HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO)—What has eight legs and a need for love? Numerous tarantulas have made their appearance in parts of the Rio Grande Valley.
From late May to October they appear in places from the desert to grasslands throughout Texas.
ValleyCentral.com reached out to Dr. Christopher Vitek, UTRGV associate professor of biology, to ask about these sightings.
Dr. Vitek said tarantulas become more active during mating season. They are solitary creatures, and the males usually need to move around more to find females for mating.
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“I think the most important thing about tarantulas is the old adage, they are more scared of you than you are of them,” said Dr. Vitek. “Anything they do would be a defensive behavior because they think you are attacking or trying to eat them.”
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Defensive behavior can usually be recognized initially by rearing the front legs, according to Vitek. If you see a tarantula do this it is basically warning you “I don’t like what you are doing!.”
The creatures also have urticating hairs, tiny hairs that are able to be shaken off and can cause itching and irritation.
If you see a tarantula shakings its abdomen rapidly, maybe moving its legs over its abdomen, it is “throwing” those hairs at you, it is a warning it wants you to back off.
If you come across a tarantula in the RGV, it most likely going to be a Texas brown. They are common throughout Texas and people recognize them because of their size.
Will, it hurt you? According to Dr. Vitek, Tarantulas can deliver a nasty bite. They do have venom, although most tarantulas venom is fairly weak and the main concern is the actual bite.
“The bite can hurt, in that sense, they can be harmful,” said Dr. Vitek. “You generally don’t have to worry about a tarantula bite as a concern for venom.”
These tarantulas are ground-dwelling. You may commonly see them hiding under logs, rocks, palm fronds, etc.
“They are less likely to be climbing somewhere, so you probably won’t see them in trees or on walls,” said Dr. Vitek.
If you see one, make sure to watch it from a distance if interested, but avoid getting too close! It may result in the defensive behavior mentioned above.