Sept. 23 – AccuWeather National reporter Tony Lauback has tracked hundreds of tornadoes over dozens of years in multiple locations across the United States. But the veteran storm chaser had a new adventure on his plate this week – chasing down tarantulas.
Lauback went to southeastern Colorado on Tuesday for a unique vermin event that has started drawing huge crowds. Thousands of hairy, brown creatures can be found roaming the rocky surface of La Junta, Colo., located about three hours south of Denver, during the spiders’ annual mating season.
What are those tarantulas on the hunt for? Not a storm, but a companion. And Laubach said there’s a specific reason they come out at this time of year.
“It has a lot to do with the weather,” Laubach said during a segment from meteorologist Adam Del Rosso. AccuWeather Prime. “The male spiders you see are actually looking to mate. So it’s not so much a migration as it is a mate-gration.”
The annual display of mate-hunting tarantulas has become a tourist attraction in the small Colorado town. Visit La Junta’s tourism director Pamela Denhy told Laubach that the spiders are “submissive creatures”.
|Image by Tony Lauback / AccuWeather|
But as Laubach learned from his decades of hurricane coverage, the age-old warning with storm chases is to avoid the chase itself, which means it’s important to keep a safe distance from danger. It can be hard to tell in video footage and still images how big the spiders are, but Lauback said they’re about the size of an iPhone.
While spiders are venomous, and their bites can cause slight pain and skin rashes, Denahy said most people’s fears of the creatures are unfounded because of their size.
“There are a lot of people who are afraid of spiders, so their first reaction is to be afraid of them. But they’re almost like gentle giants,” she told The Denver Post. “They’re not fast-moving creatures, but it’s quite visible because they’re not just small spiders.”
While their venom can be fatal to small animals such as rats, it has not yet been proven to be fatal to humans.
If you’re an arachnid fanatic yourself but missed out on this year’s spectacle, Laubach says don’t worry—they’ll definitely be back next year.
“The spiders aren’t really going anywhere, they’re looking for their love,” Lauback said. “The cool weather in September and October helps with that.”
Unless it’s very cold. A cooler-than-usual period was tied to a delay in the emergence of spiders in Mount Diablo State Park, Calif., in 2019.
Monsoon season can also have an effect – Arizona tarantulas prefer humid weather for their eggs, News 13 in Tucson reported.