In 1955 my folks built our family home on the edge of “Belmont”, which was the Pueblo version of the suburbs. Our house was at the top of a long and large hill. Our backyard faced east and for six years our fence was the only barrier as far as you could see, towards Kansas. My play ground was the high desert which as best I knew, belonged to everyone.
It was truly the stuff that dreams are made of. We were a post WWII neighborhood filled with kids. “The Prairie” as we called it was ours for the taking. We built forts, took hikes and spent hours chasing lizards and the like. The prairie was filled with Walking Stick cactus, Yucca, Sage and all sorts of grasses, and in August, Sunflowers that would turn parts of the horizon yellow.
The other day I was reading about the annual Tarantula Migration. According to an article published by Colorado State University, the tarantula migration typically starts in southeastern Colorado at the end of August, lasting through September. It is followed by a southwestern migration that typically peaks in October. Following the mating season, all males typically die within months if the cold weather doesn’t kill them first.
One of the best places to see these tarantulas is at Comanche
National Grassland near La Junta, Colorado. This is located in
southeast Colorado, so expect a mid-September peak.
Two more great spots to see this natural phenomenon include
just north of Ordway on Highway 71 and between La Junta and
Kim on Highway 109, according to the La Junta Tribune-
The fall breeding season involves a few different species of
tarantulas found in Colorado including aphonopelma echinum
(nicknamed the Colorado chocolate brown), aphonopelma
coloradanum, and aphonopelma hentzi, also known as
the Oklahoma Brown Tarantula. These hairy eight-legged critters
can grow a leg span of up to 11 inches – that’s nearly twice the
length of a dollar bill!
Male spiders wait 10 years to reach sexual maturity. To find a
female mating partner hidden in a burrow about a foot
underneath the ground, male tarantulas use their hair and legs
to detect vibrations. Sadly, they’ll mate once and die, often killed
by the female they mate with. Female tarantulas can live up to 20
years or more.
So I have given you the backdrop for my little “Arachnophobia”
story. I was about seven and I was out in The Prairie by myself.
It was a beautiful afternoon and I was one with my world. That
all ended when I ran into about four tarantulas moving towards
me. To a 7 year old these things had to be man eaters. I turned
to run home only to have a couple of more of the “horny” spider
males cut off my path. I summoned up the courage to run past
them. I made it home to share tales of escaping a giant spider
The next day in Ms. Hale’s 2nd grade class, Marcy brought a
tarantula to “Show and Tell”, and to make matters worse, she
took it out of the jar and held it. It was the first time in my early
life of patriarchy that I realized that girls were a force to take
I think it was about six years ago at the Denver Zoo that I finally
held a tarantula. I can tell you I never killed them or the many
snakes we encountered. I do remember sending a lizard on a
rocket ride and he survived.
In 1961 they started building houses where tarantulas once
roamed. The world was not improved much with their
encroachment on my personal zoo.
As I think about the fate of male tarantulas I realize that only a
male would give up his life as a dinner for one sexual encounter.
Onward and Upward, Mark