Originally Published: September 9, 2012 9:52 p.m.
Has anyone seen Manuel? We are in an all-out search for the special friend of Black Canyon City resident Diane Wilson, who has been visiting her on a regular basis for the past 19 years. Manuel has a plump body, big, hairy legs and a sweet disposition. No, we're not trying to locate her neighbor - it's Manuel the tarantula who is missing.
Yes, that's right. I am talking about a big, gentle spider that first showed up at Wilson's home many years ago and stayed a few months. Every year since then, Manuel has made the migration to the Wilson home, arriving like clockwork around Aug. 15 and leaving in early October. I am sad to report that Manuel has not been seen yet this year.
The Phoenix Zoo's arachnid expert is quite interested and confounded by the behavior of this tarantula that has made himself at home on an annual basis at the Wilson residence. He usually just shows up unannounced through an open patio door or squeezes in the doggy door. He gets along with assorted dogs, cats, birds and humans, and has a pleasant personality. He sometimes would walk along the kitchen counter or saunter up a wall, but has been a kind and shy guest. He has even sat on the back of Diane's sofa, possibly watching television! In other words, forget anything and everything you might have thought about tarantulas ... they make nice visitors!
Last year, Diane noted that Manuel acted a bit odd. He seemed reluctant to leave and made himself more and more visible as his visit progressed. He also found a new "hiding place" - inside her large, pink Velcro curlers. That's right, Dear Readers. Manuel liked to curl up in the curlers! (Diane wore her hair straight that summer).Last October, he was still hanging around the house, showing up in even more strange places, like in the shower and on the bedside table. Was he just getting ready for the long goodbye? Was he feeling a bit melancholy? We wonder if he'll be coming back.
A female tarantula can live for 25 years! But a male might only live 15 years. Once they mate their life is over (sadly, I think my husband agrees with this). We've all been hoping that Manuel did not meet some sultry female along the trail to Diane's this year, but it's hard to solve a mystery about a migrating spider that acts in peculiar ways. Maybe Manuel is a female! Diane thinks he is a male because he seems to have little pincers, but who knows?
Another possibility is that Manuel just started walking up the mountain to a new destination. Maybe he needed a change of scenery. Perhaps he showed up at the wrong house. Maybe Manuel is just lost!
Have you seen a big hairy spider that has been trying to sneak through your doggy door? Please don't be alarmed. It could be our friend!
Yes, I know that there are greater losses than that of one goofy tarantula. But the world seemed to be spinning just right when we could imagine how one of God's little critters showed up at Diane's door so many years ago, to come back each summer as if, somehow, that's where he belonged. Maybe that's the answer to the Manuel puzzle - he was simply migrating to a place where he felt that he was accepted! Could that be a universal need?
Look carefully in all those places where a huge black spider might be lurking. If you do see a big handsome tarantula showing up in your kitchen, acting like he intends on making himself at home, please do not panic. He might just be looking for a place to hang out. Of course, I still think spiders belong in the outdoors, far away from me.
I have seen a tarantula lurking in my barn, but I tend to ignore it and go about my chores. I don't think it could be Manuel, as that's a long walk all the way to Skull Valley. But although I can't say I "like" this hairy beast, I have tried to see him in a new light. That "light" will never include living inside my curlers. Now, that would be a hair-raising experience! Until next week ... if you see Manuel, give me a scream ... I mean, call.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local real estate agent who lives in Skull Valley. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at email@example.com.