Help … My Tarantula Buried Itself!

Help-topic

It’s probably one of the most common, yet stressful, scenarios for a new tarantula keeper. After months of research and homework, you purchase your first tarantula sling. Your anxiety level is high as you are new to the hobby, and despite all the preparation, you are still worried that you will make a husbandry mistake. You set up what you think is the perfect enclosure, rehouse your new little guy without incident, and take a moment to admire your new pet. Satisfied that you’ve done everything right, you head off to bed.

However, when you awake the next morning and check on your T, you find the enclosure empty … or at least it first appears to be empty. Closer examination reveals that your little guy has been busy, and he has now burrowed deep beneath the substrate. Not finding any hole or passageway, no way for your spider to resurface again, you begin to freak out. You did your research, and you read that this species is terrestrial, not fossorial …  why has it buried itself? Fearing for your new acquisition’s safety, questions swirl through your brain.

Is he in danger?

Is he trapped?

Is he dead?

Should I dig him out?

In most instances, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO.

But what should I do?

And the short answer to this oft-asked question is: Do NOTHING.

Burrowing is normal behavior with many species of slings, including some arboreals.

Although this is a topic I’ve touched upon in a few different blogs, the question is asked often enough that I felt it deserved its own topic. After all, if you begin keeping tarantulas as a hobby, you are likely to experience this behavior at some point or another.

One of my P. sazimai slings sealed in its burrow. I'm expecting a molt from this one soon.

One of my P. sazimai slings sealed in its burrow. I’m expecting a molt from this one soon.

When I first got heavy into the hobby, I experienced this scenario with my L. parahybana sling. After a couple weeks of it sitting out in the open, greedily snatching prey and using a piece of cork bark for a hide, I awoke one morning to find that it had buried itself. Now, at first I didn’t panic because I could see the little webbed-over hole that marked the mouth of its den. However, when I discovered that this hole had been filled in a couple days later, panic set in. As weeks passed, I became thoroughly convinced that my little guy had buried himself alive. He wasn’t visible, he wasn’t eating, and the tunnel looked as if it might have collapsed. I was ready to dig him up to “save” him when I decided to first do a bit of research first.

It was a good thing I did, too.

I discovered that it is perfectly natural behavior for slings to bury themselves. Because we are keeping these animals as “pets”,  behaviors that are perfectly normal and essential for a wild spider’s survival can seem perplexing in captivity. Although a T burying itself seems like a dire sign to us, it is in fact very normal.

My little LP opened its burrow again after a few weeks, and although I never saw it out, the prey I dropped in soon disappeared. It lived like this, hidden in its hole, for another year before finally growing large enough to feel confident living outside of its burrow. It’s been out in the open ever since.

Let’s consider some very important facts:

1. Tarantulas bury themselves for security. Tarantula slings are especially vulnerable in the wild. As a result, it behooves them to stay out of sight where larger predators like birds can easily gobble them up, or where they could easily dehydrate beneath the sun’s heat. In the wild, a sling’s burrow protects it from predators and the elements and provides it a safe home-base from which to hunt when night comes.

Sure, we keep the temperatures optimal in their enclosures, and there are not threats from predators in the safety of our homes, but they don’t know that. Their evolutionary programming is telling them that they need to burrow for security.

This behavior isn’t limited to only terrestrial Ts, either. I keep several arboreals, including eight species of Poecilotheria and L. violoceopes, and all have burrowed as slings. I could see this causing a bit of stress for a keeper expecting these spiders to be up on a branch or piece of cork bark.

2. Many tarantulas will bury themselves during the molt process. Even larger specimens may disappear into burrows when it comes time for a shed. Again, it comes down to the tarantula feeling safe and secure. The molting process is incredibly taxing and leaves the spider exhausted and very vulnerable. Not only is the spider physically taxed, but its new fangs and exoskeleton are soft and need time to harden. Therefore, many Ts will secret themselves away in their burrows when premolt approaches to wait out the process.

In these instances, the tarantula might cover over the entrance to its burrow with dirt or webbing.  If your spider suddenly buries itself after previously being out in the open and eating well, chances are it’s just in premolt. It will emerge again eventually, a bit larger and sporting a brand new exoskeleton.

3. Tarantulas normally don’t die in burrow collapses. Many new keepers fear that if their tarantula buries itself, it could perish from a cave in. I have heard of exactly ONE instance where this happened, and it was because the spider managed to burrow under a heavy rock the keeper was using as a decoration. This instance was a freak accident and nothing more.

The fact is, tarantulas will line their burrows with webbing, and that helps hold the walls together. If you’ve ever had to dig a tarantula out for rehousing, you’ll understand how tough and put-together these web-lined tunnels can be. Also, tarantulas are quite strong and very good diggers. Even if a tunnel was to collapse, as long as there was nothing heavy above it, the T would just dig its way out.

4. Your tarantula will not suffocate beneath the ground. Another misconception is that if a T closes off its den, it can suffocate to death. Again, not true. Tarantulas need much less oxygen than other animals, and most would naturally spend their lives in tight burrows dug far into the earth. As long as there is proper ventilation in the enclosure, they won’t suffocate.

When in doubt, always remember the golden rule of tarantula keeping: the tarantula always knows best.

In our quests to be the best tarantula keepers possible, we often forget a very important detail: tarantulas have evolved over millions of years and know how to survive. Unlike their human keepers, they are not prone to “irrational” decision-making. In most situations, they know what they are doing and what’s good for them. If your T suddenly buries itself, it’s not arachnid suicide. It’s only doing what it’s been programmed to do. Although you may have to wait a while to see your favorite pet again, understand that it’s not in any danger.

On of my P. atrichomatus slings buried at the bottom of its enclosure. This one spent almost a month sealed in.

On of my P. atrichomatus slings buried at the bottom of its enclosure. This one spent almost a month sealed in.

So, to review, if your tarantula suddenly buries itself, there is only one thing to do…

…NOTHING! 

Resist the urge to dig it up to “check on it.” If you succumb to the urge, you risk needlessly stressing it or, if it’s in the process of molting, KILLING it.

Also, do NOT try to open up the mouth of the burrow to “give it some air” or to allow for its escape. Again, just leave the animal be. It may be a week, it may be a couple months, but your spider will emerge eventually.

And finally, NEVER shove live prey down the hole if it’s not eating. Not only will this stress the animal out, but the prey item could kill the spider if it’s in the middle of a molt. Also, if the spider dispatches but doesn’t eat the intruder, you may now have a rotting bug corpse stuck in the burrow with your T.

At what point should I worry and dig up my specimen to check on it?

In 99% of the instances, it will be entirely unnecessary to dig up a tarantula. However, I’ve had folks ask how long they should wait before worrying. I would say if you have a small sling that has been buried for six to eight months without taking any food or making an appearance, it might be time to worry. The fact is, some slings will die; it’s an unfortunate part of nature that all specimens aren’t healthy enough to live.

If it’s a small specimen and more than a half-year has gone by, it might be time to do some investigating. After all, you don’t want to be keeping a dead T as a pet. Still, be sure to be very careful when digging the animal up, and keep in mind that you could harm it if it’s molting. Also, larger spiders can spend more time safely in their burrows as they are not fragile and prone to dehydration or starvation. For larger specimens, I would wait even longer.

That being said, I offer this anecdote for anyone considering digging up one of their tarantulas. I had a 3/8″ Maraca cabocla that burrowed deep in its enclosure last year and completely covered the entrance to its burrow. From late October until almost April, it did not eat and I saw no sign of it. At first, I thought it was just staying in its den for the winter. I’ve had many Ts do this, and it had never caused me any alarm. However, as more time passed, and I saw no movement within the vial, I assumed the worst.

Finally, I convinced myself that the small T had probably died over the winter, so I set to digging it out. I spent almost a half hour carefully removing the substrate and spreading it out on a white dinner plate so that I could hopefully find the tiny body. At one point my heart sank as I pulled out a masticated form I mistook as the spider’s corpse.

Nope … only a molt.

Finally, as I was removing the last bit of dirt, my little guy scurried out and stood upon the heaped contents of its enclosure as if to say, “dude…what the heck?” Needless to say, I felt silly (as well as a bit bad for the spider). Yup, I had jumped the gun; my tarantula was quite healthy and in no danger. By digging out its substrate, I had jeopardized its health and caused it needless stress.

I won’t make that mistake again.  

Your tarantula has buried itself? Just relax!

Like many aspects of this hobby, patience and experience are key. As you experience this situation more and more, it becomes much easier to recognize it as the normal behavior it is. The next time your precious little one decides to play hide-and-seek on you, don’t let it be cause of worry.

And if you find yourself getting impatient, do what many of us do … just buy more tarantulas!

For more on MOLTING and signs of a molt, check out the article below!

MOLTING

Sexing a Tarantula from a Molt – L. itabunae

It’s a girl!

A recent L. itabunea molt. The Epigastric furrow is circled in read, and the spermatheca (female sex organ) is outlined in blue.

A recent L. itabunae molt. The Epigastric furrow is circled in red, and the spermatheca (female sex organ) is outlined in blue.

At least, it’s looking that way.

After many ill-fated attempts in which I clumsily destroyed molts in an effort to sex a tarantula, I finally got one that I didn’t accidentally shred. When I noticed my Lasiodora itabunae laying down a molting mat the other night, I hoped that I might be able to get some good snapshots of its molting process. Well, not only did I get a few cool photos, but I was actually able to remove the molt within minutes of it molting (and before it dried out or was destroyed).

After removing the exuvia, I laid it out on a plate and sprayed down the the twist of abdominal skin to make it more pliable. Using a couple tooth picks, I carefully untwisted the thin tissue and spread it out so that I could clearly see the two sets of book lungs and, what I hoped, would be the female sex organs.

After I identified what I though what I thought was the spermatheca, or the female sex organ that serves as a receptacle for sperm, I posted the photo on arachnoboards to have others chime in. So far, the consensus is that it is a lovely young lady.

This is a particularly nice surprise as my itabunae has become one of my favorite Ts, and they are not particularly common in the hobby. This is definitely one of the species I would eventually love to breed, so having a female is a HUGE win for me.

I’ve got a couple more unsexed Ts getting ready to molt, and I hope to sex a few more soon. With any luck, I’ll have a few more females.

My L. itabunae laying down a molting mat.

My L. itabunae laying down a molting mat.

My L. itabunae on its back in the process of molting.

My L. itabunae on its back in the process of molting.

My L. itabunae just moments after fully casting off its old exoskeleton.

My L. itabunae just moments after fully casting off its old exoskeleton.

My L. itabunae stretching out a day after its molt.

My L. itabunae stretching out a day after its molt.

 

 

Avicularia versicolor – Pre and Post Molt Comparison

Just one word…WOW!

VERSICOLOR-MOLT

My young adult A. versicolor before (left) and after (right) a recent molt.

Yesterday, I noticed that my juvenile A. versicolor was looking very picturesque sitting atop its cork bark, so I decided to snap a couple pics. As I was loading them up to resize, I couldn’t help but to look forward to her next molt. After all, this species undergoes some truly amazing and gorgeous color changes as it develops, and I couldn’t wait to see what new appearance the next molt would bring.

I didn’t have long to wait.

Today I was feeding my Ts when I noticed a discarded exuviae in the corner of my A. versicolor enclosure. I immediately took her down, unscrewed the top, and stared in awe at this beautiful specimen. Not only did this new shed bring with it stunning metallic green tones on the legs and even more on the carapace, but her abdomen was finally showing some of that beautiful adult maroon/red.  She also put on a fair amount of size this time around, becoming both longer and thicker. As luck would have it, I was able to catch her in almost the exact same spot, providing for a wonderful before-and-after size comparison.

There is a reason this little arboreal beauty is recognized as one of the most stunning tarantula species!

 

H. villosella Death – Tarantula Impaction?

Not the way I wanted to begin my Friday evening.

For the past several weeks, I have been keeping an eye on my Heterothele villosella (Tanzanian Chestnut Baboon) sling, as its behavior after a recent molt had become abnormal. I had received this wonderful little tarantula as a freebie several months back, and it immediately impressed me with its vicious appetite and beautiful webbing. Like many of my Ts, this one would only refuse food while in premolt.

My H. villosella, alive and well, after a recent molt. Despite only eating twice, its abdomen was still remarkably plump.

My H. villosella, alive and well, after a recent molt. Despite only eating twice, its abdomen was still remarkably plump.

Well, after this specimen refused a meal about two months ago, I assumed it was in premolt. Sure enough, it emerged after a week of hiding a little bit larger and sporting fresh colors. As this particular sling was usually ravenous after a molt, I offered it a small cricket, which it took no problem. Another cricket was offered a few days later with similar results. She was back to eating well.

I dropped the third cricket in about two weeks after she emerged from her last molt, and I was surprised to find the cricket alive and kicking the next morning.

Hmmm…

I waited a few more days before offering another cricket. This, too, was rejected. Now, I’ve had many tarantulas change their eating habits after a recent molt, so I wasn’t particularly concerned yet. I made sure to wet down part of the substrate in the enclosure to keep the humidity up, and waited another week to try again. Again, no dice. Despite being a great eater in the past, this T had inexplicably stopped eating, and during the warm months of summer when even my most picky specimens were ravenous.

More odd behavior.

About three weeks ago, my H. villosella started spending a lot of time out in the open. For the first six months I had this spider, I rarely saw it out of its heavily-webbed den, and when I did, it was usually in the early morning after I turned the lights on.  The slightest bump would send it scurrying back inside its burrow.

However, this T was now out all the time and wouldn’t flee even when I picked up its enclosure. In many ways, I found this new behavior more alarming than its lack of appetite. I was pleased, however, to see that despite having only eaten twice, its abdomen was actually fairly plump.

I also noticed this T dragging its abdomen on the ground and on the side of the enclosure. I first thought that it was just webbing, but there didn’t seem to be any webbing coming out of it. The H. villosella was also using its back legs to rub its rear, something that didn’t seem particularly worrisome by itself, but proved concerning when added to the other odd behaviors.

With little I could do, I kept sprinkled water on the side of the enclosure daily to give it something to drink and kept it under close observation. It continued to hang out in the open, and this once speedy little spider was much more sluggish and calm.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t able to recover.

When I arrived home from work yesterday, I was saddened to find the little guy in a partial death curl. As a precaution (it is sometimes difficult to determine if they are truly dead), I put it into an ICU to see if it might be “revived”. While moving the T, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The area around its anus was caked with bit of white stool. Also, there was a white “plug” partially protruding from it.

My H. villosella sling in an ICU. Unfortunately, it did not make it.

My H. villosella sling in an ICU. Unfortunately, it did not make it.

Suddenly, it seemed more clear as to what probably happened to this unfortunate T. I had read about other keepers losing tarantulas to fecal impactions, but I had never experienced it myself. An impaction occurs when the Ts anus becomes blocked, prohibiting it from evacuating its waste.

In some of these instances, the T will essentially eat itself to death as the waste compounds inside it until it dies. In some instances, the animal stops eating after a molt, yet it’s abdomen remains large and bloated. In this instance, it’s suspected that a complication with the molt causes the issue. Other symptoms reported are sluggishness and unusual grooming of its backside, especially around the anus.

When a tarantula is showing signs of a fecal impaction, there is little a keeper can do. Some recommend using a paper towel or cotton swab moistened with warm water to try to wipe away and loosen up any feces that may be blocking the anus. In my case, I don’t know if this would have worked due to the very small size of the specimen.

I checked on the T this morning to see if its condition had improved over night, but it was in the same position it had been in the night before. Unfortunately, it had passed. Can I be positive that it was a fecal impaction that killed it. No. However, I have made no changes in husbandry in the last six months, and it had been healthy and seemingly thriving until its last molt, so I’m convinced it wasn’t something I did. It also displayed many of the common symptoms of an impaction, which lend more credence to the theory.

A dead H. villosella sling. Notice the white around the anus, and the yellowish spot that formed beneath the corpse (likely feces loosened by the moist towel.

A dead H. villosella sling. Notice the white around the anus, and the yellowish spot that formed beneath the corpse (likely feces loosened by the moist towel).

For those who may fear that they have a tarantula suffering from this malady, I will list the symptoms my T exhibit in hopes that it helps in identification.

Symptoms that indicated fecal compaction:

  • Diminished appetite (food refusal)
  • Plump, hard abdomen (even after not eating much)
  • Dragging abdomen and rubbing it on substrate without laying web
  • Excessive grooming of anus area with back legs
  • Sluggishness and decreased activity
  • White “plug” protruding from anus
  • White stool around anus

 

 

 

How Do I Know if My Tarantula Is in Premolt?

Don’t panic…learn to watch for the signs.

Fewer facets of tarantula keeping can cause more excitement and confusion for the novice keeper than premolt. This is the point where the tarantula usually stops eating for a bit and prepares its body for the stresses of molting its exoskeleton. As part of the joy of keeping tarantulas is experiencing their growth, an impending molt should be a joyous occasion.

However, as many newer keepers aren’t familiar with what premolt entails or looks like, it can also be a confusing situation that leads to worry and stress. Couple this with the fact that premolt periods can drag on for weeks, and you have the makings of a concerned keeper.

Part of the issue is because we have all grown up keeping pets that need to be fed daily in order to stay healthy. So, when our beloved little spider suddenly stops eating for several weeks, years of experience preys on our nerves and the worrying begins. Should I try feeding again? Does she need more water? Is the enclosure too large? Is she sick? Should I dig her out of her den? These are the questions that dog the novice keeper as he watches his pet, waiting for some sign that everything is totally normal.

I went through it myself the first time my little L. parahybana sling suddenly closed off the entrance to its den and buried itself for over a month. I worried that the poor little guy was trapped by a cave-in or had died. Luckily, I chose to leave him alone instead of trying to dig him out, as when he finally reappeared it was with a new exoskeleton and an extra 1/4″ of length.  Since then, I’ve learned to observe and recognize the signs of premolt.

Are you thinking that your specimen might be in premolt? Here are some telltale signs to look for…

1. The tarantula stops eating

This is probably the most obvious and common sign. You’ve been feeding your specimen regularly for several weeks, and suddenly it stops eating. Most species will stop feeding during their premolt period (although there are exceptions) as they prepare their bodies for the arduous process.

That is not to say that a tarantula might not stop feeding for other reasons. The G. rosea is known to fast for long periods of time, even when not in premolt. A stressed tarantula may also refuse food. Therefore, consider some of the other signs as well.

2. The tarantula has a fat, shiny abdomen

Most tarantulas ready for premolt will sport nice, plump abdomens up to 1.5 times the size of their carapace (or even larger for an over-stuffed specimen). If your tarantula has a nice, bulbous booty, and she has stopped eating, chances are she’s in premolt. As the flesh around the area stretches, the abdomen may also appear to be shiny.

The shininess is often more evident in slings than their older, much hairier counterparts. My little G. pulchripes, G. rosea, and L. parahybana slings all get “shiny hineys” whenever they are entering premolt. My P. cancerides slings and juveniles look like little grapes ready to pop when they are in premolt.

A female LP in premolt. Notice the shiny abdomen. This is particularly noticeable as she has kicked all the hair off. Also, the abdomen is very dark.

A female LP in premolt. Notice the shiny abdomen. This is particularly noticeable as she has kicked all the hair off. Also, the abdomen is very dark.

3.The tarantula’s abdomen and overall color darkens.

As the new exoskeleton forms under the old one, the spider will often darken up a bit. This is particularly evident on the abdomen where new hairs can be seen through the stretched skin here. Many of my slings will have a dark spot on their abdomens when in premolt, and it will continue to grow the closer they get to the actual molt. For species that do a lot of hair kicking and therefore have a bald spot, this darkening is especially evident.

G. rosea sling in premolt. Notice the large, shiny, and dark abdomen.

G. rosea sling in premolt. Notice the large, shiny, and dark abdomen.

My L. itabunae in premolt. Notice the shiny abdomen and the dark patch forming .

My L. itabunae in premolt. Notice the shiny abdomen and the dark patch forming .

4. The tarantula becomes slower and more lethargic.

Not all of the indicators are physical; an observant keeper should notice some behavioral changes as well. Besides not eating, most of my tarantulas that are in premolt become less active and often more secretive. Keep an eye on your tarantula, and along with the physical signs listed above, look for a change in behavior. Some of my most hyper species become noticeably sluggish when they are in premolt. For example, my GBBs tend to be fast little buggers who are constantly moving around their enclosures. However, when in premolt, they often become much more sedentary, sitting in one spot and often tucking themselves away behind their cork bark. Speaking of secretive…

5. The tarantula has buried itself in its den.

I frequent the Arachnoboards forum, and there is usually at least a post a week by a concerned keeper who wants to know if his/her buried T is okay. Heck, this is the situation that caused me alarm when my LP buried itself during a molt. Many tarantulas will retreat to their burrows and close of the entrances when entering a premolt period. My LP slings, M. balfouri juveniles, and G. pulchripes slings all bury themselves before a molt. Some things to consider if your T buries itself due to premolt.

They are not in danger.

They will not suffocate.

They have not been buried alive.

They do not need to be rescued.

The tarantula is just looking for some privacy and security during this vulnerable period. The tarantula will reopen its den once is has molted and hardened up. DO NOT freak out and try to dig the poor creature out; you only run the risk of distressing the animal and possibly interrupting its molt.

6. The tarantula has constructed a hammock-like web “mat” in its enclosure.

This web is referred to as a “molt mat”, and it is where the tarantula will flip over on its back when it molts. You may catch your premolt T laying layer after layer of web in a small area, and some of the new world species will actually kick hairs on the web as a form of protection. If you see this behavior, it means that your tarantula is about to molt very soon, usually within a day. For arboreal species, they will sometime build elevated “hammocks” off the ground for their molt mats or seal themselves in their funnel webs. This behavior serves the same purpose.

My female LP during a recent molt. Notice the molt mat on the left hand side of the photo.

My female LP during a recent molt. Notice the molt mat on the left hand side of the photo.

One more thing to remember for those who have not witnessed a tarantula molt…

IF IT IS ON ITS BACK, IT IS NOT DEAD!

That’s right, this is normal behavior; this is the position they get in to molt.

DO NOT touch a spider in this position.

DO NOT flip over a spider in this position.

DO NOT throw away, flush, or bury a spider in this position.

DO NOT blow on it.

DO NOT spray it with water.

DO leave it alone and let it complete the exhausting task of molting in peace. Molting is a natural occurrence for a tarantula, but it is also a period where they are quite vulnerable. Any fiddling with the animal could prove deadly to the T.

Hopefully, the photos and explanations above will help other keepers recognize and enjoy their tarantulas’ premolt without worry. Keep in mind, there is no set time for how long a tarantula can be in premolt. For slings, it can take anywhere from couple weeks to a month. Adult species can often spend several months in premolt. My 3.5″ B. smithi stopped eating and secluded herself for two months before finally molting. Conversely, my 3.5″ L. parahybana female molted two weeks after her last meal. Don’t panic if your animal takes a while; it’s a very natural process, and it will molt when it is ready.

And, for anyone curious as to what a tarantula molt looks like, please check out the following video.

Tarantula Molting in Time Lapse!

Watch my female L. parahybana get a new suit…in fast motion.

As I stated in an earlier post, I’ve had tarantulas molting constantly lately. The warmer weather has definitely sped up those metabolisms, and even my slower-growing species have joined in on the molting fun. It’s been amazing to discover a different T molting about every other day.

When I noticed that my female L. parahybana had turned over on her back for a molt, I decided to try to catch in on video. Having just purchased a new GoPro Hero Black video camera capable of time lapse photography, I scrambled to come up with some type of set up that would allow me to safely record the event without endangering my T. 15 minutes and quite a bit of profanity later, I had it all set up and ready to go.

The molt took approximately 4 hours from her flipping over to the molted exoskeleton being completely free. I set the interval at 60 seconds, which worked, but I will probably use 30 seconds on the next go round. This is the first time I’ve seen one of my tarantulas molt in entirety, and I’m floored.

My 11-year old, who was disappointed he was going to miss the molt due to being away for the week, is going to flip when he sees this…

 

 

 

 

A New Suit for My Aphonopelma schmidti!

For an earlier post about my little beauty, click here. 

The warm summer months has rendered my tarantula room “Molt Central”, and I’ve been delighted to discover that even some of my slowest-growing Ts are getting in on the action.

My female A. schmidti before a recent molt.

My female A. schmidti before a recent molt.

With my Lasiadora itabunae and my female Lasiadora parahybana both in heavy pre-molt and ready to go any day, I checked my tarantula room last night expecting to see one of them on their backs. However, neither of those two were belly-up; instead, my female Aphonopelma schmidti was in the process of turning over.

My A. schmidti on her back and ready to molt.

My A. schmidti on her back and ready to molt.

Since her last molt, my once skittish and picky eater had turned into a cricket chomping machine, and it didn’t take her long to put on some post-molt size. Still, as it had taken her several months to molt last time, and she had just eaten last week, I wasn’t expecting a new molt so soon. Had I been paying better attention, I might have remarked on her darkening coloration and her increasingly lethargic and sedentary behavior, two classic signs of pre-molt.

My A. schmidti female just after a molt.

My A. schmidti female just after a molt.

Not only has my little girl picked up a bit more size (I’ll have to get a good measurement once she hardens a bit) but she is also sporting more of her adult coloration. Her legs and carapace have picked up much more of those striking blonde tones that first drew me to this species.

Once she has rested up and hardened a bit, I will get a better photo and a measurement. I can’t wait to see her up and about again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

C. cyaneopubescens and P. cancerides Molts – Pictures!

With the warmer summer weather, and temperatures now consistently in the mid-80s, my tarantulas’ metabolisms have kicked into high gear. This means more eating, more growing, and more molting. In the past two weeks alone, 14 of my spiders have molted, and some of Ts I picked up as .75″ slings are now creeping closer to their adult colorations.

My juvenile C. cyaneopubescens (or GBB), one of the first two slings I purchased as a .75″ sling in October of 2013 is now 2.5+” and is sporting more of the adult orange on its abdomen and more blue on its legs.

2.5" after a recent molt.

2.5″ after a recent molt.

My juvenile P. cancerides (Haitian Brown) also molted again. What once was a striking little dark blue sling is now a 3″ juvenile will beautiful bronze and pink tones. These little guys have rapidly become one of my favorite species, and I very much enjoy watching the color changes as they grow into adults.

3" P. cancerides after a recent molt.

3″ P. cancerides after a recent molt.

Both of these Ts have undergone amazing color changes as they molt toward adulthood, and I will be eagerly awaiting what metamorphosis the next molts will bring.

 

P. antinous Pre and Post Molt Pics!

Wow…just WOW.

When I purchased my P. antinous a few months ago, it was partly because I had read that they were voracious eaters who made huge size gains between molts. As I have enjoyed watching my female ravage any prey items dropped into her cage, I already knew that she was a lively eater. But what would the next molt bring? Would she really make a huge size jump?

The answer is a big HECK YES.

After a few week long pre-molt period, and another week in her den as her new exoskeleton hardened up, my P. antinous female finally reemerged this morning. To say the change in appearance and size is profound would be an understatement. Gone are the rusty red/brown tones she sported before entering promolt. She now sports the dark gray/blue colors that lend her the common name of Steely Blue.  Her abdomen is also covered with some very striking red hairs which prove a wonderful contrast to the rest of her body.

My 3.5" P. antinous female. (before a recent molt)

My 3.5″ P. antinous female. (before a recent molt)

As for size, when I originally purchased this female, she was a hair over 3.5′. Although I haven’t been able to get an exact measurement yet, she is now definitely 5″ or more. The size change is astounding; the claims about huge size gains are not in the least exaggerated. She is gorgeously leggy and moves like lightning when disturbed.

My female P. antinous after her recent molt. She went from around 3.5" to about 5".

My female P. antinous after her recent molt. She went from around 3.5″ to about 5″.

She has already had her first post-molt meal, a large dubia roach, and I’m sure she’ll continue to be a great eater. Now that I’ve seen the growth for myself, I can’t wait to see what the next molt brings.

 

 

 

Brachypelma Boehmei Molt

It’s been Tarantula Molt Central here, with 14 of my Ts molting in the past week (and several more in premolt). The 80º+ temps in my tarantula room have even my slowest growers sporting new skins, and it’s been amazing getting to watch several go though the long, exhausting process of molting.

Since getting my Brachypelma boehmei  (Mexican Fire Leg) in January of this year, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the first molt. The collector I bought it from admitted that the poor girl had taken a fall a few months before I purchased her, and although there was no visible damage, I worried that there might be something wrong internally. Still, for months, she ate like a champ, relentless chasing prey across her enclosure and quickly devouring her meals. When her pre-molt fasting began, I kept an eager eye out for the result.

My B. boehmei on her back as she prepares for a molt. Many inexperienced keepers have thought their pets dead when they see them like this.

My B. boehmei on her back as she prepares for a molt. Many inexperienced keepers have thought their pets dead when they see them like this.

A week ago, I watched as she laid down a molting mat and flipped over to start the long process. Six hours later, she sported a new, much more vibrant skin suit…

…and a nasty-looking bald spot on her abdomen. Apparently my fears about her fall having internal consequences weren’t unfounded (although it could be a coincidence). The spot is a pale orange in color and about 6mm across. It definitely looks as if there was some damage in this area, as the edges are uneven and a bit crusty, leading to the imperfect molt.

My B. boehmei in the act of molting (the exuvia is on the left, the T on the right)

My B. boehmei in the act of molting (the exuvia is on the left, the T on the right)

My B. boehmei sporting a new suit.

My B. boehmei sporting a new suit.

I held my breath as I waited to see if she would pull through, or if this defect would prove life-threatening. So far, so good. Although the spot looks nasty, she is moving around fine and seems to be hardening up nicely. I will be careful when feeding her to be sure that she doesn’t get too distended, which could put too much pressure on this potentially weak spot in her abdomen.

The bald spot on the abdomen, I'm guessing, is from an internal injury caused by a fall.

The bald spot on the abdomen, I’m guessing, is from an internal injury caused by a fall.

Hopefully, my girl’s next molt, which I suspect wont come for several months, will go smoothly and she’ll lose this nasty patch. I plan on trying to feed her soon, and I will post how it goes.

Fingers crossed…