It’s been years since a male Alphonopelma chalcodes provided a SpiderMatch.com photo op on our Cochise County acreage; the desert tarantulas are, for us, enjoyable but rare sightings. Females are even more challenging; we’ve only had one sighting of a girl tarantula in the eight summers we’ve lived here, and she disappeared into the brush in a hurry. Thus it was that I (mentally) exclaimed in delight when I stepped out from the porch late Sunday afternoon and spotted Mr. Tarantula headed my way. Even if he wasn’t of the trickier gender, he was still a welcome sight.
Unfortunately, my book of song lyrics was in my hand but the Canon PowerShot was not on my belt; I take that off when I’m going out to the truck to practice singing and guitar picking–which is often better than practicing in the house, as my wife’s ears do have their limits.
The tarantula stopped about ten feet away, resting for a moment. Will you still be around if I dash back inside to get my camera? The question was mental, but I was moving within seconds, back inside, setting the songbook down on the table, zipping back to my bedroom, grabbing the camera, and returning to the front step. Amazingly, Mr. T hadn’t moved a millimeter; he was patiently waiting for the cameraman. Thanks, I thought to my new friend…drat! The screen display went black, sneering at me: Install fresh battery pack, fool! Or words to that effect.
No problem for Mr. T. He still didn’t move, politely watching while the camera battery was changed out and the first couple of photos were taken.
Here on this page, one of the later shots will be shown first–just because it’s that good.
SpiderMatch.com? Okay, the dot com part is a joke…but the SpiderMatch part, not so much.
Once the camera and I were ready, Mr. T. obligingly began moving again, heading more or less in my direction, modeling for a number of great face-on photos. Here are a few.
Wait, there’s more! But first, a few thoughts about the impact of past lives on the Here and Now. If you don’t believe in reincarnation (and I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t), this part can perhaps serve as nothing more than a bit of twisted humor…but if you happen accept reincarnation as reality (as I do), then we’re looking at some serious food for thought.
See, the male desert tarantula has it tough. The female Alphonopelma chalcodes hunkers down in her burrow for the most part, forcing the sucker…uh, the male…to come a-hunting for a little spider romance. Mr. T, hardwired to do what he’s gotta do, ventures forth to find a mate in late summer, and the odds are seriously stacked against him. He might be a big bad tarantula, but he’s easy pickings for quite a few predators as well, including some birds, snakes, and especially the nasty waspy critter known as a tarantula hawk. If the wandering spider is spotted by a tarantula hawk, it’s all over but the pain. When the killer swoops in, the doomed tarantula will rear up on his hind legs in an attempt to defend himself, but the gesture is as futile as a mouse attempting to defy a cat. One venomous sting later, the tarantula is paralyzed, then hauled off to serve as food for the wasp’s offspring…eventually.
Even if Mr. T survives the terrible dangers of the desert long enough to find a lady spidey, he has to court her a bit–and if she accepts his overtures and he gets to fertilize her eggs, she will (like the black widow) kill and suck his juices, suck him dry until he’s nothing but a withered husk. Because after all, she doesn’t need him any more, and he is a most excellent source of protein. Yum!
Now, fast forward to a man in today’s world, a man who in his own distant past history had a lifetime or three as a male desert tarantula. He survives the business world, including hostile takeover attempts on Wall Street, then meets this stunningly beautiful woman…who says to him, “Mmm, you look good enough to eat!”
Subconsciously remembering his spider-lunch experience, he knows she means what she says. Is it any wonder so many men have a fear of commitment? Eh? Eh?
Not to knock the distaff gender. You ladies need to know what a truly handsome male looks like, too; you wouldn’t want to have your eggs fertilized by an inferior donor. So here are a few pictures to help you identify the cowardly Mr. T when he’s running in the opposite direction as fast as he can.
Philosophical discussion of reincarnation aside, the desert tarantula is a fascinating creature–not if you have a phobia, of course, but otherwise–and this individual, Mr. T, exhibited some remarkable behavior as we communed during this photo shoot. Not only did he wait for me to get ready to start taking pictures, but he then approached in friendly fashion (there was nothing but good will between us). As he got closer, I actually thought about seeing if he would come on up and climb onto my hand, but decided that probably wasn’t the best idea. If I let him climb my pants leg (outside, hopefully), I might soon lose track of him and have difficulty getting him back to the ground without hurting or at least scaring him. If I encouraged him to climb onto my hand, I’d have to put the camera down and use both hands if he wanted to keep moving, letting him climb “hand over hand.” Probably not the best plan.
As an alternative, I picked a “comfort zone” that enjoyed his approach but hoped he’d stop by the time he hit my “personal space” line, which was roughly two feet from my two feet as I squatted on the step, clicking the camera shutter. So how did that work out? Mr. T came ambling right up to that two foot line…hesitated, then veered off to the right, looped around, came back to the line…hesitated, then headed off to the left.
We were completely in tune.
As he looped around to the north side of the porch, he came upon a big black plastic toolbox sitting in the little gazebo that used to house a bird feeder. When he decided to climb the side of the box–until he encountered the lid and turned to go back down–the auto focus feature on the camera produced some pictures unlike any I’d seen before. Take a look.
Mr. T kept on exploring, as his instincts required him to do. He went up and down the side of the porch wall, then around front again, across the step (which I’d vacated as I moved around to keep clicking photos), and finally, off into deep cover under heavy monsoon-encouraged vegetation on the other side of the porch. I was sorry to see him go, but when the photos were later uploaded into the computer, I had more than one hundred pictures of this desert tarantula that were good enough to consider for publication. I’m pretty sure I’d lose a lot of readers if I published all of them, though, so we’ll close out with a final few.