It’s tarantula time, both in Southern Arizona yards and at the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf and Tennis Resort on North Oracle Road, where the American Tarantula Society held its 16th Annual Conference over the last weekend.

In addition to speakers, the conference featured the Spider Mall, open to the public, offering a chance to get a good look at the largest species of spider and dozens of other multilegged specimens.

Several vendors were not only selling spiders but giving people a chance to pick up a bit of knowledge about the basically harmless creatures.

“We’re hoping to help get the locals to understand what they’re finding in their yards, what they’ve got there and what to do with them,” said Ollie Meidinger, public relations officer for the tarantula society.

“It’s so much easier to learn if you can see and touch,” said Whitney Mugleston of J. Mugleston’s Great Basin Sperentarium in Linden, Utah, after letting a few passers-by gently stroke a Honduran curly hair tarantula, one of dozens of critters on Mugleston’s display table.

Contact photographer Kelly Presnell at or 954-1974.