Most spiders are small and eat tiny bugs like mosquitos, flies, and clothes moths. Not the Goliath bird-eating tarantula. Bird-eaters are the world’s largest spiders, with a leg span of up to 11 inches– the size of a dinner plate. Despite their huge size and threatening name, they’re not dangerous to humans. They actually don’t even eat birds all that often– their diet mostly consists of insects like cockroaches, along with mice, frogs, and small lizards. Their venom isn’t strong enough to seriously hurt a human; in the event that a bird-eater feels threatened and bites a human, the venom is only as strong as a wasp sting.

While bird-eaters’ appearance might make them an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare, they’re fascinating animals. And though in the wild they live deep in South America’s jungles, you can see them on display at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo!

Photo by Brian Gratwicke