Deep inside the forests of California, tucked into the forest floor, live the California turret spiders. These burly little spiders are related to the trapdoor spider and the tarantula, and look like it too. They resemble tiny tarantulas that are about the size of your pinky nail. It is likely you’ve never spotted one before, however, since they hide inside their “castles” all day long, waiting for prey to walk by.

You have to look very closely, but if you carefully examine the forest floors in central and northern California, you may see what looks like tiny little tubes standing amidst the leaf litter. They are not easy to spot, as they only reach about an inch in height. These “turrets” are lined inside with a soft, white material, and covered with an exterior of moss, leaves, or mud designed to blend in with the surroundings. It is these little tubes or “turrets” that are the homes (or castles) of the California turret spider.

The turret spiders are named for their turret-shaped homes, in case you hadn’t guessed already. These spiders build and spend their time skulking in their turrets, waiting for unsuspecting prey to pass by. Using the vibrations that are made near their turret walls to detect which direction their prey is coming from, the turret spider then pounces on said prey, dragging it back inside their turret, which can extend another six inches into the ground. They are lightning fast when they make their presence known, though, so it can be difficult to catch them outside of their turret. Males will venture away from their homes to go looking for mates, but the females never leave their tiny castles. A female could live in the same structure for up to 16 years. You might just be able to catch sight of their eight tiny legs perched near the entrance to their turret while they wait for their prey.

Have you ever seen a turret spider or one of their “turret” tubes poking up from the forest floor in California?