That’s Mr. Tarantulasaurus Rex to you

by Lorin Michel Saturday, September 10, 2016 9:02 PM

We grow ‘em big out here. By ‘em I mean, well, everything especially bugs. Our flies are twice the size, ditto wasps. We have crickets that are enormous; grasshoppers, too. Spiders are large. It’s not uncommon to see scorpions that are several inches long, whipping their nasty, stinging tails in the air to warn off predators. They are never a match for my shoes. I stomp them and then stomp them again, even though they’re outside. In fact, they’re all outside with the exception of the occasional wall spider. I kill those, too. I am not, by nature, a violent person. But I don’t think that scorpions deserve to live anywhere, even outside. As for spiders, I have no trouble with them outside. It’s when they’re prowling my walls in the bedroom that I find fault. 

These spiders, flat wall spiders, are usually an inch and a half to two inches wide. They’re probably harmless. Still. 

We’ve had centipedes, giant redheads they’re called, that are six to eight inches long. They’re blonde and scaly with two red pinchers on each end and a thousand feet in between. They’re ugly, a little scary and huge.

Like I said, we grow ‘em big out here. 

Witness what was in the portico this morning. Meet one Mr. Tarantulasaurus Rex. A tarantula. He was probably about three inches or so wide, from one hairy leg to the tip of the other seven. It’s our version of the T-Rex. They are terribly unattractive. I am not a fan though I admit to being completely intrigued by them. I know some people keep them for pets. I can’t imagine, in much the same way I can’t imagine keeping a snake for a pet. Some creatures are just not supposed to be cuddled. 

The tarantula, known by Aphonpelma chalcodes, is very common here in the desert. It tends to come out most during monsoon season – we are fast nearing the end of that – and into early fall. They dig holes in the desert that are about the size of a quarter where they nest. If a hole has silk in or over it, it’s an active tarantula nest. Females tend to hang pretty close to their hole while males are often hot footing it around the ‘hood trolling for a date. 

This creature is primitive, just like so many other creatures here in the desert, and has evolved little in terms of appearance in their some 350 million years on earth. Females tend to be light brown while males are darker. They’re furry, supposedly using their hair to sense vibrations which might indicate a predator or prey. They can also flick their hairs at an attacker. These hairs are barbed and irritating though not poisonous, at least not to humans. Neither is their venom. In fact, tarantulas are very docile and only bite when truly provoked. 

Females can live up to 25 years but males usually only live one year past sexual maturity which happens between 8 and 12. They don’t like water, which is interesting considering they come out in monsoon season, only drink occasionally, and in the winter, become dormant. Essentially they crawl into their holes and cover themselves up with silk and soil to wait for the cold to pass. 

They’re gruesome looking but they’re slow and steady and almost always outside. We’ve yet to see one inside. Thank dog.

So there he was, this guy in the portico. It really wasn’t a good place for him to be if only because I didn’t want to look at him. Armed with a long-handled dustpan and the broom, I walked out, swept him up and carried him out to the desert. It was part of the tarantula-relocation program. We run several such programs here including the toad-relocation program, and the Gila monster relocation program. They all get new identities and a new lease on life. In this case, I named our new friend Tarantulasaurus Rex. That’s Mr. T to you. A new friend to celebrate?

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