Watch as a tarantula spider gets defensive when interrupted as it crosses the road.
I don’t normally see tarantulas this time of year. Usually, they’re much more obvious in September when males travel widely in search of females. During summer, they usually stay in their burrows for protection, wandering only short distances at night when hunting for food. They eat insects and other arthropods but are also capable of overcoming mice and small animals. This evening, however, I spotted a tarantula crossing a road near Sun City. Last fall, wanting video close-ups, I never found one on a number of trips through prime country. So I jumped out with a handheld camera and filmed this unseasonal traveler at road level, point-blank range. As usual, the spider tried to turn away. Though tarantulas have impressive fangs and strong jaws, they prefer running to fighting. I had to hassle this one a little to show the defensive behavior that often leads to the spider’s demise. One reason tarantulas generally stay hidden in burrows is fear of giant black wasps – tarantula hawks – whose purpose is to paralyze these giant spiders and feed their live corpses to wasp young. You’ll note from this video that the spider’s eyes are on the top of its head. Yet when cornered, it rears up to ready its jaws, effectively blinding itself from what’s underneath. And that’s how the wasps attack, rushing in and thrusting their own long abdomen and stinger into the soft underbelly of the spider. A wasp sting usually has about the same effect as a .45 bullet, instantly stunning the victim. The wasp is in peril, but it nearly always wins. You’ll see how this is possible when I finally “treed” the tarantula in roadside grass. It backed against a brace, exposed its great fangs for an attack, and its eyes were completely blocked from a ground level attack. I teased it with a grass straw, and you can observe how it reacted by feel, rather than sight. Then we both went on our way. See the video here: http://lens-on-kansas.blogspot.com/2012/06/tarantula.html