Just like all of those ghost stories you hear about Black Star Canyon, stories about bats and tarantulas are usually tall tales. Neither animal is very interested in humans. In fact, if you've every traveled along Santiago Canyon Road near Irvine Lake, you've probably driven through Orange County's most notable bat colony without even knowing it.
- Bats are the only mammals that can fly.
- If a bat gets in your hair, it's probably because there was an insect flying near your head.
- Baby bats are called pups, and bat moms can only have one pup per year.
- Bats have excellent sight, but also rely on "echolocation" and emit noises that help them navigate.
- Much like cats, bats groom themselves and are very clean animals.
Bats aren't the only ones who have earned a bad reputation thanks to tall tales. Tarantulas like the Desert tarantula found in Orange County make some people cringe, but are mostly harmless to humans. The Desert tarantula would rather flee than bite, and is generally docile. And while a Desert tarantula bite is much like a bee sting, since you should never pick up any wild animal, you should never be in fear of a tarantula bite. The very reclusive creature comes out at sunset to hunt, and is more prevalent during its fall mating season.
- A tarantula can't eat solids, and uses its venom mainly to liquefy the insides of large insects.
- Male and females Desert tarantulas look almost identical, except for the claw-like spur on the back of the male's front legs.
- The Desert tarantula's main foe is the Tarantula hawk, a large insect that paralyzes the tarantula and lays its egg inside the body.
- Tarantula hair serves many functions, including hairs near the mouth used for taste and hairs on the back legs the spider can flick at anything that it considers a threat.
- Male tarantulas live 10-12 years, and females live 20 or more.
Without these myths, the next horror film you see may be a lot less scary. During October and November, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and OC Parks have many programs that explain the not-so-scary details of the season. Kids can learn more about bats and other "spooky" species at the Muth Interpretive Center, or take a class in "Animal Grossology" in Black Star Canyon. There are also programs exploring bones, skulls, and the Mexican holiday of "Dia de Los Muertos."
For more information or to register for upcoming programs, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org.