Ever since the drought began, mating season for the tarantulas native to Mount Diablo in the East Bay has been getting earlier and earlier, and this time of year means that mature male tarantulas are out and about, often on hiking trails, seeking female tarantulas to mate with.
Tarantulas, you see, typically lead a pretty solitary, nocturnal life until mating season arrives, which these days begins in late September (back in 2014 they were out in force in August). These particular male tarantulas take eight to ten years to reach adulthood, at which time they go out in search of mates, and then they've only got six months left to live after mating, so that's sad. Female tarantulas of this species, though, can live 30 to 40 years. Jesus.
California tarantulas like these, as KQED explains, are generally "gentle giants," and slightly smaller than their cousins the Goliath birdeater tarantulas (Theraphosa blondi) native to South America. But they have their limits.
Tarantulas have a couple of defensive behaviors as they are sometimes considered food items by other animals. They defend themselves by rubbing or flicking irritating hairs off of their abdomen with their hind legs. If these get into any animals’ eyes, noses or mouths, it will be enough to dissuade them from eating the spider and can even cause blindness. Tarantulas also have large fangs with venom. Their bite hurts like a honeybee sting and some people experience a similar allergic reaction to it.
If, unlike me, you would like to get up close and personal with the enormous fuzzy spiders, the Mount Diablo Interpretive Association offers guided hikes, for which you will need a reservation.
As ABC 7 explains in the video explainer below, it is just a myth that female tarantulas kill and eat their mates after mating... the males do indeed walk away.
But dear god don't ever let me see when 100 tarantula babies are born.