are about as likely to bite as a Texas Coral Snake is, and shares the same type of venom.

Unlike snakes, spiders are active year-round, depending on temperature and the weather.

Spiders eat anything small enough for them to capture, including scorpions, snakes, other spiders, mosquitoes, june bugs, roaches, etc.

Some species make excellent pets and very interesting captives. The local Texas Brown Tarantula females can live anywhere from 12-18 years and the males 3-5 years. Some female tarantula species have been recorded to live 36 years and longer!
Common myths dispelled:
  • Tarantulas do *not* live inside of cacti.
  • Tarantulas cannot jump more than a couple inches max, despite what others have claimed to have seen.
  • Bites from any of these spiders is not a death sentence.