Mexican Blond Tarantulas In Our Back Yard — Meet Fluffy And Buffy

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Recently, I discovered a tarantula burrow in our back yard.  The local species of tarantula — the Mexican Blond — is a burrow dweller.  It digs a burrow, sometimes as much as a couple of feet long, and spends nearly its entire life either living in the burrow or standing adjacent to it on the ground’s surface.  This species is an ambush predator.  A tarantula waits for prey, usually an insect or invertebrate, to blunder within attack range and then it pounces on it with lightning speed, subdues it with its venom, and then, dines leisurely.

Mexican Blonde Tarantulas are almost exclusively nocturnal.  I went back to this burrow on several consecutive nights before successfully photographing a fairly large tarantula, about three inches in diameter, sitting next to the burrow’s entrance.

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Much to my delight, I soon found a second tarantula’s burrow not far from the first one and I was successful in photographing that burrow’s resident as well.  At first, it demurely peeked over the lip of its burrow when I attempted to photograph it.

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On another occasion I was able to photograph the entire spider as it sat on the ground near its burrow’s entrance.

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Mexican Blonde Tarantulas are a species that is native to southern Arizona and Mexico.  These tarantulas are quite large.  There are other species of tarantula living in parts of the United States but no other attains the dimensions of the Mexican Blonde.

I decided to name these two tarantulas for identification purposes.  I named the first individual “Fluffy,” because it is covered with coarse hair and the second one “Buffy,” because of its tan legs.   Of  the two, Fluffy is slightly larger.  That aside, these two are virtually identical in appearance.

Fluffy and Buffy appear to be immature tarantulas.  I cannot determine these tarantulas’ gender because young male and female tarantulas look alike.  When a male attains adulthood it turns quite dark in color.   Some adult males are nearly black.  Its legs are proportionately longer than the female’s and there are other differentiating characteristics as well. Adult females tend to be larger and stockier than the males and are pale in color (hence the name “Mexican Blonde Tarantula”).  Males attain sexual maturity at about age 10.  They then leave their burrows and roam around for a few weeks seeking mates.  They die shortly after mating.  Females can mate repeatedly and may live to about age 20.  They almost never leave the vicinity of their burrows.

Tarantulas may be formidable in appearance but, in fact, they pose no threat to humans and are extremely timid.  These tarantulas have a venomous bite that is about as potent as a bee sting.  Virtually no one is ever bitten, however.  Tarantulas will never bite unless provoked and, in fact, it takes a lot of provocation to elicit a defensive response from one of these spiders.

It took me numerous efforts to photograph Fluffy and Buffy — they tend to run and hide in their burrows the instant they detect my presence.  Tarantulas have terrible vision.  Their eyes are mere dots on the tops of their heads.  But, they have an almost uncanny ability to sense vibrations.  My approaching footsteps were all that Fluffy and Buffy needed to cue them to flee.

Here’s hoping that these two live long lives in our backyard.  They mean me no harm and I greatly appreciate their presence.

Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 mm f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, M setting, ISO 160, f10 @ 1/160.

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