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7:17 AM Fri, Dec. 14th

Around the Bluhmin' Town: Tarantula's annual visits bring delight, not terror

Photos.com<br>
Don't bug out when you see a tarantula!

Photos.com<br> Don't bug out when you see a tarantula!

NEWS ALERT: MANUEL THE SPIDER IS BACK!!

Manuel, the friendly tarantula, is back visiting in Black Canyon City. He was missing two years ago, causing many folks to hold their breath, wondering if our hairy friend would show up this year. Some feared the worse.

To tell this story properly, let me start in the beginning.

How tolerant are you of houseguests? Imagine if they come at the same time each year, want the run of the house, and have eight legs. You might recall that my friend Diane has had a tarantula, fondly named Manuel, who has been visiting her home since 1990! It all started one July day more than 20 years ago when Diane noticed something with a big belly and hairy legs walking into her house through an open door (no, it wasn't her neighbor). Yikes - a spider of the biggest, furriest kind was strutting around her kitchen!

From that moment on, a tradition (or migration pattern) was forged. Each year, the tarantula arrives sometime in August, hanging around until the end of September or early October. He leaves the same way he arrives, quietly and without any fanfare. He makes the perfect houseguest, since he finds his own food, doesn't demand too much attention and pretty much goes about his routine, not getting in anyone's way. Manuel walks around the house, on the counters, on the ceilings, into the shower - he goes everywhere!

Consider the kind heart and calm disposition that it takes to open your home to a big, fat spider! Not a pet, nor a companion, just a little creature of God that strolled innocently in through an open door. After checking out the premises and the occupant, this tarantula liked what he found. He's been coming back annually, with pretty much the same behaviors and habits. Like an old friend, he just likes to "hang around."

Diane keeps her eyes open this time of year for her hairy friend, never sure when and where he'll turn up. A few years ago, Diane got a heart-pounding surprise when one morning she grabbed her sack of Velcro curlers, reached into the bag and found Manuel sitting in the midst of pink rollers! That must have been one hair-raising scream, because even the dogs came running to see what the ruckus was all about. (That summer Diane wore her hair straight). Yes, Manuel makes quite an entrance when he comes back!

A week ago, Diane was sitting on her patio one evening and watched a furry tarantula saunter up her driveway, walk onto the porch and through an open door into her kitchen. He paused, looked around, allowed the dogs to sniff him, and then happily disappeared down the hallway, glad to be home.

Did you know that a female tarantula can live for 25 years? The males? Not so lucky. Usually the males have a life span of 10 to 12 years. It seems after the male mates, it weakens him and his life is soon over. (Sadly, my husband agrees). Could Manuel really be a girl? Or is this an offspring of Manuel? I guess we'll never know, but he seems to have found true love when it comes to Diane. What else could explain his unusual behavior?

The arachnid specialist at the Phoenix Zoo speculates that this tarantula has an established migration path each year to include Diane's home. What does Manuel do at Diane's house? Well, he just strolls around. Sometimes he can be seen on a wall, or sitting on the back of her sofa, watching television, or snoozing in the corner of her bedroom. He just seems to "fit in" and mostly keeps to himself.

Dear Readers, we can all rest easy, because although there are plenty of problems in the world, Earth seems to be spinning on its proper axis and the stars are lined up just right. Life is good, because one big, happy spider seems to have found his way back "home." If you see one of our desert wonders, the tarantula, please look kindly and do not be afraid. They make perfect houseguests.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a story or a comment? Email judy@judybluhm.com.