Just when you needed more nightmare fuel: Tarantulas are running around the San Francisco area!
Drier, warmer-than-usual weather in Northern California is causing a strange natural phenomenon — scores of lovelorn male tarantulas are roving the area in search of single ladies. (Lady tarantulas, that is.) The Bay Area blond tarantulas, or Aphonopelma smithi, are called that because they are the only tarantula native to the region.
Typically, the male tarantulas have already mated and perished at this point in the season. They’re still out and about this year, though, hoping to meet a special gal hiding in her burrow. The desperate suitors wander hill and dale in search of a receptive female and, if they’re lucky enough to mate, die shortly after.
“They’re not returning home,” Cameron Morrison, supervising state park peace officer for Mount Diablo State Park, told ABC News about the arachnids he calls “gentle giants.” “That’s their final voyage, basically.”
Far from being freaked, some Californians are embracing the extra time to hang with the imposing-looking arachnids. Instagram user @flyking45 happily posted a pic of a fine specimen he encountered:
@child_of_nature78 shared the story and photos of a big fella he showed off to a family looking for the spiders:
@tarafirmafarms spotted a big ‘un in late September after it nearly got squashed by out-of-towners:
The small town of Coarsegold, near Yosemite National Park, even hosts a Tarantula Awareness Festival in late October to celebrate the beasts, complete with tarantula races, costumes, a scream-off and a hairy leg contest. This year, it’ll be on Oct. 26.
Like the brown tarantulas that march through Colorado each year, these guys aren’t new to the locals. They’ve just got a little extra time for mating this fall.
Folks in tarantula country also know that, despite their horror-movie looks, tarantulas are relatively peaceful creatures unless provoked. Their bite is about as venomous as a bee sting — but they can shed tiny body hairs when they’re spooked, which can cause skin and eye irritation.
Depending on your perspective, this year’s tarantula bachelors have either really great or really bad timing. On one hand, the sight of a huge spider outdoors is seasonally appropriate! On the other hand, that spider just might get mistaken for a scary Halloween decoration.