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Tarantulas: Not as Fierce as They Look
Live and Let Live
These gentle giants normally won't try to bite unless they are cornered or injured. When given the chance they would rather run than fight. Every time I see one of these hairy legged arachnids walking on tip toe through the grass, nimble as a tap dancer and intent as a hound dog searching the scent of a fox, I stop and watch a while. They are almost....cute.
Once I stumbled upon a red tarantula hawk wasp buzzing around its immobilized prey. The wasp was more aggressive towards me than I've ever seen any of these spiders be. Its buzzing and diving led me to investigate why it was trying to chase me, and I found it was guarding a limp young spider that it had somehow squeezed under a gutter drain board. In the end I left them both alone, simultaneously fascinated and horrified.
To my great surprise I discovered when they run through the grass beneath bright sunlight, some of them seem to sparkle an iridescent blue similar to the coloring of an indigo bunting. It almost looks like a hologram on their backs.
Sorry Mr. Spider!
I was doing a little yard work, and I honestly didn't know it was under that patch of overgrown edge grass. The very large spider (another iridescent one) crawled slowly out and stopped near the driveway. I hurriedly shut off the string trimmer and paused to watch it. I expected it might be angry at me for disturbing it or afraid I might go after it, but what it did astonished me. With its right front leg it rubbed its face thoroughly as if it were plainly saying, "Man, that smarts!" I guessed that the string might have lightly grazed it, because I didn't see any evidence of injury. I went back to work, keeping one eye on my new pal. After a while it seemed to recover and ambled away toward the woods.
I used to be afraid when I heard my state had tarantulas. Having met some of them, however, I think they are fine upstanding citizens who mind their own business. They don't make a lot of noise, which makes them nice neighbors. They help control pests, which makes them highly beneficial. And, contrary to some horror stories, they won't chase you.
Scary? I'll let you decide.