Eight-legged love is afoot on Mount Diablo.
Fall is a special time on the mountain, when usually shy tarantulas, the world's largest spiders, emerge to mate, and area enthusiasts, and unsuspecting visitors, have a brief (and plentiful) glimpse of these gentle, often misunderstood creatures.
Tarantulas inspire fear in many people, and often for reasons that are pure myth.
A 19th century visitor once described Mount Diablo's tarantulas as "attaining the size of a small bird, possessing the fangs the size of a rattlesnake's and delivering a bite generally considered fatal!"
The fatal part is now known to be incorrect. The bite is fairly innocuous, and is said to hurt no more than an average bee sting.
When you get to know the tarantula you might be struck by the familiar drama of their lives.
They live alone until it's time to find a mate. When they do, the endeavor is a little tricky for the male to avoid becoming a meal.
Female tarantulas live for 20 years or more, and although they lay about 100 eggs in a season, they are lucky if one or two of their offspring survives to adulthood.
The male tarantula usually only lives about seven years, the age at which they are mature enough to mate.
With a pathos worthy of Tolstoy, once the male tarantula emerges to mate he never will return to his home, but will wander and mate until the weather turns cold and he dies.
For a guided tarantula encounter on Mount Diablo, join Ken Lavin on his "Tarantula Trek" on Sunday from 8:45 to 11 a.m. The two-mile round-trip trek starts at the Mitchell Canyon Visitor Center in Clayton.
For more information, call 925-852-8778 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.