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An American tarantula

An American tarantula.jpg MosquitoThumbnailsAëdes calopus; larvaMosquitoThumbnailsAëdes calopus; larvaMosquitoThumbnailsAëdes calopus; larva

n popular usage, the term "tarantula" is loosely applied to any one of a number of large spiders. The famous tarantulas of southern Europe, whose bites were supposed to cause the dancing mania, were Lycosidæ, or wolf-spiders. Though various species of this group were doubtless so designated, the one which seems to have been most implicated was Lycosa tarantula (L.). On the other hand, in this country, though there are many Lycosidæ, the term "tarantula" has been applied to members of the superfamily Avicularoidea, including the bird-spiders.

Handbook of Medical Entomology
By William Albert Riley and Oskar Augustus Johanssen
Published in 1915
Available from gutenberg.org
Insect, Spiders