In 2007, 2012 and 2015 I travelled through large parts of Thailand to photograph and document the habitat and lifestyle of Thailands spiders and especially its Theraphosid species. Even though lots of these species are also kept in captivity it is still possible to find new species. Unfortunately I learned during my conversations with locals that Thailans tarantulas become increasingly rare over the recent years. A reason might be the increasing agricultural use of pesticides . Furthermore tarantulas are still being collected and eaten in Thailand or exportted to neighboring countries like Cambodia where they are also on the menue. It is also a fact that still lots of individuals are caught by foreigners and locals alike to be ( illegaly ) sold for the pet trade especially in Europe. Therefore it is important to refrain from purchasing these spiders if they are caught in the wild , especially since the most common species are bred in captivity since long years.
The life cycle of the spiders is based on the climatic conditions of the country. Roughly one can say that from July to October it is monsoon season. This is the time of mating. During the dry season from November to approimately May the reproduction with building eggsacs and hatching of the offspring takes place, which spread with the beginning of the new rainy season.
For further information on the different locations and the mentioned spiders I refer to my article " Haplopelma Arten in Thailand - Beobachtungen zur Lebensweise " in the Arachne Magazine 13 (6), 2008. and to the article about a Phlogiellus sp. from Krabi Province published in January 2013
The north- western part of the country on the border with Laos is very hilly and there is still plenty of forest in which a variety of spider species can be found.
If one finds larger clearings one can almost always observe one of the largest Nephila species. Habitat Nephila pilipes
Also other orb weavers live in this habitat. Among grass one can often find Argiope spp. which can be identified by the typical Stabiliment within its net.
With a closer search on embankments it is possible to locate the burrows of tarantulas in this area. These are usually applied vertically and quite hard to find as they are sometime well camouflaged.
Residents of these burrows is a large and black Chilobrachys sp. which reacts very defensive if being disturbed.
Within the forests it is difficult to locate Haplopelma spp.. These spiders are found rather in villages and on farmland . A little further to the east of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand I was able to find Haplopelma longipes. Typical habitat
In November the soil is bone - dry. The burrows are 60- 80 cm deep.
On my trip in 2007 I didn`t find any Haplopelma spp. on rice paddies. But in 2015 on the eastern border of Thailand with Laos it was different. Haplopelma longipes was quite common within the walls seperating the paddies. These stay dry during the rainy season.
Habitat Haplopelma longipes in eastern Thailand:
Entrance of a burrow in a wall seperating the rice paddies. In November the soil is completely dry.
Another burrow at a typical location
At night it is easy to watch the spiders and their potential prey.
Ground dwelling Gecko
Haplopelma longipes at burrow entrance
Lately various "color forms" of Haplopelma longipes have been discussed. With the help of my good friend Michael Erbguth we were able to observe the life cycle of one and the same specimen in the wild over a complete year. Based on the pictures you can see how much the appearance the spider changes during the year. After molting before the rainy - and mating season the animals are dark and have a blueish appearance on their femurs.
After mating and during the rainy season the spiders gain a lot of wheight
In May just before the rainy season starts again the hatched spiderlings leave their mothers burrow
Before the next molt and after the reproduction cycle ended the appearence is very different. The spiders are light brown now. So there are no blue, black or brown colorforms of Haplopelma longipes !
Also Haplopelma longipes is very defensive. If disturbed they beat with their legs first.
Within the forested areas of eastern Thailand it is still possible to find some surprises
In tree gaps I found the shelters of tree-dwelling tarantulas. Unfortunately it was not possible to photograph these animals properly during daytime. It was rather small and dark-colored species.
Tarantulas also live on the forest ground. . Here the typical habitat of a Haplopelma sp. in this environment
This might be a juvenile Haplopelma longipes
Another interesting spider species in this area are Cyclosa spp. These animals are very well camouflaged by the incorporation of uneaten food or other waste in its web. In this picture the spider is Exactly in the middle of its spider web.
If one goes from western towards central Thailand, one can visit the Khao Yai National Park. Inside the park itself I did not find any tarantulas.
However, you can still make great observations, such as this colorful Gasteracantha sp.
For tarantulas it is necessary to visit the area around the park. A typical habitat looks like in the picture below.
another tarantula burrow
In this area of Thailand Haplopelma albostriatum occurs.
West of Bangkok lies the city of Kanchanaburi, which is a popular destination for tourists because of the Kwai River and its crossing railway bridge. While visiting the surroundings of the city it is also possible to find tarantulas. Again, the spiders live mainly on the fields or in the gardens of the villagers. Habitat
Burrow within very dry soil
These burrows were up to 80 cm deep
The residents at this location were Haplopelma lividum. The range of the species extends up to Myanmar.
Further to the west of Kanchanaburi the Erawan National Park is located. From there Haplopelma minax has been described. The Erawan National Park is covered with mountainous forest . Due to its waterfalls, the main part is very heavily visited by tourists. However the tarantulas are not disturbed by that. Unfortunately also here foreigners catch and export spiders illegally.
Erawan National Park:
The best time for observations is the night but also at daytime it is possible to find many arachnids.
Colourful Sparassidae sp. which hunted for prey at the same spot every night.
Regarding tarantulas two species can be found within the Erawan National Park. Very opportunistic under rocks, in crevices, in burrows in embankments and even in tree holes lives a midsize Chilobrachys sp.
Typical retreat of the Chilobrachys sp. from the Erawan National Park
This individum was a bit annoyed
Chilobrachys sp. Erawan
The lifestyle of Haplopelma minax is different. This large Haplopelma species builds its deep burrows either in embankments or directly in the ground. The entrance to the burrow is very large and distinctive.
Burrow of Haplopelma minax:
At night it is easy to lure these defensive spiders out of their refuge
In November the females are shortly before building egg sacs and therefore very well fed
In this Video one can see how these spiders denfend themselfes if disturbed
West of the Erawan National Park there are other protected areas where interestingly Haplopelma minax does not occur. I couldn`t spot any Theraphosidae at the Huai Mae Khamin waterfalls although there were many promising holes in this area.
Inside these holes I found a large and very aggressive Macrothele sp.
Not far away the Sai Yok National Park is located . The main attraction are also some waterfalls, but they are not nearly as nice as the ones in the Erawan National Park.
Near the trails it is possible to find many specimen of a Chilobrachys sp.
The mature individuals build deep burrows inside the jungle
Also this species raises and beats with its legs to threaten if they are disturbed.
If one goes to the south of Thailand towards the costal region of the Andaman Sea one can even make unexpected discoveries on small islands . Furthermore there are still some unspoiled places.
Wildlife is abundant
Rhabdopis subminiatus , a frogeating poisonous snake
Also spiders are plentyful. Besides Nephila and Gasteracantha sp. these Opadometa spp. belonged to the most colourful.
Nevertheless another colourful and very active family are the Salticidae
This Salticidae sp. was very small but had striking colours
There are also Tarantulas to discover. Very opportunistically in trees holes and in embankments lives Phlogiellus moniqueverdezae,
which is widely spread on the entire west coast of Thailand.
I was happy to find an undescribed Selenocosmiinae sp. living sympatric with Phlogiellus sp.moniquverdezae
undescribed Selenocosmiinae; these spiders were much bigger than the Phlogiellus spp.
Phlogiellus moniqueverdezae und Selenocosmiinae sp. within the same habitat
Another task was to find an yet undescribed Ornithoctonus species from Ko Phayam which has been smuggled a couple of years ago from neighbouring
Ko Chang into the petb trade. This species was exremely difficult to find and I needed two visits to locate a single specimen. But I was rewarded
with a very large and beautiful Ornithoctoniae
Further south it is possible to find one of the most beautiful of Thailands tarantulas. Also the landscape is breathtaking.
Unfortunately a lot of the natural vegetation has been cleared and large parts of the area is covered by oil palm plantations.
Inside the plantations there are not too many animals to find. However some spiders also adapted to this habitat. In embankments one can find a orthognathic spider which lives short in self-dug burrows.
It could be a Macrothele sp.
Another resident is again Phlogiellus moniqueverdezae which inhabits the bark of palm oil trees. At some places these tarantulas occur in high density.
It is possible to lure them out of their retreat at daytime.
mature Phlogiellus moniqueverdezi from Krabi Province
One of the most beautiful tarantulas of Thailand is Ornithoctonus aureotibialis. Due to habitat destruction and also collecting and illegal export for the pet trade to keep them in captivity this species has become extremely rare. A purchase of such wild caught animals should be consistently avoided. Ornithoctonus aureotibialis can be found in intact nature. But still more trees are cleared for the establishment of oil palm plantations.
Burrow of Ornithoctonus aureotibialis
mature female waiting for prey at night
To get pictures at daytime is an exception. These spiders are extremely cautious and disappear after the slightest disturbance.