Where Ya Headed?

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Yesterday afternoon I took a drive over to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  In order to get there from where we live one must cross the Tucson Mountains on Tucson’s west side.  It’s a scenic drive and quite hilly in a few places.  It had just rained as I was driving over there — we’ve had uncharacteristically unsettled weather the past couple of days — and the road was wet and practically deserted.  Suddenly, something moving on the edge of the pavement caught my eye.  I slowed to take a look and saw a large tarantula, almost certainly a male, trudging along, parallel to the right of way.  Walking along a public road, even a nearly empty one, is no safe place for a tarantula and I decided to play Good Samaritan.  I pulled over, parked, and gently steered the tarantula off the road and into the adjacent brush, using the toe of my shoe as a goad.  The tarantula was reluctant at first, but then, obligingly changed direction and walked away from the road.

Of course, I took its picture once it was out of harm’s way.

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This is a very large tarantula, one of the biggest I’ve photographed.  It measures about six inches from front to rear.  Now, comes the mystery.  What was it doing strolling along a public road in broad daylight?

That’s a little hard to explain and I can only make a somewhat informed guess.  During the summer, rain brings out the male tarantulas, who wander the desert looking for love.  Perhaps the uncharacteristically heavy rain — accompanied by lighting and thunder — that we’ve received in the past few days triggered some primal instinct in this spider and it decided to go search for a mate.  That sounds right, but what is puzzling is the fact that this tarantula was out in daylight.  Tarantulas are nocturnal and the males usually search for mates at night.

And, there’s another mystery surrounding this tarantula.  I’m pretty sure it’s a male, but I’m not 100% certain.  Male tarantulas tend to be much darker than the females, more slender, and with longer legs in proportion to their bodies.  This individual is as blond as a female tarantula and is definitely on the beefy side.

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So, is it a boy, or is it a girl?  I’m voting “boy” primarily based on the fact that the females almost never leave their burrows.  As uncharacteristic as it may be for a male tarantula to be out wandering in broad daylight in October, it is almost unheard of for a female to be out and about at any time of the year, day or night.  Also, there is color variation among individual tarantulas and this one is probably just a very light colored male.

Finally, some of you might ask — isn’t it dangerous to be fooling with a huge spider like this one?  No.  Tarantulas are inoffensive and rarely offer to bite, even when molested.  Furthermore, their bites are about as painful as a bee sting.  Lots of people keep these spiders as pets and handle them.

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 200, f13 @ 1/160.

One response to “Where Ya Headed?”

  1. Liesl Kii says :

    You are a true good samaritan!

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