DENVER (KDVR) – Films like “Eight Legged Freaks,” “Arachnophobia,” and “Spider-Man 3” have painted arachnids in a less than appealing light over the decades, and as a result of the widespread and arguably irrational fear, a trip down to southeastern Colorado’s Comanche National Grasslands may be what’s needed to quell that discomfort.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, when male Oklahoma brown tarantulas reach the age of seven they hit sexual maturity. Once the summer months wane and the heat subsides, these males exit their burrows in search of a female to mate with in what experts call a walkabout, as opposed to migration.
The height of this mating season typically falls in mid-to-late September. These males, according to La Junta Tourism, will gather in groups and head out onto the surface of the more than 443,000 acres they usually inhabit, the epicenter of which is near La Junta.
While commonly referred to as a migration, this annual occurrence isn’t exactly that because the spiders do not actually leave the territory where it resides year-round.
Through their sense of touch and the use of vibrations, the males search for females, which remain in their burrows during this process and typically live to be over 20 years of age, according to CPW.
Cheryl Santa Maria with The Weather Network said that once a male detects a nearby female, he will drum his legs and use body vibrations to announce his arrival.
After mating, the male’s life is near its end. After reaching sexual maturity, they lose interest in food, and if they enter a female tarantula’s burrow too hastily, or fail to leave soon enough, they may become her prey.
If you are planning to venture out to take this journey firsthand, CPW has some suggestions to keep both you and the animals safe:
- Research their habitats ahead of time.
- Direct the focus of your search around bushes and be aware that some of these tarantulas will roam into roads. If they do, adhere to proper traffic safety and avoid hanging out in an active street.
- Do not pick them up, instead just take them in visually.
“By better understanding spiders, we can appreciate the balance they maintain for ecosystems and the benefits they provide for human medicine and scientific research. Conservation starts small,” School Program Coordinator with CPW, Erin Kendall, said.
In addition to contributing to the more than 800million tons of insects eaten each year by animals, they also have been the focus of research conducted by engineers as well as those in medicinal research.
According to CPW, the silk that the female uses to protect its burrow from predators is being researched for potential uses in engineering.
CPW also said that the spider’s venom is being researched to see if there are any medicinal benefits in regard to stroke or pain relief.
Again, the best time to see these males will be in mid-to-late September in the hours leading up to sunset, so if you’re ready to overcome any lingering arachnophobia, and see a species that makes Colorado unique, then consider scheduling a trip to the Comanche National Grassland before Fall arrives.