Tarantulas are big hairy spiders with a bad reputation. Lots of people say, "Yuck, I wouldn't want to go to the Amazon because of all those horrible spiders." Even though some species catch prey as large as birds and small bats, most tarantulas are relatively harmlessthey have a feeble sting no worse than a bee. Their main defense are body hairs which can detach and lodge in the skin, creating a painful itch, so they should be handled carefully. Many species have burrows in the ground, where they spend most of the time. Others make a nest in leaves. They are typically ambush hunters, waiting for prey to wander past the opening to their burrow. Common Amazon species include the Red Tarantula and the Black Tarantula.
This individual was photographed on a mat of floating water lettuce, although it is unknown whether it was there by accident or was actively hunting. This is a member of the "pinktoe" (Avicularia sp.) group. (Thanks to Jon Fouskaris of petbugs.com for help with identification.)
This bromeliad leaf had been bent and woven with silk to provide a nest for a tarantula. Tarantulas are ambush hunters, and generally active only at night. It waits near the mouth of the tunnel, and when some unsuspecting prey ambles by, the spider leaps out, sinks its fangs into the victim and drags it back into the lair. Many tarantulas have burrows in soil, so this one is rather unusual.