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Wildlife Wednesday: A Tarantula's Tragic Tale
A horror show demise sometimes awaits our gentle velvet friends
There are many things to love about this time of year: the cooler weather, longer nights for sky watching, kids in Halloween costumes, and, best of all, TARANTULAS.
Since September, male tarantulas have been emerging just before dusk to look for females in their burrows.
These velvety, long-lived spiders—females can live in the same burrow for 25 years—reach maturity at about 8 to 10 years, which is when the males start looking for love.
Dude—just don’t look for love in my bathtub. Thank you very much.
A male Desert Tarantula will travel up to a mile to find a mate, and when he does, he may drum or tap on the web at the mouth of a female’s burrow. If she likes his rhythm, she’ll respond.
Once fertilized, the female lays hundreds of eggs in a huge sac, which she guards. She might live for twenty years or more. Males wander off and often die after mating.
Which is the sad fate of a tarantula we saw in our yard one afternoon. A tarantula hawk (a fiendishly large wasp) had stung it with paralyzing venom and was dragging it to her burrow. There, she’d lay her eggs on the still-living, paralyzed spider and when her young hatched, they’d eat it alive.
The wasp’s sting is VERY painful. When I worked at the Los Angeles Natural History Museum, legend had it that one of the scientists had provoked a tarantula hawk into stinging him—and then flung himself onto the ground, screaming. For hours. Long long hours.
Got to love scientists and their curiosity.
Thank you for sharing your wildlife photos and videos; we’ll include them in a feature soon. Always looking for more Twentynine Palms wildlife. Email your files to firstname.lastname@example.org
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
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