Creepy Crawlies of Crystal Cove
If you venture out onto any of Crystal Cove’s backcountry trails this month, be on the lookout for creepy crawlies, because spider season is here! Several spider species are much more conspicuous this time of year as they’re out and about looking for mates. As you hike through the park, you may spot a tarantula cruising along the trail in front of you, or an orb weaver waiting patiently on its elaborate web.
Tarantulas spend most of the year hidden from sight in their underground burrows, only emerging at night to hunt. In September and October however, the males will venture out in search of a mate. When the male finds the burrow of a female tarantula, he will tap on the web outside the entrance. If he’s lucky, she’ll come out of her burrow to copulate. If he’s really lucky, he’ll get away before he becomes her dinner.
Another spider you may spot this month is the Silver Argiope, a species of orb weaving spider. Orb weavers are named for the circular webs that they string up between branches. These spiders spend the spring and summer feeding and growing and reach their full adult size in the fall. Unlike tarantulas who hunt for food, Silver Argiopes sit and wait for food to come to them. Insects get trapped in the sticky silk of their web, and the spider quickly wraps them in silk to immobilize them. Males also come to the female’s web to mate, and like tarantulas, he often doesn’t survive the encounter.
While not everyone is a fan of spiders, they play a key role in Crystal Cove’s ecosystem by keeping insect populations in check. Although their size can be intimidating, tarantulas and orb weavers are not aggressive, and their venom is not seriously harmful to humans. As with all wildlife in the park, if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you!