Creepy Halloween critters found in Texas

SAN ANTONIO - Are you a fan of spiders or bats or how about some pumpkins?

All those iconic symbols of Halloween are found right here in Texas. But here are some facts on those spooky critters that you may not have known about.


A tarantula is one of the most ferocious looking spiders on Earth, but there isn't much to fear.

A tarantula is large and eerie looking, but according to Molly Keck, an entomologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, says they are actually very docile and rarely bit.

“The exceptions are when they paralyze their prey to eat it — or they may bite if threatened,” she said. “But though their venom can paralyze an insect or very small animal, it rarely causes a severe reaction in humans.”


No other arachnid is more associated with Halloween than the Black Widow.

“This spider is most commonly identified by the red hourglass-shaped mark on its underside,” said Wizzie Brown, AgriLife Extension entomologist, Travis County. “But even though its venom is highly virulent, the spider itself is very timid. Even if disturbed while it’s in its web, it tries to escape rather than attack.”

Black widows are easily distinguished by their hourglass shape on their abdomen.

Now just because black widows are timid, doesn't mean their bite doesn't pack a punch. Their venom is a neurotoxin whose effects can include nausea, profuse sweating, severe pain in abdomen and back, muscle aches, hypertension and paralysis of the diaphragm, which can cause difficulty in breathing.

“Death from a black widow bite occurs very rarely, and it is more likely to happen if the person bitten is either very young or elderly,” she said. But no matter your age, it’s important to seek medical attention if bitten by a black widow.”

Black widows prefer living in dark, dry shelters so make sure to shake out any gloves and shoes, and don't reach into those dark areas of your home without looking first.


Contrary to popular belief, daddy longlegs are not spiders, but are more closely related to scorpions. They belong to a unique order called Opiliones, or harvestmen.

“While both daddy longlegs and spiders have eight legs, they are easy to tell apart,” said Mike Merchant, Ph.D., AgriLife extension entomologist, Dallas. “Spiders have a two-part body, while daddy long-legs have a single, fused body. And unlike spiders, daddy longlegs do not make silk and can’t spin webs.”

Another urban legend is that the venom from a daddy longlegs is the most potent venom in the world, but it's jaws are so small that it can't bite you. FALSE.

Daddy longlegs are not dangerous to people because they lack venom glands.

Daddy longlegs are primarily night prowlers and are usually solitary, but at times a large group will amass and form a wicked-looking dark cluster that resembles a beard.

However, their most compelling feature is their legs.

Merchant said the legs are very delicate and also serve as a means of protection.

“When a predator takes hold of a leg, it can easily detach and then continues to twitch, which both confuses the predator and gives the daddy longlegs an opportunity to escape,” he said.

Another way they protect themselves is by using their scent glands, which produce a foul-smelling fluid that helps ward off the predator.


Another well-known symbol of Halloween is the bat, and Texas has a huge bat population.

There are 33 permanent or migratory bat species in Texas, the most prevalent of these being the Mexican free-tail, said Samantha Leiver, Ph.D., research associate with Texas A&M AgriLife Research at the Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute in College Station.

“The freetail has a huge range throughout North and South America,” she said. “In fact, some years back we had a few hundred thousand of them take up residence in our stadium here at Texas A&M. Some of the other bats that call Texas home are Eastern red bat and tricolored bat, though we are seeing fewer tricolored bats due to white-nose syndrome.”

The vampire bat has recently begun to expand its range northward toward the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. And they do feast on blood, but that of livestock NOT humans.

Leiver said a bat can eat half its body weight in insects each evening and night, and freetail bats alone provide at least $750,000 in value to Texas agriculture, primarily in insect control.


Did you know that 90% of ALL commercially grown pumpkins in Texas are from Yoakum and Floyd counties, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

“In 2018, Texas was the fifth-largest commercial pumpkin producer among states in the U.S.,” said Dr. Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist. “This resulted in a $24 million economic impact to the state.”

About 5,400 acres of pumpkins were planted in Texas and most are used for seasonal ornamental purposes like jack-o’-lanterns.




Originally published with NEWSS4SA

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