Monday, December 19, 2022

Texas Brown Tarantula's: On Making a Living

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Nature of Science, History of Science, Behavior, Nature

Ed Hessler

In Nature's Where I Work, entomologist and PhD candidate in agricultural biology, (Colorado State University),  Jackie Billotte reconstructs the burrows and housekeeping habits of tarantulas as part of her research for her degree. Do they build their burrows in a consistent way? How do the burrows help hem survive this very hot, austere environment?

She "works on the Southern Plains Land Trust, a piece of private conservation land about an hour south of Lamar, Colorado. These tarantulas’ habitats range from Louisiana to this southern part of Colorado. The prairie is a harsh environment — super dry, windy and sometimes very hot or cold. The tarantulas’ burrows become their lifeline; they stay in there for the long haul. Only the males, once mature, leave their burrows to wander aimlessly, looking for love."

Billotte lures them out of their burrows and they are collected in temporary "housing." Quick setting plaster of Paris is poured into the burrow and the dried cast is removed. There is a photograph of her holding one - it is 60 centimeters long. While the old burrow is destroyed, a new starter burrow is left.

Billotte describes differences in spider housekeeping which suggests that they have personalities. She also tells us why the research is important to this ecosystem and has a few tips on "natural" insect control in human dwellings.

You may read Kendall Powell's story at Nature.





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