Monday, August 18, 2014

Desert tarantulas on the move in Lincoln County

Dave Tremblay recently took pictures of this tarantula in Lincoln County. "The desert tarantula is one of the most misunderstood creatures in the arid Southwest," Tremblay said. "Despite its fearsome appearance, this fascinating arachnid is docile, reclusive, and nearly harmless." The Desert Tarantula is one of about 50 species of terrestrial tarantulas native to the southwestern and central United States. "What makes tarantulas look hairy is the thousands of hair-like filaments or fine bristles that cover much of their bodies," Tremblay said. "The main function of these hairs (called setae) is to help the spider, which has very poor eyesight, sense the presence of prey, determine wind direction, identify chemical signatures (such as pheromones), and assess other vital elements of its environment." Tarantulas will be on the move in southern New Mexico when mating season is underway in September. You may see more of them running around your routine hiking trail. "Tarantulas are mostly harmless to humans," said Woods Houghton, Eddy County Extension Service agriculture agent. "Some people can have an allergic reaction to the mild venom they produce, but that's about it." Mating season for tarantulas usually begins around September and October. However, "mating for the spiders heavily depends on the amount of rain in the southern New Mexico area," Houghton said. "Out here we noticed that it depends a lot on how early rainfall comes," Houghton said. "If we get rainfall, it happens more quickly." Mating could begin as early as July in the area, Houghton said. Females usually burrow in the ground and use their legs to send vibrations to attract male tarantulas, Houghton said. More than 500 eggs can hatch after the female tarantula seals them, according to the National Geographic website...more

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