Tarantulas On the March…

We’ve had a few chilly nights and cool days here, which I hope mean we’re nearing the end of rattlesnake season. But things are never boring here in the desert: after rattlesnake season comes tarantula season! Every fall, usually in September and October, the tarantulas come out, marching through the region in search of mates. Today we had our first sighting here in the Garden of the Gods:


This is a Texas brown tarantula (scientific name: Aphonopelma hentzi) and likely a male because females tend to stay in their burrows most of the time while the males march around, looking for mates. His pedipalps – the two feelers in front of the 8 walking legs – are also large, which is an indicator of maleness.

Texas brown tarantulas are known for being a particularly docile species and are often sold as pets. Captive females are more desirable, however, since they can live for several years while males tend to survive only one season. No species of tarantula is poisonous to humans (or dogs or cats). Their bites are usually likened to a bee sting: painful with minor swelling but with few serious side effects.

I like the idea of a pet tarantula, but I prefer to see them out in the world. I found this guy walking across the patio today. He hid under a planter for  few minutes after my flash accidentally went off when I was taking his picture. He really didn’t like that. But then he continued on his way, climbing straight up a stucco wall and onto the roof. Hopefully he finds a girl up there…

About theblondecoyote

Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
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