Tarantula, Or Tarentula, a terrestrial hunting or wolf spider of S. Europe, belonging to the genus lycosa, the L. tarentula (Latr.). It is the largest of European spiders, measuring 1½ to 2 in. in the length of the body; the color is ashy brown above, marked with gray on the thorax, and with triangular spots and curved streaks of black bordered with white on the abdomen; below saffron-colored, with a transverse black band. It received its popular name from being common in the vicinity of Taranto in S. Italy. It makes no web, wandering for prey, which it runs down with great swiftness, and hiding in holes in the ground and crevices lined with its silk; it has one spiracle on each side, one pulmonary sac, and eight eyes. Its bite was once considered highly poisonous, producing the nervous febrile condition called tarantism, which was supposed to be curable only by dancing to lively music until the person fell exhausted. - The L. Carolinensis (Bosc) is called tarantula in the southern states; it attains a length of 2 in. with an extent of legs of 4 in.; it is mouse-colored above, with white sides and whitish dots and lines on the abdomen; below blackish; legs whitish tipped with black. It makes deep excavations in the ground, which it lines with .silk; the females carry their young on the back.
Its poison is active, and might cause troublesome symptoms 'in man if the fangs could be opened at an angle proper to pierce his skin. The great hairy spiders of the genus mygale are called tarantulas in the southwestern states, and are destroyed by the large red-winged wasp, pompilus formosus.