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Wild Ideas: Tarantulas

Arkansas’s largest spider is on the move this time of year.

When male tarantulas are 8 to 10 years old, they leave their burrows in search of mates from August to November. People in the uplands of Arkansas – especially in dry, rocky places – often see them crossing roads.

A male introduces himself by tapping on the silk strands at the entrance to a female’s burrow. A female, who can live more than 20 years, may respond to his offer of courtship. After mating, the female returns to her burrow and soon seals the entrance in preparation for winter. The male’s future is bleaker – he wanders off to die.

Although they’re big, tarantulas are not aggressive. But if they’re threatened, they can respond with a bite that feels like a bee sting. Tarantulas do not spin webs to catch prey – they grab insects such as crickets that they encounter.

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