Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it—and so do tarantulas, which are currently crawling by the thousands around southeastern Colorado in hopes of shacking up with mates before cold weather comes.
CNN reports that the migrants are all male Texas brown tarantulas that have reached sexual maturity, which means they’re around 10 years old. With a 4- to 5-inch (very furry) leg span, the creatures are justifiably shudder-inducing, but there’s no need to fear for your life if you see one. Mario Padilla, head entomologist at Colorado’s Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, explained to CNN that “this specific group of tarantulas is completely docile. They’re not looking to harm humans.” Even if you accidentally provoke one into attacking you, its venom will affect you only about as much as a bee sting would. And, much like smaller spiders closer to home, these tarantulas are actually helping rid the area of less desirable pests like cockroaches.
Since the independent arachnids prefer to travel alone, you won’t likely get caught in a nightmarish stampede. They’re seeking undisturbed prairie rangelands, where females often dwell in burrows, and their mating technique is unexpectedly polite: Once a male locates an occupied burrow, he’ll simply tap outside it until the female appears. The females, however, are not so polite—like other types of spiders, they sometimes eat their mates after the deed is done. Even if a male is lucky enough to evade that particular demise, his days are numbered anyway, since males only live a few months beyond reaching sexual maturity.
Some spiders have already begun their journey, and the migration will continue into October. Arachnophiles hoping to catch a glimpse of one (or even adopt one as a pet) should stake out grassy areas in Colorado during the hour before sunset, as recommended on the tourism website for La Junta, Colorado. Keep an eye out for tarantula hawks—giant wasps that feast on tarantulas—who might spot their prey better than you. If you’re lucky, you might even see the tragic, premature end to a tarantula romantic’s quest for love.