Tarantulas march in October

A male tarantula marches along a sandy culvert in search of a mate. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

As if on cue for the spooky Halloween celebrations, large black and somewhat hairy creepy creatures have been seen steadily walking about, oblivious to most distractions.

Male tarantulas are marching forth, looking for mates among the canyons, deserts and scrublands.

The California Ebony Tarantula, Aphonopelma eutylenum and the Desert Blond Tarantula, Aphonopelma chalcodes, are the most common Southern California tarantula species whose males are on the move. Each arachnid is about 2 inches in length, which is pretty big for a spider.

Fortunately, none of the North American tarantula species are dangerous to people, but they are capable of inflicting a nasty bite if mishandled. They can even express irritating barbed guard hairs as a defense.

Generally speaking, tarantulas are peaceful animals and docile creatures. If left alone and not annoyed, their interesting behavior can be safely observed.

“All spiders initially scared me but since living in this fantastic area, I’ve learned a lot about wildlife, including spiders,” Carletta Gordon-Stokes said. “Tarantulas are the good ones. They can stay on my property all they want. If they come inside, I will have to relocate it to the outdoors for safe keeping.”

From September to October, eight-legged male Romeos take to the road, wandering in search of their Juliets for the purpose of procreation. And in plenty of time for Halloween, these rather large arachnids can scare the wits out of people that come upon them unexpectedly or in unexpected places, such as in the kitchen or bedroom in the home.

Tarantulas are common, yet not heavily researched. Scientists are slowly adding to the knowledge base of these fascinating creatures.

What is known is that the female tarantula remains in her home burrow, while the males go knocking door to door. Once he finds his true love, mating occurs, with the male making his escape before the female’s appetite returns. He is much shorter-lived than his larger love and may die after mating.

Depending on the exact species, the female tarantula lays from 50 to 2,000 eggs in a silken egg sac and guards it for six to eight weeks. During this time, she can become very aggressive, protecting the sac with her life. The new hatchlings remain in the burrow for a time after emerging from the eggs, living off the remains of their yolk sac before leaving to mature and march themselves one day.

Tarantulas are solitary animals, choosing to live in burrows and hunt from the safety of their front door. They are usually nocturnal, focusing on prey like small reptiles, insects, mice, scorpions and other spiders. While a male tarantula requires seven to 10 years to mature before emerging to search for a mate, he may only live a short time after that. The female may actually live up to 25 years, with captive specimens surviving into their 30s.

If you see a wandering romantic tarantula, don’t be terribly frightened by the experience. Instead, cheer him on in his search for love.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.