In Switzerland, the Giant House Spider (Eratigena atrica) may be the biggest arachnid around. With a leg span of up to three inches, it may explain why a camper van with Swiss travelers came to a quick halt in Death Valley National Park on October 28. Evidently the driver of the rented camper van spotted a tarantula crossing the road out front and hit the brakes. Tarantulas can have a leg span (when spread out) of up to 11 inches. The giant spider sighting and the braking reaction resulted in a motorcycle versus RV wreck.
Giant spider startles to create stack-up
The Sunday afternoon spider stack-up happened on CA-190 east of Towne Pass, Cal. On seeing the giant spider, the startled Swiss driver slammed the brakes on so swiftly that a 24-year-old Canadian man on a motorcycle then crashed into the back of the rented RV.
The spider? It walked away from the scene unharmed and, apparently, with no comment.
“Please drive slowly, especially going down steep hills in the park,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds, who was the first NPS employee on scene at the accident. “Our roads still have gravel patches due to flood damage, and wildlife of all sizes are out.”
Tarantulas spend most of their long lives in underground burrows. People see them most often in the fall, when 8- to 10-year-old male tarantulas leave their burrows to search for a mate. The female sometimes kills and eats him after mating. Even if she doesn’t kill him, the male tarantula rarely lives more than a few more months. However, female tarantulas can live for 25 years, mating multiple times.
Tarantulas are slow moving and nonaggressive. A tarantula’s bite is reported to be similar to a bee sting, and is not deadly to humans. For the victim of the motorcycle wreck, who was transported to an area hospital, the stack-up was worse than the bite of a giant spider.