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The Great Tarantula “Mate-Gration”

The Great Tarantula “Mate-Gration”

By Jackson Howard

Each fall in the southeastern plains of Colorado, close to La Junta, hordes of tarantulas decides to make their trek across the landscape in search of love. 

Yes, you read that correctly, tarantulas are out seeking love just like you and me. 

This phenomenon has traditionally been called a migration but is actually an annual mating ritual performed by male tarantulas who roam over 440,000 acres on the Comanche National Grassland looking to mate.  

There are numerous species of tarantulas that live here in Colorado, but you are most likely to spot the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula when in La Junta.  

This dark brown to black species of the genus Aphonopelma is common here because its females prefer to make their burrows in the plentiful undisturbed prairies on the Comanche National Grassland of Southeast Colorado. Once these females have made their burrows, they tend to stick close to them for the entirety of their lives, which can be 25 years long.  

This long journey to find a mate, unfortunately, comes with many dangers. Hundreds of tarantulas are killed by cars as they attempt to cross the highways. Tarantulas have an important influence on our environment, which all life depends on. Dr. Rich Reading, Vice President of Science and Conservation at Butterfly Pavilion stated in The Denver Post, “They are a critical part of the equilibrium of the prairie and grasslands. They are an important apex predator in the invertebrate population as well as being an important part of the food chain.”  

While the amazing tarantula “mate-gration” may have come to an end in Southern Colorado, the research has not. Butterfly Pavilion’s research team led by Dr. Rich Reading, is working with the Colorado Department of Transportation, to explore possible solutions for these wandering tarantulas looking for love. We are now in the “next” stage of field studies, seeking to learn more about tarantulas and where there is the highest population near the highways for a potential project that could help protect tarantulas from danger on the highways, especially during mating season. 

La Junta, Colorado hopes to become the Tarantula Are you interested in meeting your own 8-legged friend? 

Read the full story on The Denver Post by photojournalist, Helen Richardson, who joined Butterfly Pavilion on this journey!

Photos: 2022 tarantula mating "migration" in Southern Colorado (denverpost.com) 

 

Here are some quick Tarantula Viewing Tips: 

- September is the ideal time of the year to view tarantulas  

- Venture out on a day that is warm, and preferably not too windy  

- Some tarantulas may be more active in the late afternoon  

- The ideal viewing time is an hour before sunset  

- Venture out around 5:45 – 6:00 pm  

- Peak viewing will only last about an hour  

- Scout areas where there are tarantula hawks – the spider hunting wasps that hunt tarantulas  

- An ideal viewing is south of La Junta on Highway 109 on the Comanche National Grassland  

- Be aware of cars and trucks traveling the roads at all times  

- Park as far off the road as you can or find a turnout or intersection to view the tarantulas.  

 

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