Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tarantula Crossing

Two years ago when I first moved to California, I took a detour through the San Rafael Mountains east of Santa Ynez. Much to my surprise, I came upon this warning sign with a spider on it. Where I come from there are no such things as Tarantula Crossing warning signs and I was intrigued. I have known of other animal notable enough to be sign worthy. Cows and sheep come readily to mind. And occasionally you see a sign of a pedestrian walking a dog. On Maui I once saw a Nene Crossing sign and had to check a dictionary to be sure of what I was seeing (the nene is the Hawaiian duck). In Germany, in the Palatinate, I recently saw a sign with the large black longhorn beetle (Cerambyx cerdo) featured. I guess there must be a lot of these signs around the world. Maybe somebody should make a field guide of them.

I haven’t yet made it back to the San Rafael Mountains to see the massive tarantula migration but I did discover another one just a couple of weeks ago. I was just north of Auberry (California) a couple of days after a good rain storm and almost ran over one of the impressive arachnids (Aphonopelma sp.) as I came around a bend in the road. I asked around a bit and discovered that I had jut missed the big annual event – or rather I was seeing the very end of it. After the first good rain of the year (and in California that means the first good rain after the hot and dry summer) the spiders move out of the lower drainage areas to higher ground. Locals often gather them up by the buckets-full, as they cross the road, and sell them to pet stores. I think the area needs a few more Tarantula Crossing signs.