Halloween is here and most people are thinking about spiders, bats, and black cats. But it turns out that tarantulas have a lot more on their mind this month than trick or treating. Fall is when male tarantulas having finally reached adulthood leave their burrows after 5-12 years of living there. Their mission? To seek out females to mate with. A host of deadly perils awaits the newly emerged male in the outside world, not the least of which is the female herself.
Some tarantulas cover 50 miles in their lusty trek. The females have it much easier. They just stay in and about their burrows and wait for their suitors to appear. As the male tarantula approaches the burrow of a female he drums on the surface with his legs and pedipalps. He does this to let the female know he is interesting in mating and to avoid being mistaken for a meal by the larger female tarantula. Even if he is successful, he won’t have a long life; adult males usually die before winter arrives.
Fun facts about the tarantula:
- Female tarantulas can live 30 years or longer in the wild.
- The largest tarantulas have a leg span of nearly 10 inches, or about the size of a dinner plate.
- Tarantulas are quite docile and rarely bite people.
- Tarantulas defend themselves by throwing needle-like, barbed hairs at their attackers.
- A fall can be fatal to a tarantula. Even a fall from a short height can cause a deadly rupture of the tarantula’s exoskeleton.
- Tarantulas have retractable claws on each leg, like cats.
- Tarantulas can regenerate lost legs.
I decided what better way to celebrate the Halloween season then going on a “Tarantula Trek” and coming face to face with a real life Tarantula. During the months of September and October, knowledgeable docents of Mount Diablo State Park lead hikes to provide a chance for visitors like myself to experience the tarantulas up close and personal. If you would like to learn more about these amazing creatures and even get close up and personal with a tarantula you can visit Mt. Diablo’s events page www.mdia.org.
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