One of the most surprising things about owning a tarantula is waking up one morning and finding out that your eight-legged friend has escaped its exoskeleton! This is called molting, and it is an almost Houdini-esque escape, as it sure does take a lot of effort! Have you ever wondered why they molt or how it happens? In this article, we will be discussing everything you need to know about the process of molting.

Why does my tarantula need to molt and how often does it happen?

As tarantulas get bigger, they need to shed their smaller exoskeletons so they can continue to grow. This is because exoskeletons do not grow with the spider. Slings and juvenile tarantulas will molt more often, once a month or every other month, while more mature spiders will molt about once a year.

So how can I tell my tarantula is about to molt?

When a tarantula is getting ready to molt they may stop eating for a couple of weeks or even months. You might notice that they will seclude themselves more than usual. They can lose the hair on their abdomen creating a bald patch, and their color will become dull. You may also notice that they have become somewhat lethargic. Some tarantulas will even create a web mat to molt on. The final stage is when they flip over onto their back, sometimes remaining in that position for a day or two before beginning the molting process. During this time, it is highly recommended that you remove any crickets or other feeder insects from the cage, as they can be harmful to your spider. Increase the enclosure’s humidity and always make sure there is fresh water available. Molting is extremely stressful, and it is recommended that you do not try to handle or touch your spider during this time.

It looks dead!

If you are new to tarantula keeping, seeing your tarantula begin the molting process can be a shock, as many will think their treasured spider has died. However, tarantulas will very rarely die on their backs. When you see them on their back or side this a good sign they are about to molt. When tarantulas are about to pass due to old age or sickness, their legs will completely tuck under them. You also will not find many spiders who have died with their legs sprawled outward. As they get weaker, it is harder for them to keep themselves upright so their legs will slowly begin to curl under them. This is known as the “death curl." If you notice that your spider is in a death curl, they may not be dead at all. Sometimes, just moving them into a smaller container with a moist paper towel and a small bowl of water can revive them, as most tarantula deaths are caused by dehydration. If your spider is stressed, it can appear to be in the death curl, because it will bring its legs in close. Try not to spray the spider or poke it to make it move, this can bring on more stress, which is the last thing you want for your pet.

What happens during molting?

When the process begins the carapace and abdomen will rupture and they will begin to slowly wiggle and stretch out of their old skin. This process can take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. Once done, they will leave behind a husk, which resembles a second spider that you should remove from the enclosure with a pair of tweezers. The spider's new exoskeleton is very fragile and you should not try to handle or feed your tarantula for at least a week while the new skin hardens. This takes us back to why it is not recommended to have any loose crickets in the enclosure, as they can bite and cause serious injury to your pet. After a week you can resume feeding as normal.

Can molting be dangerous to my spider?

When you notice that your tarantula is about to molt, it is important that you make sure the temperature and humidity are just right. Keeping the humidity around 60 percent is ideal. This makes the molting process a more comfortable experience for your spider. If you do not have proper moisture in your enclosure, it can make the molting process more difficult for your tarantula. Common issues are when a leg or sometimes the lower body gets stuck in the old exoskeleton. If it is not freed, it can lead to an untimely death. If you notice this happens with your spider, you can very gently use a small wet paintbrush to try and help separate the stuck limb from the old skin.

Following these recommendations will ensure that you have a healthy, happy spider for many years to come.

Check out this timelapse of a tarantula molting: