Friday, July 13, 2012

Tarantulas are Out and About

A nice, mellow-tempered tarantula revealed itself yesterday, in an unusual way. As Gary opened the door to the solar shed, if fell down from a high perch onto his shoulder, and proceeded to slither down to the floor. Then it hid itself among some tools in a dark corner. I went out with a bowl and gently encouraged it to climb in, then relocated it to a good spot for a photo shoot.

This spider should belong to the genus Aphonopelma, as the majority of North American tarantulas north of Mexico do, but at the moment I have not identified it to species.

A dark, almost black tarantula.

A close-up, showing the fangs (smaller, medial) and palps (to the sides of the fangs and leg-like), as well as the tiny eyes.

With photographer's finger for scale!
A few tarantula hawk wasps (genus Pepsis) have been seen around the property in the past weeks, and the large females will seek out tarantulas to sting, and then story in an underground burrow as a food source for the wasp's larva. On a couple occasions, I've stumbled upon a wasp-spider showdown and the wasp must be very nimble to manage to deliver its massive sting while avoiding being bitten by the fairly massive fangs of the tarantula! This photo was one I took in the mid-1990s at the former NAS Miramar of a female Pepsis with its paralyzed tarantula prey, just at the split second before the spider was released into the wasp's burrow. By the way, our local tarantulas do not have venom as potent as, say a Black Widow spider, or even close. If a local tarantula bit you, it would be somewhat painful, but not much worse than a bee-sting (for a non-allergic person!).

Probably Pepsis mildei with tarantula prey. NAS Miramar, San Diego County, California. Mid 1990s.
Although all the tarantulas that I have observed in southern California over the years look somewhat like the one in the top three photos, there are other more colorful and larger species in neighboring Arizona and beyond. Below is a Desert Blonde Tarantula (Aphonopelma chalcodes) that I photographed south of Tucson, Arizona last summer. A spectacular spider, to day the least!

Desert Blonde Tarantula, rest area along the I-19 corridor, south of Tucson, Arizona. Summer 2011.


  1. Yes this is the time of year where everything is energized by the monsoonal moisture. I use to see them more in Anza in late afternoon very early evenings just after the rains had started, though I'm sure they were around before that. Amazing how most folks associate them with deserts and such but chaparral country is loaded with them.

    I see you've finally had your fair share of monsoonal moisture as of late. Been following Radar activity over there. Things here are strange as far as growing season. ALL deciduous trees and shrubs didn't bloom until end of May, barely any fruit anywhere on ALL cherry trees, apple and most all shrubs of the currant and gooseberry kind. Blueberries are no shows and my grass which is normally a weekly mowing event I have only done once. But here's the kicker. It's been insane as far as pouring rain events every day.

    Go figure.


  2. Strange -- didn't you have an unusually cold, snowy winter (I heard stories of that sort for certain parts of Europe, anyway). Did you have a cold spring? When plants aren't acting right (seasonally speaking), its tempting to blame climate change...and it MAY be the culprit!

    We also have had a little outbreak of several kinds of jumping spiders lately. They are tiny, but really lively and personality-filled, and with the new macro lens I can finally get halfway decent shots of them. Maybe that will be the farewell blog post before our trip.

  3. We didn't have a really cold winter at all, that's what is bizarre about all the trees and shrubs waiting till the middle or end of May. I'm finding prople here everywhere talking about no berries in the gardens and in the wild.

    Those jumping spiders are funny and bold. Stick your finger near one and they raises their front legs as if to take you on. Of course I'd never do that with a Sidney Funnel Web, because they don't bluff.

    How much rain did you get ? I found a few totals on the local charts, but you know how flaky thunderstorms are with consistant coverage.

    Nation Weather Service Forecast Office - San Diego CA



  4. We got a grand total of 0.01 inches! Rather disappointing... It looked like some spots in the desert got rich down-poars, according to the radar imagery, but the official record from the NWS was also 0.01 inches for Borrego Springs. Now the monsoon has died down again, but it seems like the trend in recent years has been more activity in August and September.