California tarantulas (Aphonopelma species) are nocturnal spiders found in the hills of San Benito County. They spend most of their time underground and come out at night to eat.
Tarantulas play an important part of the food web by eating insects and other invertebrates, lizards, snakes, and small rodents. Following a large meal they can go a few weeks without eating. They are also prey for lizards, snakes, birds and tarantula hawks.
Males will come out of their burrows during the day through mating season (September and October). Only the males come above ground to mate, searching the landscape for burrows with receptive females. Males store sperm in a sperm web in the small appendages, or pedipalps, near the front of their head before searching for females.
Tarantula species reach sexual maturity between eight and 10 years of age, and males will usually die within a year of their first mating. Females can live up to 25 years.
Although they have a reputation for being dangerous, California tarantulas are harmless unless one is allergic to them. They kill their prey with a bite that injects digestive juices, but those juices are not harmful to animals the size of humans. They are non-aggressive by nature and will not bite unless provoked.
Tarantulas can be seen on many of the hiking trails in South County and on many open areas and roads in unpopulated areas.