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What’s Up With Hairy Spiders?!

The masters of B-rated horror flicks figured it out back in the 1950s. Most people are uneasy around spiders, but audiences are terrified by hairy arachnids. A star was born in those scary movies about giant insects, and tarantulas still make regular appearances here in Phoenix and Tucson. They haven’t changed their style in 20 million years, so you have to ask. What’s up with Arizona’s hairy spiders?

They Aren’t What You Think

Your neighborhood biologist doesn’t consider the tarantula as a true spider because it doesn’t capture its prey with sticky webs. It shares this odd trait with only a few mygalomorphic cousins like trapdoor and purseweb spiders. The tarantula uses its weaving talent to create a silky cover over its burrow, and the name of the game is patience. The spider lurks in its cavern until an unsuspecting bug walks across the silk and rings the dinner bell. Whether a prospective meal is a beetle, lizard or mouse, the chase is on, and the ferocious tarantula usually wins.

The Singles Scene Gets Crowded

Have pity on a male tarantula looking for love because the competition is fierce. Spider dating runs from May until July with last-chance slots open September through November. Lonely guy tarantulas move in packs across the landscape hoping to trip the silken door of an interested lady spider. A lucky gentleman tarantula lures out an interested female, and the union produces hundreds of little ones about seven months later. An unlucky gentleman tarantula’s courtship ends when a lady spider makes a meal of the exhausted suitor.

That Hair Is Actually a Weapon

It’s not a designer coif, but it serves the tarantula well. All that hair on the spider’s body sports microscopic barbs tipped with venom, and its sensitivity helps detect the difference between a meal and a predator. You’ve seen a tarantula rear up and wave its front legs with great menace. The spider is actually throwing off abdomen hair in hopes of making you go away. It takes an extremely close encounter for tarantula hair to result in injury, but pity the spider again. Throwing off its hair in self-defense leaves it with noticeable bald spots.

Understanding hairy spiders might not make them any less scary, but you have to admire the tarantula’s role in Arizona’s ecosystem and countless horror movies. We enjoy sharing information about all kinds of insects, and we’re always happy to answer your questions. The next time you wonder what’s up with bugs in your home or yard, just give us a call here at Burns Pest Elimination.

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