Tarantula mating season has returned to San Luis Obispo County, and males are on the prowl looking for love.
The large, hairy arachnids haven’t been quite as active on the Central Coast during the short mating season this fall, according to Ron Ruppert, biology division chairman at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo.
Ruppert, who has worked at Cuesta College since 1978, said he’s heard fewer tarantula sighting stories this year compared to 2016. He said the eight-legged critters are more commonly seen around North County cities such as Atascadero and Paso Robles.
Any tips for those who might encounter a tarantula crossing a hiking trail?
“I recommend people enjoy them and not be afraid of them,” Ruppert said. “There are so many myths about tarantulas — one of them being that they can jump a foot in the air.”
Ruppert said tarantulas will crouch down to defend themselves and extend their legs, but they never actually leave the ground. Also, their bites aren’t considered deadly.
The one thing to watch for if you decide to pick up a tarantula, Ruppert said, is the hairs they shed can cause an irritating rash.
“They’re not going to attack you,” Ruppert added.
Tarantula mating will last through the end of October, according to the National Park Service, which asks people to not touch or otherwise harass the spiders. Males have been known to search for up to four miles to find a female.
Tarantulas weave webs just above ground, outside females’ burrows. According to the park service, mating occurs when the male approaches the female’s burrow and taps on the web strands outside the entrance. If the female is willing, she’ll come outside and receive his sperm, which he deposits on a web that she then uses to fertilize her eggs.
While female tarantulas can live for up to 25 years, the average lifespan of the male is only seven or eight years. To make matters worse, female tarantulas have been known to eat the males if they linger too long after copulation.