Cochise County: Male Desert Tarantula (Alphonopelma Chalcodes), Stops By in SpiderMatch.com Quest

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.

My new friend Mr. T., a male desert tarantula who stopped by on Sunday afternoon, August 21, 2016.  Cochise County, Arizona.

My new friend Mr. T., a male desert tarantula who stopped by on Sunday afternoon, August 21, 2016. Cochise County, Arizona.

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.

Mr. T, the male desert tarantula, coming to see how the camera guy is doing.

Mr. T, the male desert tarantula, coming to see how the camera guy is doing.

It's tough going over those driveway rocks, but the tarantula beats a Jeep Rubicon hands down.  No way can four mere wheels compete with eight capable legs.

It’s tough going over those driveway rocks, but the tarantula beats a Jeep Rubicon hands down. No way can four mere wheels compete with eight capable legs.

Those shorter in-the-air front appendages that look like arms?  That's what they are, more or less:  Pedipalps, used to grab prey (lunch) and pull it to the mouth parts to be sucked dry.  Spider Man, eat your heart out.

Those shorter in-the-air front appendages that look like arms? That’s what they are, more or less: Pedipalps, used to grab prey (lunch) and pull it to the mouth parts to be sucked dry. Spider Man, eat your heart out.

This is a remarkable shot, showing the mouth parts (below the eyes) spread open in a spidey smile.  Who knew they could do that?

This is a remarkable shot, showing the mouth parts (below the eyes) spread open in a spidey smile. Who knew they could do that?

Up close and leggy.  While traveling over rough terrain, the abdomen (red-haired rear end) is often carried in vertical position, presumably to avoid dragging on rocks.

Up close and leggy. While traveling over rough terrain, the abdomen (red-haired rear end) is often carried in vertical position, presumably to avoid dragging on rocks.

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.

Mr. T turning away, preparing to move out in a different direction.

Mr. T turning away, preparing to move out in a different direction.

Getting it in gear.

Getting it in gear.

Don't wait up for me, woman.  When you say I look good enough to eat, I take you at your word.

Don’t wait up for me, woman. When you say I look good enough to eat, I take you at your word.

This photo is remarkable for its color combination if nothing else.

This photo is remarkable for its color combination if nothing else.

Doesn't it look like Mr. T's flaming red tail hairs have caught in fire, like his afterburners cut in?

Doesn’t it look like Mr. T’s flaming red tail hairs have caught in fire, like his afterburners cut in?

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, the male desert tarantula, heads up the side of the mud-spattered toolbox.

Mr. T, the male desert tarantula, heads up the side of the mud-spattered toolbox.

The auto focus feature on the camera produced this photo effect.

The auto focus feature on the camera produced this photo effect.

TARANTULA male ALLEN'S birthday 086

And...back to level concrete.

And…back to level concrete.

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.

A lovable face right there, as long as you're too big to be eaten.

A lovable face right there, as long as you’re too big to be eaten.

Rock and Roll, baby!

Rock and Roll, baby!

Get down, dude!

Get down, dude!

A-one, anna two!

A-one, anna two!

Crossing the boot-scraper mat on the front porch step.

Crossing the boot-scraper mat on the front porch step.

The stake the desert tarantula is crossing is one and one half inches wide, to give the viewer some sense of scale.

The stake the desert tarantula is crossing is one and one half inches wide, to give the viewer some sense of scale.

And finally, under cover, into the mini-jungle next to the south side of the porch.

And finally, under cover, into the mini-jungle next to the south side of the porch.

4 thoughts on “Cochise County: Male Desert Tarantula (Alphonopelma Chalcodes), Stops By in SpiderMatch.com Quest

  1. When I lived in Parker, I saw a whole herd of these crossing the road a couple of different times. I have seen one of these since we moved here though. It was more brown and was crossing the road while I was driving down it. I did not realize what it was until I had gone past it. It seemed to me that it was more all-over brown(would that be a female). It was also not as large(it was only about an inch and a half). I just saw it about a month ago. I guess they are being nice to my arachnophobia and staying away from me.

  2. That does sound like a female, all right–considered “blonde” by the bug experts, but certainly not a platinum blonde. I’ve never seen a herd of males crossing a road, but then I’ve never lived in the right area for that, either. I do count myself fortunate not to suffer from arachnophobia, and double fortunate to have discovered how to deal with a brown recluse bite (poultices mainly, both activated charcoal and bentonite clay, which we have on hand) after being bitten on the elbow in early July. (Never saw the spider, but it was definitely a recluse.) Did use some antibiotics for that one for a few days, as well, but the swelling and inflammation never went down a bit until the poultices were applied.

    I checked back to my years-earlier male tarantula post as a reference before writing this one. That sighting took place when the sun was out, but the photos were few and taken in a hurry; the traveler wasn’t hanging around to commune with me like this one did, and it was also a lot warier. And moving faster. This fellow wasn’t exactly dawdling, but he was taking his time, not rushing.

  3. I got bit by a brown recluse about 8 years ago. I still have a scar from it. I did not know what bit me, but put hydrocodone ointment on it for the itch. The next day at work, my boss looked at it and sent me right to the Dr. He knew what a bite looked like and it already had red lines running out from it. The Dr. said I put the right thing on it and gave me heavy duty antibiotics and Allegra D. Allegra to help counteract allergic reaction from the bite. The lines disappeared in about 3 days, but it still left a scar on my leg. Good thing it was shorts weather and we all wore shorts to work at that place, even in winter.

  4. Yeah, you didn’t have much margin for error left if the red lines were already spreading. Which I’m sure you know. I didn’t know much about brown recluse spiders until Pam got bitten on her right hand when we lived off grid in Montana in 1999. Trouble was with that one, none of us, including her doctor, recognized it for what it was right away. It was something like 3 or 4 days after the bite before she and I figured it out, looking stuff up at the public library in Great Falls.

    Once we got it diagnosed, we called her doctor immediately–who lived in a town a good 150 miles away. He did a palm-slap-to-forehead moment over the phone, “I should have realized that immediately!”, and called in an Azithromax antibiotics prescription to the Great Falls pharmacy we used. (It was a long drive to see him, but he worked closely with my RN sister, which was why he was her doctor at the time.)

    But we couldn’t wait for the Zith to kick in, so we grabbed some baking soda and applied baking soda poultices to the bite site for the remainder of that day, redoing every time it dried out for quite a number of hours. The Zith killed the rest of the infection eventually, but without the poultices, she might well have lost the hand entirely. No red lines or scarring, but that hand was never fully “right” after that.

    At the library, once we came across a description that fit, Pam also had a “duh!” moment. Her son Zach, at a very young age (five), got a brown recluse bite–and part of the home treatment their doctor prescribed was for her to squeeze the venom out constantly, which of course was extremely painful for the youngster and no fun for Mama, either. In no case we’ve come across so far has any M.D. even thought about poultices; those have always been “home brewed” solutions.

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