Spiders change their skin

Tarantula molt - skin dissection

Information about tarantula skinning.
Instructions for preparing the excuvie.

Why do tarantulas shed their skin?

Tarantulas renew their external skeleton at regular intervals.
This process mainly serves:

  • the growth of the tarantula
  • for cleaning metabolic waste products (waste products) from the body
  • the renewal of lost and discarded limbs
  • in bombardier spiders to regenerate the stinging hair

The external skeleton of the tarantula cannot expand / grow because, with the exception of the abdomen, it consists of hard chitin. This forms an important element in the formation of the body's structure. During the moult, the spider frees itself from its exoskeleton and has a short period of time (a few days) to grow.

WHO sheds WHEN?

Young tarantulas can molt up to 2 times a month. As you get older, the intervals lengthen up to 3 months.

In adult females, the procedure never stops. They shed their moult up to twice a year, and the intervals between them become larger with age.

Male tarantulas, on the other hand, molt until they reach sexual maturity, so their last molt is also called "maturity molt".

How do you recognize an imminent molt?

The solution lies in observation. As owners, we get a feel for the behavior of our animals. With these clues we can prepare for an imminent molt.

  • We observe a refusal to eat
  • Sluggish behavior (hardly any movement)
  • Spin a lot, indicates the preparation of a skinning carpet.
  • The spider retreats to its den for weeks.
  • Extreme stripping of stinging hair for no apparent reason
  • The spider barricades and digs a protected area to skin itself.
  • Bombardier spiders have a dark color on the "bald head"
  • Before moulting, the spider then lies on its back in order to moult.

How can the owner help?

As in nature, we as the keeper cannot support our tarantula with molting, but we can make this procedure easier for them.
If one observes several signs of molting, the humidity of the environment can be increased to 80 to 90%. It can also happen that a spider that is particularly young or very old gets stuck in the old skin. If the molt is not yet complete after more than 24 hours, or if the animal is perhaps even pulling the old skin behind it, you probably have a failed molt, which can happen now and then.

In this case, it is helpful to moisten the relevant part of the body with water. If the animal still does not come out, you can very carefully try to peel off the skin with tweezers.

Food animals should not be in the terrarium, this would only cause stress for the spider and even injure them.
You should avoid touching the animal in any case, as its chitin shell is very soft, you can cause serious injuries to the animal very quickly.
Peace and quiet must be guaranteed during this time.

The molting process in three steps

The duration of this process depends on the size and age of the spider. While spiderlings take less than an hour, older tarantulas can take up to 24 hours and more.

1. Unfolding the prosoma
Here the heart rate increases. Body fluid (hemolymph) is pumped into the front body, which causes the chitin lid to tear. The carapace is folded up like a lid.

2. Free the opisthosoma
With the tears, the abdomen slowly begins to free. The wrinkled skin of the back of the body is shaved off by wave-like contractions.

3. Extraction of the extremities
This is where the most difficult part of the molting process takes place. Freeing the extremities is the most likely way of complications.

If you see two spiders in your terrarium, the spider has made it and the moult is successful.

After this very strenuous process, the spider pauses and remains motionless. The spider is now very soft and the jaws are milky white. Now you should not give the spider food animals, they cannot be bitten and also cannot be digested.
While you can feed spiderlings again after a few days, young spiders should be fed from 7 days and adults after 2 weeks at the earliest.

It takes a few days for the tarantula to be completely hard again. During this time, growth takes place. Here it is also very important to ensure calmness for you as a holder.

Steps to Prepare the Exuvia.

Immediately after molting, the exuvia (empty shell) is still soft and could be shaped directly, unfortunately the tarantula is usually close by. Taking the skin out with tweezers at this point would be a major stress factor for the animal. So it is advisable to wait until the tarantula has withdrawn. If the skin is not visible in the terrarium, it is probably in the cave, here it is also very important to wait until the tarantula puts it out by itself.

By this time, the exuvia is already dry and no longer malleable. With these steps you can easily prepare the skin.

  1. Prepare the bowl with lukewarm water and washing-up liquid.
  2. Carefully remove the skin from the terrarium with tweezers, it may crack.
  3. Put it in the water and let it soak for up to 30 minutes.
  4. Place on a clean surface and shape as desired.
  5. Let dry for up to 1 day (room temperature).
  6. Tip: The whole thing is fixed again with hair lacquer.

Now the exuuvia is ready to be exhibited.

Have fun!

Author: Therese Schumacher

Managing Director Zoo Roco / Federal Graduated retail salesman / animal keeper card / adult educator / responsible training in the pet industry for general industry knowledge of the Bern region, inter-company courses on birds, rodents and rabbits / examination expert in pet shops and master trainer / author of school documents / president of the Swiss Association of Zoological Shops Show all articles by Therese Schumacher

Author Therese SchumacherPosted on Categories TerraristicsTags feeding, molting, terraristics, tarantulas, growth, invertebrates, Zoo Roco