Time To Watch For Tarantulas In Bandelier National Monument

Male tarantulas can be spotted in Bandelier National Monument in autumn as they set out to find a mate. Photo Courtesy NPS


About this time of year, tarantulas start making themselves known in Bandelier National Monument and in other parts of New Mexico. Every autumn, mature male tarantulas start out on their quest to find a mate, exposing them to many dangers, from hawks and skunks, which want to eat them, to fast-moving cars or people who want to squash them.

Tarantulas have been around for over 16 million years. They have venom, but for the ones around here, it is about equivalent to a wasp sting. Local tarantulas also have barbed urticating (stinging) bristles which they can brush from their abdomens in self-defense; these are particularly harmful if breathed into the lungs and can do permanent damage to eyes. Generally, they are easy-going creatures.

They are spiders, with eight legs. Tarantulas are hunters, preying on such creatures as centipedes, millipedes, beetles andsmaller spiders. In turn, they are considered food by predators including hawks, owls, coyotes, foxes and snakes. They are very long lived; females may live 30-40 years, spending most of that time in a burrow. Males mature in 2-5 years and seldom live more than a year or so after that, partly because of having to go out into the world to find a female.

The wandering individuals seen in fall are almost certainly males, trying to reproduce in the short time available to them. The females stay at their burrows. The males follow hormone scents to try to find them. If you see one of these males, be kind. If he’s in a threatening location like a road or trail, and it’s feasible, consider helping with a piece of carboard or a magazine for him to crawl onto. Be aware for your own safety in that location! Place him off the road or trail in the direction he was traveling. Don’t squash him. Let him proceed on his mission to provide future generations of tarantulas. Hopefully these big hairy spiders will share the earth with us for another 16 million years.