It’s the stuff of nightmares for some, but it’s simply summer in southeastern Colorado, where thousands – yes, thousands – of male tarantulas are making the trek to find a mate.
The Texas brown tarantula, with a leg span of about 4 to 5 inches, typically makes the journey from late August to October once it reaches sexual maturity at around 10 years old.
But there’s no need to bug out if you see the fuzzy eight-legged creature, as they’re pretty much harmless, said Mario Padilla, head entomologist at the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center near Denver.
“This specific group of tarantulas is completely docile. They’re not looking to harm humans,” he said.
Tarantulas may strike if provoked, but their venom is comparable to that of a bee sting.
The spiders are looking for undisturbed prairie rangelands – much like those offered by Comanche National Grassland in southeast Colorado – because that’s where females are often found.
Male tarantulas can journey up to a mile, Padilla said. Once he finds a female, known to live in burrows, the male tarantulas will drum outside the opening.
Unfortunately for gentleman suitors, males typically don’t live long after the deed is done. Male spiders will live two or three months after reaching sexual maturity – if the females don’t eat them first.
According to Padilla, tarantulas are relatively solitary creatures, so, luckily, it’s unlikely that onlookers will spot waves of the fuzzy brown arachnids.
However, spider enthusiasts sometimes flock to the grassy region in hopes of spotting a tarantula or capturing one to keep as a pet. Motorists may even see one crawling across the road.
A tourism website for nearby La Junta, Colorado, even offers a few tips for tourists hoping to spot the adventurers. Among them: Head out when it’s warm but not windy, and “things really pick up in the hour before sunset.”
Padilla added that while the tarantulas may give some the creeps, they munch on things that humans often consider pests, including cockroaches, beetles and other insects.
“There’s seriously no need to fear these creatures. They’re fascinating and just like us, just trying to live their daily lives,” Padilla said.