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Groundhog Day



February is "rodeo time" in Houston. Every year, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo turns normally sane people into raving lunatics who beg for concert tickets to see their favorite country music star (or Cardi B.), watch pig races and eat more barbecue than is medically recommended. There's bull riding, too.

Editor's note: Hit me up if you have any George Strait tickets.

It's also the time of year when Houston's weather goes absolutely bananas. It's cold and rainy the day the rodeo trail riders arrive at Memorial Park but it's hot as Hades during the next day's parade. It's challenging enough for Homo sapiens to keep up with which season today will bring—imagine what it's like for our eight-legged friends. This was our forecast last week:




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Since it's technically still winter, Sydney Sue is technically still supposed to be hibernating. But he's been hanging out in his front yard and seems to have prematurely transitioned into "Spring Mode." He has even dug a little sleeping spot in his front yard next to his plastic tube. He's probably laying in it as we speak. Yep, there he is:





I'm still pretty new to tarantula-ing, so I decided to ask Google about this:


Wait, they can "maybe" what?




Move over, Punxsutawney Phil:
Maybe tarantulas can forecast weather


When one looks at the latest weather models generated by super-computers that can crunch gigantic amounts of atmospheric and oceanographic data and perform trillions of calculations per second, it’s easy to forget that it wasn’t all that long ago when everybody relied on natural events or the Farmer’s Almanac for long-range weather forecasts.

• • •

Back East in Pennsylvania a hairy weather prophet, Punxsutawney Phil, emerges from his hole to predict how much longer winter will last. Groundhog Day is celebrated on the festival of lights, which marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox.

According to legend, if this husky rodent sees his shadow, winter will last six more weeks. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring will come early. Unfortunately, like flipping a coin or spinning a roulette wheel, Phil is only accurate about half the time in foretelling the end of winter's chill. The hog has celebrated this holiday since 1886 in Gobbler's Knob in west-central Pennsylvania.

Along the Central [California] Coast, another big and beefy hairy prognosticator of weather has been on the move this month — tarantulas. Judging by the number of emails and phone calls that I have received, the most in years!

These male eight-legged invertebrates have spent five to eight years in their lair feeding on insects, frogs and even small mammals like mice. After a life in solitary, they have reached maturity and can be seen in broad daylight but mostly at dusk in a once-in-a-lifetime search for the silk-lined burrows of female tarantulas in San Luis Obispo County.

• • •

Popular lore has it that rain will occur when tarantulas are seen.

“When you see tarantulas in the late summer, you can usually count on rain within six weeks,” said Donna Mathewson, who lives east of Paso Robles. “We have been keeping track of this activity for the past five or six years, and have noted surprising accuracy!”

Donna is certainly not the only one. Paul Parrish who lives between Morro Bay and the Atascadero has also noted this coincidence.

The last time I saw tarantulas in the wild was on Highway 58 outside of Santa Margarita back in October 2010. That December we received over 12 inches of rain at Cal Poly!


He can predict the weather? No way!!!

What other hidden talents hasn't he told us about? Time travel? Long division? Juggling? I guess we'll find out when he wants us to.

Until then, have fun at the rodeo and remember:

Be nice to spiders :)

The Emperor's New Clothes
Handle With Care

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