Madeline Nguyen

Hollywood horror films have given tarantulas a bad reputation as bloodthirsty monsters on eight legs, but these fuzzy arachnids are really just humble hermits. There are more than a dozen tarantula species in Arizona, and many of them look alike; this one was photographed near Chino Valley. Tarantulas prefer to stay out of the sweltering Arizona sun by digging burrows in dry desert soil or hiding in logs and caves across the state’s grasslands. They emerge at night to find their prey, which typically consists of grasshoppers, beetles, lizards and smaller spiders. Even though these arachnids, which are among the biggest spiders in the world, may seem like the stuff of nightmares, they don’t pose a real danger to humans: Tarantulas in Arizona and elsewhere in the Americas have relatively weak venom, and the spiders generally bite people only as a last resort to defend themselves.