Arizona blond tarantulas (Aphonopelma chalcodes) have a limited distribution. They are commonly encountered in the deserts of Arizona and adjacent saguaro-dominated areas of the Sonoran Desert in northern Mexico. The species gets its name from the adults’ light colored cephalothorax, which contrasts strongly with its darker legs and abdomen.
All stages, except for mature males, rarely venture far from their burrows. During the winter individuals plug the mouth of their burrow and go into a dormant state, during which they live from fat reserves accumulted over the previous summer and fall.
The individual pictured in this blog entry worked its way into John Rhodes’ (Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute) home during the Summer, 2012 monsoons. John gave it to me at the end of the Summer 2012 Invertebrates in Education and Conservation Conference to replace the now deceased individual he gave to me the previous year.
At the time I received it, the spider was gaunt. It fed eagerly throughout the late summer and fall. It has not eaten over the last several months, mirroring the feeding pattern found in nature. It hasn’t molted during its seven months in my possession. In spite of this long period of no feeding, it remains in excellent health and at a good weight.
I anticipate this spider will molt and begin feeding at some point during the next few months.
Arizona blonds are extraordinarily slow in their development. Males typically mature at ten to twelve years of age. Females become sexually mature at the same age. Unlike males, who live a nomadic several months after sexual maturation, females may live several decades after sexual maturation, mating each year throughout their mature lives.