Face Off With a Tarantula…


Working as a horticulturist on golf courses meant that I came face to face with wildlife from time to time.  Often, I would see them ahead of time and would react accordingly.  Sometimes however, I was surprised at what I found and where…

I wrote about my Face Off With Wild Pigs earlier this month.  Now, I would like to share with you a new story of a face off that occurred between myself and a tarantula.  


Wikimedia Commons: Albertwap (CC-by-SA license)

Cute and fuzzy isn’t it?

Okay, not really.

My story begins as I was driving in my little maintenance golf-cart checking large planting areas alongside the road.  The plants were all watered with drip-irrigation and connected to irrigation valves.  These valves were located inside of irrigation valve boxes in the ground.

The top of the valve boxes are covered with a plastic lid and I would periodically open them in order to turn on a valve manually.

That is what I was doing on this summer’s day. I had my floppy hat on (absolutely vital for fair-skinned people like me), my gloves and my screwdriver, which I used to open the valve lid.

bugs inside

Now for those of you who have opened a valve box, it is common to find bugs inside.  I was used to finding crickets, sometimes small roaches and rarely a scorpion.  As a result, I ALWAYS wore my gloves and would look inside before putting my gloved hand inside.

Well, this particular day, I opened the lid of a valve box and found a tarantula staring up at me.  I had never seen a tarantula in a valve box before.  He was kind of cute as far as tarantulas go, I guess.

I sat there pondering what I should do….the plants really needed some water.  So, I worked up my courage and I actually spoke to the tarantula.  I said, “I am just going to put my hand in slowly to turn on this valve.  I won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me.”

Now, I’m not sure if he understood me, but I put my hand inside and turned on the valve and he left me alone!  Afterward, I was kind of proud of myself, but sadly there wasn’t anyone around to applaud my bravery 😉

I went back an hour later to turn off the water and my new friend was gone…

But, I learned my lesson that day – always look before putting your hand inside of a valve box and always wear gloves.

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
26 replies
  1. Carol
    Carol says:

    What bravery and wisdom!!! Brava Noelle! I am so frightened of spiders and know people who have these as pets. ;>() Your connection to this creature assured it you were no danger. A gentle spirit … a lovely post. I may have spoken to it, but could N E V E R have put my hand in there without a thickly layered glove. It just goes to show how we usually react and create a reaction… but then there are accidents too. It is great that you are so aware and saw this furry spider!!!

  2. Meredith
    Meredith says:

    Yikes! Your courage is impressive. I am sure he heard you, though. I have many times noticed wildlife, plants, and even insects responding to a kind word, a gentle tone of voice, or a reasonable request. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing your adventure!

  3. Rebecca @ In The Garden
    Rebecca @ In The Garden says:

    Wonderful post Noelle, and a gorgeous spider, so glad you had your camera with you! I am terrified of spiders, but really like tarantulas. I had a conversation with a black widown in my yard a few years ago, I was planting perennials and she was nearby, in a hollow under a fence and mostly covered with leaves. I told her I'd leave her alone if she would do the same, and I just wanted to get a few more things done. I never saw her again. No pics unfortunately. I have a similar valve box in my yard, now I'll think of your 'friend' every time I have to open it. 🙂

  4. Floridagirl
    Floridagirl says:

    I love spider posts! They are such fascinating creatures, though I definitely like to keep my distance. It's amazing to me that you encounter these in the wild!

  5. villager
    villager says:

    It's probably wise to be prepared when opening anything outside like that. I found a snake in a bluebird house one time. It wasn't poisonous, but still startling. I can't top the tarantula though! I admire your moxie!

  6. Kate
    Kate says:

    Oh, what a cute story. I imagine he listened to your voice, knew you were a good person and let you go about your business. I, on the other hand, would have screamed bloody murder. You're brave and smart. Good combo!

  7. sweet bay
    sweet bay says:

    No giant furry spiders here :), but I have to remind myself to be careful or wear gloves in certain situations — I've seen a lot of Black Widow Spiders here.

  8. Pam/Digging
    Pam/Digging says:

    I keep waiting for a tarantula to turn up in my garden since we have a greenbelt behind our house. I've seen some pretty big spiders, and furry ones, but no tarantulas yet. They do live in Austin though.

    You were brave to live and let live. Makes you wonder how it squeezed in there though, doesn't it?

  9. Annie's Granny
    Annie's Granny says:

    I've acquainted myself with two of these large beauties in the past few years, one in my own driveway. I have the utmost respect for them, as they are usually females (they tend to eat their young lovers) that can live to be around thirty years old! I was lucky enough to coax my first into a jar for the purpose of photographing, before releasing her to go on her way. The second was caught with the video camera, and made an appearance on my blog last year.

  10. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Thank you all for your comments. I apologize for not responding sooner…but just returned from a weekend trip. I should have added that I not all that brave about spiders. When I was growing up, I would call my brother in to kill any spiders I found (they were usually 1/3 of an inch or smaller 😉

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