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Why Tarantulas Are Crawling Across Texas and Looking for LoveAs Texas critters go, the brown tarantula—Aphonopelma hentzi, if you’re feeling fancy—is not a widely beloved creature. Spiders suffer from public relations issues at the best of times, and larger species tend to be cast in film and fiction as fantasy monsters (Lord Of The Rings) or horror-movie fodder (Tarantula, Arachnophobia). The animal itself, however, has much to recommend it, says Jackie Billotte, a doctoral student at Colorado State University who studies the species. Despite their fearsome, furry appearance, Texas brown tarantulas tend to be docile and shy. Members of this widespread, adaptable species are happiest when they have nothing to do with humans—or much else outside their burrows—and yet, once a year, male tarantulas risk it all for love. “Personally, I think they’re adorable,” Billotte says.…

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