Molting is a critical, yet dangerous process in the life cycle of a tarantula. Ensuring your tarantula emerges from the molt successfully is your top priority. In this guide, I’ll teach you how to care for molting tarantulas.
To care for a molting tarantula, remove the prey once the premolt tarantula stops feeding. Do not touch or handle the tarantula. Keep an eye on the presence of ants around the enclosure. Continue feeding the tarantula 1 week after molting. Ensure the water dish is filled before and after the molt.
Continue reading to understand more about tarantula molting and its care.
Care at Different Molting Stages
Tarantulas grow by molting (learn more about molting in general). The whole molting process can be further divided into premolt, molt and post molt. The stages between each molt is called the intermolt, which is the so-called normal stage.
In premolt, the tarantula forms a new layer of exoskeleton underneath its existing exoskeleton.
Premolt can last for a few days, weeks, or in extreme cases, up to 3 months. Younger or smaller juveniles have a shorter premolt, while older or larger individuals require a longer premolt.
In the premolt stage, tarantulas become weaker due to the coexistence of both the new exoskeleton internally, and old exoskeleton externally. The double exoskeleton layers make the tarantula more sluggish.
As the nerves linking the old exoskeleton with the tarantula are slowly disconnected, its sensory and locomotion ability decrease drastically. Hence, premolt tarantulas become unattracted by the prey. If you premolt tarantula stops feeding, remove the prey until it finishes molting.
Never touch or handle a premolt tarantula. If you accidentally injure the newly-formed exoskeleton and cause bleeding, your tarantula will likely die in molting.
Fill up the water dish regularly. Sufficient water is crucial to ensure a successful molt.
Once the tarantula is ready, it usually (but not always) flips around with its belly up, and starts to molt. The molting tarantula is extremely vulnerable, because it can’t defend itself.
Some tarantulas may create a molting cradle (web), and molt on it. Never touch the web, because the tarantula would lay its urticating hairs on it, to protect itself from intruders.
The molting can last for a few days. Younger tarantulas molt faster than the older tarantulas. Remember, do not touch or handle your tarantula at this stage, because it is extremely vulnerable! Any external pressure and stress can cause molting failure.
Obviously, you don’t want any prey inside the tarantula enclosure. At the same time, you would want to be vigilant – ants can invade your tarantula enclosure and kill the tarantula. Ants should be taken care of as a part of your normal tarantula setup. But, if you haven’t, it’s time to look into this matter.
After molting is completed, the newly-formed exoskeleton takes time to fully harden. The tarantula is still vulnerable at this stage.
Wait for a week before you start feeding the tarantula. If your tarantula ignores the food, try again after a week. Make sure there is always water in the dish to keep your tarantula hydrated.
Post molt can take a few days or weeks to complete, depending on the species and size of the tarantula.
Avoid touching and handling the post molt tarantula to avoid injuring it, at least until it starts feeding.
What Happens if You Disturb A Molting Tarantula?
Disturbing a molting tarantula may cause stress to the tarantula. It can also cause injury, since the newly-formed exoskeleton is still too soft. As a result, the tarantula may emerge with deformities, or die when molting.
What if The Tarantula is Stuck in A Molt?
An old or sick tarantula may get stuck in a molt. They will likely die if no intervention is done. However, intervention doesn’t guarantee survival.
Before helping your tarantula, you have to make sure it needs help. Do not intervene if it doesn’t need help, because the tarantula knows how to molt better than you! So, how do you know if your tarantula needs help?
If the tarantula has started molting, where a part of its body is already outside the old exoskeleton, but shows no progress after 6 hours, it is probably stuck. If it hasn’t started molting, do not interfere.
A tarantula that got stuck in molting usually has their legs trapped. One of the reasons for this is because it doesn’t molt fast enough. The newly-formed exoskeleton on its legs has started to harden, and it becomes difficult for the tarantula to pull it out from the old exoskeleton.
To help the tarantula stuck in molting, dab some glycerin or soap water on the exoskeleton where the leg of the tarantula got stuck. The liquid should soften the old exoskeleton so that the tarantula can escape by itself.
Note that the book lungs of the tarantulas are located underneath its opisthosoma. Don’t drip any liquid on the book lungs, or your tarantula will die drowning.
In the worst case scenarios, where the tarantula has its opisthosoma or part of its carapace stuck, you may need to cut and peel off the old exoskeleton. This is extremely risky, and may kill your tarantula.
Similarly, you should first dampen the old exoskeleton with soap water or glycerine, and hope that the tarantula can exit the exoskeleton. Again, be careful not to drip any liquid on the book lungs of your tarantula. If it makes no progress after an hour, begin the surgery.
You will need tweezers, super glue, and a head mounted magnifier with a flashlight. The super glue is used to stop bleeding (yes, I am serious), if any.
Any intervention to the molting process should be done only if you are sure that your tarantula needs it! Do it at your own risk, expecting the worst possible outcome – death of the tarantula.
What if My Tarantula is Malformed after A Molt?
Fortunately, that’s not the end of the world, especially if your tarantula can molt again. In the next molt, the deformities will be “fixed”. That includes severed or broken legs or jaws.
As the owner, you need to help your tarantula to live well so that it can prepare for the next molt. You might need to hand-feed your tarantula if it loses the ability to hunt by itself.
How Do I Know When My Tarantula is Going to Molt?
A New World tarantula is about to molt if the bald patch on its opisthosoma gets darker. That shows the new exoskeleton and urticating hairs are formed underneath the existing exoskeleton. Your tarantula will molt in 1-2 weeks once the bald patch turns dark.
How Often Do Tarantulas Molt?
Tarantula molt several times before turning into adults. The number of molts varies between species and sex. Male tarantulas stop molting after they become adult, while adult females continue to molt. The intervals between molts range from weeks or months for juvenile tarantulas, to years for adults.