Tarantulas are a fun and unusual pet, and like all animals with an exoskeleton, they molt on occasion to make room for new growth. This natural process can seem scary to an inexperienced tarantula owner, but it’s a necessary part of arachnid life in the wild.
The molting process requires a tarantula to slow down for a bit while it sheds its old shell to expose a new one. Let’s explore this fascinating process to learn how often tarantulas molt.
How Often Do Tarantulas Molt?
Tarantulas only molt about once every six months, and sometimes only once per year. While this is a dangerously vulnerable time for the tarantula, it lasts only about 15 minutes to a few hours.
Preparations For Molting
During a tarantula molting process, the spider will shed its old shell and replace it with a new one, which continues through most of its life. Tarantulas will make preparations for their molting process.
Molting typically starts with the spiders depositing a web of silk around themselves. This web acts as a protective layer. They will also reduce their activity to conserve their energy.
A release of hormones triggers molting. They will also begin to shift fluids in their body from their abdomen into their upper body to help with releasing the old shell.
Signs of Molting
You can begin seeing the signs that molting is about to occur because your tarantula starts to prepare. Some tarantulas begin secreting fluids from their joints to let you know they’re getting ready to molt.
When a tarantula is ready to molt, it will spin its web more slowly. It may also stop eating for a few days.
Here are the signs to look for when it’s time for your tarantula to start molting:
Decreased Appetite and Activity
The tarantula will likely stop eating and reduce its activity right before molting. It may seem weak and lethargic, but this is a natural process. Don’t worry. This is temporary.
The tarantula is conserving its energy and getting itself ready to molt. However, its hormones have told it to slow down. During this time, a tarantula’s appetite and activity may decrease as it focuses on rebuilding its body.
Bald Spot Develops
Tarantulas have what is called setae and not actual hair. When they feel molting time is near, they rub the urticating setae off their abdomen, exposing a bald spot.
Their abdomen may also appear darker around their bald areas. Again, this is normal and indicates the tarantula is getting ready to molt.
You may notice your tarantula spin more webbing right before molting. Some even spin a little patch of webbing to lay on while molting. So changes in spinning habits could be an indication that molting is near.
A clear visual indication that molting is about to occur is a change in color of the tarantula’s old exoskeleton. The old shell may turn a dull color, almost like dead skin. If you notice your tarantula’s color is not as vibrant, it may be preparing to molt.
Laying Upside Down
Finally, when a tarantula is on the verge of molting, it will flip over and lay on its back. Then, it will loosen the old shell by opening and closing their legs (exuviae shedding) or wriggling out of their old skin and into a new one (ecdysis).
Tarantulas generally will curl their legs tightly under themselves while on their belly when they die, so if they are on their back and not moving, don’t assume they’re dead.
Frequency of Molting
The frequency of molting for tarantulas depends significantly on their environment and age. Younger spiders will shed more often because they’re growing faster, and tarantulas in late adulthood may only molt once every couple of years.
When thinking about how often your tarantula molts, consider their age, which will help you gauge when to expect a molt.
Molting may also occur in response to injuries or infections. For example, if a tarantula loses a limb, it will most likely recover a new one during molting. Likewise, if a tarantula gets an exoskeletal infection, molting can help it heal.
Dangers To Watch For
Molting is an integral part of a tarantula’s life cycle, allowing them to grow and adapt to their environment. It’s also a way for Tarantulas to rid themselves of old tissue that may be infected or damaged.
Molting is also a dangerous and vulnerable time for tarantulas. During the molting process, a spider’s body can become very weak and lose its ability to move. Therefore, giving them space and allowing the process to occur naturally is important.
If you keep a tarantula as a pet, make sure they always have access to water. Dehydration can lead to problems during the molting process.
Likewise, malnourishment can also pose a danger to molting tarantulas. Not having proper nourishment can lead to premature molting, resulting in deformed limbs or other growth issues.
Overall, it’s vital for the health of your tarantula that they have access to proper food and water to prevent any problems during the molting process. In addition, they need to be able to successfully shed and regrow their exoskeleton regularly to remain healthy.
A post-molt tarantula will remain on its back for some time to rest and recuperate. The tarantula should be left alone until it’s ready to flip back over. After molting, a tarantula’s exoskeleton is soft and needs time to harden.
Unfortunately, this also includes their fangs! While it is still hardening, the tarantula should not be fed. Instead, let the spider decide when it’s ready to eat again.
Younger spiderlings recover faster than older adults. Young tarantulas may begin eating again within a day or two, while older tarantulas can take up to a month to feed.
So now you know how often tarantulas molt. You can expect your tarantula to molt once every six months to a year.
You have also learned what to look for when your tarantula begins molting. Keep in mind this is a natural process and important to the life and health of your tarantula.