How Did the Tarantula Get Its Name?
The big hairy spiders called tarantulas get their name from a large wolf spider found around the city of Taranto in southern Italy. But this name was originally applied only to a European spider, not related to the big, hairy “tarantulas.”
People once believed that this spider’s bite caused an illness called “tarantism.” According to superstition, the only cure was to dance wildly about and sweat out the spider’s poison.
From this belief the “tarantella,” a lively Italian folk dance, got its name. The tarantella a frenetic dance that they believed to be both a symptom of and a cure for tarantism.
Most people are afraid of tarantulas. But the bite of any tarantula you might encounter in the United States is usually no more dangerous to humans than the sting of a bee.