Do tarantulas eat their exoskeletons after they shed? We took the exoskeleton out of the cage of our classroom tarantula. Was that bad?

Question Asked by 2nd Grade Class in Blackfoot

Question answered by Jason Thomas

University of Idaho

Minnedoka County Extension Educator

Though some reptiles will feed on their shed skin, there has been no significant evidence to suggest that tarantulas do this. The key difference is in the digestive system, while lizards like geckos can swallow materials whole and absorb nutrients left over in their shed skin. A spider is not able to feed this way. Most spiders feed by injecting their prey with fluids which liquify their body.

Molted exoskeleton and tarantula

These are great at breaking down organs inside of insects, but typically exoskeletons of prey are leftover afterwards. Since the shed exoskeleton
contains little to no moisture or nutrients and are also covered in
irritating hairs that could irritate it. Removing the exoskeleton is not a
problem and not essential to the nutrition of pet tarantulas.

Molting Activity

Tarantulas molt in order to grow larger because their rigid exoskeleton made of chitin cannot stretch and grow like our skin. Mature tarantulas molt once a year. Younger tarantulas can molt more often. Molting can take from 15 minutes to a few hours depending on the species. If a tarantula
is lying on its back or side it is probably molting. If it is lying on its stomach with its legs curled under than it might be dying. Never try to help a tarantula molt because you could injure it. The new exoskeleton hardens in 1 hour or up to a week, depending on the species. Before the exoskeleton
hardens the tarantula is vulnerable to predators. This activity was designed to help you get a sense of what molting might feel like for a tarantula.
To get an idea about molting, first find a jumpsuit or coveralls of some sort. A snow mobile suit is perfect because the helmet can be part of the experience as well! To begin molting put the suit and helmet on and lay on the floor. Mittens and boots are an added challenge. Snow mobile suits are
great because they unzip from the bottom. Your goal is to wriggle out of the entire outfit from the inside without pulling anything off or getting any help!

1.Laying on the ground first try to kick and wriggle free from your boots and mittens.
2.Shrug and shake your helmet off and pull your head into the suit.

3.Then work to pull your hands and arms and feet and legs into the center
of the suit.
4.Once you are all inside your suit then work the zipper up from the
bottom about 1 foot.
5.Work to exit your head and body through the small zipper opening, feet
first, your head exiting last.

Respect! Not Fear Tarantulas!

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