Thousands of Tarantulas Are Crawling Around Colorado for Mating Season

PaulWolf/iStock via Getty Images
PaulWolf/iStock via Getty Images

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it—and so do tarantulas, which are currently crawling by the thousands around southeastern Colorado in hopes of shacking up with mates before cold weather comes.

CNN reports that the migrants are all male Texas brown tarantulas that have reached sexual maturity, which means they’re around 10 years old. With a 4- to 5-inch (very furry) leg span, the creatures are justifiably shudder-inducing, but there’s no need to fear for your life if you see one. Mario Padilla, head entomologist at Colorado’s Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, explained to CNN that “this specific group of tarantulas is completely docile. They’re not looking to harm humans.” Even if you accidentally provoke one into attacking you, its venom will affect you only about as much as a bee sting would. And, much like smaller spiders closer to home, these tarantulas are actually helping rid the area of less desirable pests like cockroaches.

Since the independent arachnids prefer to travel alone, you won’t likely get caught in a nightmarish stampede. They’re seeking undisturbed prairie rangelands, where females often dwell in burrows, and their mating technique is unexpectedly polite: Once a male locates an occupied burrow, he’ll simply tap outside it until the female appears. The females, however, are not so polite—like other types of spiders, they sometimes eat their mates after the deed is done. Even if a male is lucky enough to evade that particular demise, his days are numbered anyway, since males only live a few months beyond reaching sexual maturity.

Some spiders have already begun their journey, and the migration will continue into October. Arachnophiles hoping to catch a glimpse of one (or even adopt one as a pet) should stake out grassy areas in Colorado during the hour before sunset, as recommended on the tourism website for La Junta, Colorado. Keep an eye out for tarantula hawks—giant wasps that feast on tarantulas—who might spot their prey better than you. If you’re lucky, you might even see the tragic, premature end to a tarantula romantic’s quest for love.

[h/t CNN]

Paula the Two-Toed Sloth Is Officially the Oldest Sloth in Captivity

Sleeping two-toed sloth.
Sleeping two-toed sloth.
tane-mahuta/iStock via Getty Images

For many sloths, surviving a trip to the ground is an impressive achievement. As the BBC reports, a two-toed sloth living in a German zoo has done something even more monumental: Guinness World Records confirms that Paula the sloth has officially been deemed the world's oldest sloth at age 50.

Born in South America, Paula has lived at the Halle Zoo in central Germany since she was at least 2 years old. For nearly half her life, zookeepers thought Paula was male. It wasn't until 1995 that an ultrasound scan revealed her true sex and her name was changed from Paul to Paula.

The zoo chose June 14 as the date to mark Paula's birthday, and on June 14, 2019, the sloth celebrated half a century on Earth. Two-toed sloths typically live about 20 years in the wild and 30 to 40 years in zoos. At 50 years old, Paula now holds the record for oldest sloth in captivity, and likely the world.

The zoo staff credits Paula's longevity to having a stable, caring home. If her genes played any role, they won't be passed down to future generations: Paula doesn't have any offspring. After discovering that he was really a she, the zoo tried pairing Paula with male breeding partners. Though she became pregnant three times, her cubs didn't survive.

After a long and interesting life, Paula has earned her place as one of the most beloved animals at the Halle Zoo. Her caretakers showed their appreciation on her birthday by making her a special meal of cooked maize and vegetables—her favorite foods.

[h/t BBC]

‘Soft and Cuddly’ Venomous Puss Caterpillars Have Been Spotted in at Least 3 States

Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Wayne W G, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The puss caterpillar is cute, cuddly, and coming to ruin your day.

USA Today reports that the highly venomous creature, also known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, or asp, has recently been spotted in Florida, Texas, and South Carolina. Underneath its furry coat are tiny, potent spines that break off and attach themselves to your skin, causing excruciating pain and creating a hematoma, a bruise-like wound under your skin where blood has leaked from blood vessels.

According to University of Connecticut entomologist David Wagner, the caterpillar is dangerous partly because the sting of those spines becomes more painful over time. “It builds for a long time in a frightening way. No one expects stings to gain in impact or discomfort, and these will,” he told USA Today. “It packs quite a wallop.”

For one victim in Dade City, Florida, even medically administered morphine didn’t alleviate her agony. “It felt like someone was drilling into my bones,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “I cried and pleaded with God for hours to make it stop.”

puss caterpillar
going on going on, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

If one does happen to inch its way onto you, curb the instinct to flail about or swat at random—trying to brush off the adorable nightmare just increases the possibility of those sinister spines sticking to your skin. Instead, have someone carefully and calmly remove the insect with a twig or a 39-and-a-half-foot pole. Then, take a shower and wash your clothes to minimize further exposure to leftover spines.

As traumatizing as the experience sounds, your chances of meeting one of these fun-sized villains are hearteningly slim. Wagner explains that they’re particularly scarce above the Mason-Dixon line, and not even very common in southern states, where they’re usually spotted.

In short, this is just another scientific reason why you should stick to petting dogs.

[h/t USA Today]