TEXAS, USA — Tarantulas - as Texans, we’ve all seen them at some point.
We’ve seen them slinking across roads. We’ve seen them climbing up on our porches in horrific slow-motion or lurking in the shadows of our garages. They seem to specialize in appearing when we’re least expecting to see them.
Animals don’t get a lot more constantly sinister-looking than tarantulas.
But in reality, they don’t spend their time coming up with new ways to scare us. They’re not dreaming about biting us. They’re not even dreaming about murdering Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter.
No, in reality, what they’re really most concerned with is... quietly keeping our yards free of mosquitos and roaches.
“Spiders tend to creep people out, but the Texas brown tarantula serves a great purpose for our ecosystem,” San Angelo Nature Center Coordinator Selina McSherry said. “They take care of the small insects we don’t like. The crickets and mosquitos are their meal. So when we kill off these guys off because they’re scary and can get pretty big, we’re technically allowing all those mosquitos and grasshoppers to continue to come around.”
Tarantulas are usually out and about most during the summer months, which is the majority of their mating season. But all the rainfall the Concho Valley has been seeing lately is bringing them out even more than usual.
“It’s kind of a little bit of both. The main thing being we’re right in the middle of mating season. Usually between about May up until almost October they will be out and about everywhere. The ones that we are seeing out and about are the males. They’re typically smaller than the females, but it is their job to go out and find a mate, so they’re the ones you’re gonna see crossing the road or just out and about,” McSherry said.
“These tarantulas burrow underground, so a little bit of water completely washes out their home. So they are out and about when and after it rains.”
Tarantulas are rarely aggressive to humans and will generally let you know when they feel threatened before resorting to using their fangs, even if you have — for some reason — chosen to pick one up.
“They don’t want to waste their venom on you. They typically do not bite. They have another defense mechanism that they’ll use before they even try to bite you. They’ll flick their hairs on you, which makes you itch a lot. They don’t want to bite, they really don’t.”
If you’d like to see a tarantula up close (but with a pane of glass in between the two of you), the San Angelo Nature Center has these creepy-crawlies on display, along with over a hundred other species of animals.
For more information, visit the Nature Center’s COSA webpage.