Every spider molts and tarantulas are no exception. However, when you’re new to owning tarantulas, the molting process might be a bit confusing. Since many tarantulas molt while laying on their back, it’s very common for inexperienced tarantula owners to be worried that their T is dying or that there is something wrong, while in reality, they’re just shedding their exoskeleton.
It’s very normal to be full of questions about this interesting process, but worry not, I’m here to help. In this guide, I’m going to go over everything you need to know about the molting process of the tarantula. I will go over questions such as why tarantulas molt, how often they molt, and many more. Let’s get started, shall we?
What is molting?
Molting is the process of shedding the old exoskeleton so that a new one can take its place. All tarantulas do this, but not all of them molt equally as often. Some tarantulas molt more often than others.
Why do tarantulas molt?
Tarantulas molt because they need to replace their old exoskeleton with a bigger one. The reason for this is that their exoskeleton is solid and can not grow. Also, it can not really be stretched.
Therefore, since the tarantula is increasing in size, but the exoskeleton is not, the only way they can keep growing is by shedding their exoskeleton to make way for a bigger one.
How often do tarantulas molt?
How often tarantulas molt depends on the species, their gender, and their age. Young tarantulas will molt much more often than older ones. The reason why young tarantula molt so much more often is because they grow much faster. Since they grow so much faster they need to molt more often so that the exoskeleton can keep up with their fast growth rate.
In addition, adult female tarantulas molt much more often than males. Adult males molt very rarely and sometimes do not molt at all.
Since there are so many factors that influence how often a tarantula will molt there is no clear-cut answer to the question of how often tarantulas molt. It depends on what kind of tarantula you have, their gender, and how old they are. Generally speaking though, a young tarantula will molt up to once a month, while an older tarantula will molt between every six months and every two years.
Signs that your T is about to molt
There are 4 major signs that you can use to identify when your tarantula is about to molt. The stage before they molt is called “premolt” and you can tell that they’re in this stage by keeping an eye out for the following signs:
- Lower activity levels. Most tarantulas are already not very active and spend a lot of their day hiding away in their burrow. However, when the time to molt comes, they will be even less active than usual. You might notice that your T will move more slowly and is generally quite sluggish.
- Dull colors. One of the most telling signs that your T is about to molt is when their coloration becomes less bright. The reason for this is that their old exoskeleton is about to be shed and thus loses some of its colorations.
- Lower appetite. Tarantulas will stop eating before they’re about to molt. Sometimes, they stop eating completely weeks before they’ll actually molt. They stop eating because they need to decrease their body volume to be able to get out of their old exoskeleton.
- Bald spot. You might also notice that your tarantula develops a bald spot before molting. This bald spot does not always appear, but when it does, you can find it on their abdomen.
During the molt
Once your T starts molting you will notice that they will lay on their back or on their side. Don’t worry, this is completely normal, they’re not dying. A dying tarantula will usually not lay on its back but will rather curl up its legs.
When they are molting it is crucial that you leave them alone and do not disturb them. The molting process is very energy-intensive and stressful so doing whatever you can to make the process as easy for them as possible is very important. If you start touching them while they are molting they will become even more stressed out and may actually fail to properly molt.
The molting process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours. Usually, the bigger the spider, the longer it takes to molt. Be patient, try not to help them. They’re perfectly capable of doing this on their own.
After the molt
Once your tarantula has successfully shed its old exoskeleton and has completed its molt they are very vulnerable. Their new exoskeleton is very fragile and they should not be touched for at least a week after they’ve molted.
In addition, you should wait at least 10 days before you start feeding them. The prey animals you give your tarantula can harm them if you offer them before their new exoskeleton has fully hardened.
Don’t worry about your spider starving, they can go extremely long without food due to their low metabolism so there’s no danger in waiting a few days before feeding them. Some T’s can go without food for up to 2 years so a couple of days is nothing for them. As long as they have access to water, they will be totally fine.
Usually, tarantulas can molt just fine and there are no problems. Nevertheless, problems can occur during molting. The most common problem is that your T is unable to escape from their old carapace. This usually occurs when the humidity levels are not high enough and there is not enough moisture.
Helping your tarantula molt
If you notice that your tarantula is obviously struggling to escape their old carapace you can try to help them by gentling moisturizing the area where he’s having trouble with a moist brush. This increase in moisture will make it easier for the spider to escape from their carapace.
Do tarantulas eat their molt?
There have been reports of tarantulas eating their molt, but usually only the stomach and book lungs. Generally speaking, tarantulas do not eat their molt because there is no nutritional value in the exoskeleton they just shed. They usually drag the shed exoskeleton away from their hide and continue on with their day.
Since tarantulas generally do not eat their molt it’s fine to remove it from their enclosure once they’re done molting.
If you have a New-World tarantula, make sure to use a pair of tweezers to do this. New-World tarantulas have hairs on their exoskeleton called urticating hairs. These are usually used as a defense mechanism, but if you pick up the molt with your hands, the hairs can get stuck on your hands. If you then rub your eyes the urticating hairs can get in your eyes which can do serious damage and can even cause blindness so be careful.
Is molting painful for tarantulas?
Unfortunately, there’s no way to really know if molting is painful for tarantulas. We can’t talk to them, and studying whether or not they feel pain during the molting process would be extremely difficult.
However, one thing we do know is that their skin is very sensitive after they’ve molted so make sure to keep that in mind otherwise you can easily hurt your spider.
What does molting look like?
I’ve you’ve never seen your tarantula molt and can’t wait until they do to find out what it looks like, check out this cool gif of a time-lapse of a tarantula shedding its old skin. It’s very interesting and will give you a good idea of what to expect.
Good luck, and have fun! Watching your spider molt is very interesting and I’m sure everything will go great!