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Why is My Tarantula Laying on its Back? Is it Dead?

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Question: Why is My Tarantula Laying on its Back? Is it Dead?
If you find your tarantula laying on its back, it is very important not to touch the tarantula as they are extremely fragile at this point.
Answer: It can be quite alarming to find your tarantula laying on its back, but chances are it is simply beginning to molt. Most tarantulas will molt while laying on their backs (though some will molt on their sides). Molting usually takes a few hours, so keep an eye your tarantula (never touch a molting tarantula) and within a few hours you should be able to verify it if was molting.

Tarantulas will rarely would rarely just die in this position (unless during a molt) - they are more likely to be found dead with their legs curled under them.

Other Signs That a Tarantula is About to Molt
There are other, more subtle signs that a tarantula is about to molt, although some of these can occur for other reasons too:

  • Eating Less - a tarantula getting ready for a molt will usually stop eating, sometime for as long as a few weeks before a molt.
  • Inactivity - a tarantula getting ready to molt will often become quite suggish.
  • Bald Spot - tarantulas also sometimes develop a bald spot on their abdomen that grows increasingly dark as the molt draws near (a bald spot can also occur in new world tarantulas that have been kicking off their urticating hairs). After molting, the bald spot will be gone.
  • Increased use of webbing (they may make a mat out of silk for molting).
  • Dull coloration.
If you notice the signs that a molt is impending, make sure the humidity in the tank is ideal and the temperatures are right. The proper environment is important to a successful molt. Also make sure there is no uneaten prey in the tank, as even a cricket can seriously injure a molting tarantula.

Molting is Stressful and Dangerous
As the old exoskeleton is shed, the tarantula's body will be soft and extremely vulnerable. Though the actual molting usually takes a few hours, the tarantula's body will be soft and vulnerable for several days before the new exoskeleton hardens completely. You should never handle a molting tarantula. As mentioned before, also make sure there are no crickets in the tarantula's tank, and do not feed a newly molted tarantula for a week, at least. The newly molted tarantula is so sensitive that even an innocuous little cricket can cause serious harm.

How Often Do Tarantulas Molt?
Because spiders have an exoskeleton, they must shed the old exoskeleton and form a new one in order to grow. Therefore, young growing spiders will molt more frequently (up to monthly) than older spiders (who may only molt every year or two).

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