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Tarantulas: misunderstood arachnids

A few weeks ago, preserve manager Jamison Lauria spotted a couple tarantulas, Aphonopelma, at Quarry Preserve lurking beneath the shrubbery. 

“You don’t always see tarantulas but when you do, it’s kind of exciting,” Lauria said. 

These large arachnids get a bad reputation, due to their frightening eight-legged exterior. Despite stereotypes, tarantulas are not aggressive. In fact, they are quite docile. 

However, if backed into a corner, they do have a neat trick up their legs. Tarantulas’ unusual defense mechanism is not their bite, but their hair. Tarantulas throw hairs from their abdomen when feeling threatened. These hairs can be painful and cause a rash, but they also deter predators.

Tarantulas, in contrast to other spiders, don’t spin webs to catch their prey, but instead wait for crickets, grasshoppers, cicadas, millipedes, caterpillars and even other spiders to walk by or into their burrows, according to Mission Times Courier

Unlike other arachnids, whose lifespan is normally about two years, tarantulas have quite a long life. Female tarantulas can live up to 25 years. 

“It’s neat to think when you’re out and about that this small creature in relativity can have been roaming the grounds for over two decades,” Lauria noted.  

Unlike their female counterparts, male tarantulas only live for about seven to eight years. According to KQED, male tarantulas spend between five and eight years living a solitary life in a burrow before going out to find a willing female mate. Once the male and female mate, the male dies around six months later. 

The most common tarantula species in San Diego, according to Mission Times Courier, are the California Black Tarantula (Aphonopelma eutylenum) and the San Diego Bronze Tarantula (Aphonopelma reversum). 

Next time you see a hairy tarantula out on the trails remember to be respectful of them and their home. Feel free to mindfully observe these eight-legged creatures as they amble through nature for years to come.