Monday, October 13, 2008


(tarantula, Joshua Tree National Park, 2004)

When you come across a tarantula in the desert, the huge, hairy arachnid can look menacing. Brown or black, with 2-3 inch bodies and 4 inch legs, tarantulas are actually shy. They will only bite a human as a last resort and their venom is no stronger than a bee's.

Tarantulas chase their prey--beetles, small lizards and mice--rather than catch them in webs. The sensitive hairs that cover their bodies allow them to detect a potential victim. When cornered by a predator a tarantula will rub its hinds legs over its abdomen and brush hairs into the predator's eyes.

The solitary, prolific spiders, who live one to a burrow, mate in the fall with a litter of 500-1,000! While females may live for 20 years or longer, males may be eaten during mating.

In Joshua Tree National Park you might see a tarantula at the Oasis of Mara, Split Rock, or Wilson Canyon. We saw this particular tarantula off the JTNP road near the 29 Palms entrance. We watched for cars and made sure the spider made it safely across.

No comments: