Tarantula Molting By Andy
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Honduran Curly Hair Tarantula Shedding its Exoskeleton. 

(Brachypelma Albopilosum)

Theses amazing pictures show a Curly Hair shedding its skin (Molting).
As a keen hobby arachnologist, I have witnessed tarantulas changing their skins many times and have photographed them on natural backgrounds. I spotted this sub-adult Curly hair about to change out of its old skin, it had let go of a piece of cork it was gripping and fell slowly upside down onto a bed of silk already made for laying on. So I decided to try something different, photographing the molting process on a white background. I used plastic material which reflects the light which helped show as much detail as possible. You should never handle a spider before or during molting so great care was needed when I moved the spider onto the plastic. The young spider spent half an hour upside down preparing itself and one and a half hours shedding its old skin. During and after the molting the tarantula is extremely soft and tender even the fangs are soft and white, changing to black when hardened. I placed a container over the tarantula with some wet tissue close to it and left it overnight to harden, moving it the following day back into its enclosure. It is always a very exciting time for me as after skin change the tarantula is not only larger in size, but also colours or more vivid. It can also regenerate lost limbs and replace any lost urticating hairs. I went through 140 digital pictures filming this lovely spider shedding its skin.

Problems with Molting -
The spider has to shed its exoskeleton to grow, you will get to know early signs of a tarantula molt. Most lose their appetite and refuse food for many weeks when approaching a molt and often their rump will turn darker which can easily be seen if there is a bald spot from loosing its urticating hairs. It is a very dangerous and delicate time for a tarantula and why in captivity it is very important to have the correct humidity in its enclosure. I buy compressed moss on the web which is ideal for spiders especially during moulting. Sometimes before a molt seeping from leg joints can be seen. I have even noticed this occasionally after a molt but usually does not cause any problems. Once my spider exoskeleton has hardened I always check and make sure the spider is not dehydrated or  too weak to drink water from its bowl. And never leave live food in its enclosure during and after a skin change as some insects especially hungry crickets will attack and try and nibble or eat a weak tarantula.

Leg stuck during shedding story - Mexican Red Knee.
Many years ago my very first Tarantula a Mexican Red Knee had shed its exoskeleton except for one of its back legs which had got stuck, the leg was still attached to the rest of the empty skin and drying. The thought of my very first tarantula having a leg missing was horrifying although I knew it would one day regenerate on its next skin change, so I decided to help the tarantula. First I cut away the old exoskeleton with a scalpel then I coated the trapped leg with a small amount of vaseline, holding my breath with steady hands I carefully cut through the center of the leg from the (Trochanter)  segment of the leg with a razor blade. Then using tweezers gripping its feet hooks I very slowly pulled the old leg skin away. It was worth the risk, because the whole exoskeleton was still attached to the tarantula's leg, and she would have removed her stuck limb. Because of the time taken the new leg was slightly smaller but did return to normal size on its next skin change. I am not recommending you try surgery on your spider, that was in my first spider now I don't think I would be so brave and having so many others I would probably let nature take its course.

Andy Newman Images©