Tarantula Molting process and dealing with molting
If you have a spider as a pet then you should know what molting is. Even though people make a big deal about molting, in simple terms, this is where the spider sheds its old skin or exoskeleton. During the molting process most body functions shut down and the focus is on shedding the outer skin.
Molting is common in invertebrates- the classic examples are snakes. As the tarantula grows, it will molt. The old skin is removed and discarded. Molting may occur at a specific time of the year or it may occur at a specific point in the life cycle of the spider. Most tarantulas molt every 6 months and some may molt more often then other. In the wild, molting is a dangerous time for these arachnids because they become vulnerable to prey.
For most tarantulas, molting is labor intensive and a stressful experience.
Before molting occurs, your pet tarantula will eat very little. Other things that you may notice are drops of a waxy fluid from the leg and a shriveled abdomen. This fluid helps the skin come off without too much friction. Some spiders may lose the hair on their abdomen. However, in most cases, the spider will usually lie on its back and may appear dead. The legs and body will start to show webbing. This is just part of the molting process and you should not get alarmed.
Whenever you see the spider on its back, you should not disturb it as it is in the process of molting. If you disturb it, it can cause stress and even lead to death of the spider. The molting process for tarantulas varies from 30 -180 minutes.
Once the old skin has come off, the tarantula will have a fresh appearance but its whole body is fragile and sensitive. After the molting process it is best not to handle the spider or cause any unnecessary noise or motion in the cage for about 7 days.
Most tarantulas will not eat for a several days after molting but they will drink. So you need to supply it with fresh water everyday. Never feed a live cricket or worms to the spider at this time because the tarantulas’ body is quite sensitive and can easily be injured by the cricket.
The most amazing thing about molting is that not only does this process shed old skin but it also help regenerate any missing legs or hairs. While the new leg will not be the same size as the original leg, it will still be functional.
When Tarantula Molting Goes Wrong
Tarantula Molting does go wrong sometimes when the old skin does not easily come off and may entrap a leg or the lower body. If this entrapment is not relieved it can lead to a slow death.
Molting problems tend to occur when the cage is dry or lacks humidity. Without proper lubrication, the process can be difficult for the spider. Older spiders and those who have not been fed well tend to be at the highest risk for molting injuries. The only time that you should intervene during molting is when you see the spider having trouble extricating itself from the outer skin. Just apply some moisture with a soft brush as this will help separate the old skin from the rest of the body. Sometimes the old skin may be attached to a leg- you can help remove this with the tweezer- do this only if the spider is having a problem.
To prevent molting injuries, keep the environment humid and offer fresh water. Remove all live insects from the cage during the molting process. Be observant when molting is going to occur so that you can be prepared.
Tarantulas are magnificent creatures once you understand their lives and behavior. While they may not show affection like dogs or cats, it is the observation of how they live that can be educational and awe-inspiring. Though these arachnids appear fierce; in fact they are very fragile docile creatures and many get injured or die during molting.