If you live in the southwest, you might observe some creepy creatures out and about this month. It is tarantula mating season. This means that male tarantulas have left their burrows in search of a mate [a partner with which one produces offspring].
Tarantulas are a family of large, hairy spiders with fangs. There are many different species. They are the spiders that you often see used as Halloween decorations. Though they look spooky, they are relatively harmless and tend to avoid humans. They have venom, but it is not toxic to humans. In fact, tarantulas are often kept as pets.
Tarantulas are nocturnal [active at night], and they live in burrows, so they are rarely observed outside of mating season. During mating season, which usually lasts from August to October, they might be observed near homes or crossing roads. Once temperatures begin to drop, the males emerge. They might travel several miles before they find a mate.
This movement of tarantulas is sometimes called a migration [a seasonal movement of animals]. It differs from usual migrations in that the spiders are not traveling in any particular direction. They are not searching for food or better conditions. They are only searching for a mate.
Mating season is when humans are most likely to encounter a tarantula. If you see a tarantula on the move this month, let it go on its way. Their journey is dangerous. Many spiders are killed as they travel across roads or get too close to their human neighbors. The spiders might be spooky, but they play important roles in their ecosystems. They eat insects and other creepy crawly critters, keeping ecosystems in balance.
What Can You Do? How can you help keep tarantulas safe during mating season?
Photo Credit: Rebecca L. Latson/Getty Images