Tarantula molts should always be removed from the cage if possible.
If a tarantula molt is left in the cage for too long it not only looks unsightly, but more importantly it can attract mites. Mites in a tarantula cage are always bad news, so it’s quicker and simpler to just remove a molt when possible.
Indeed, the removal of a tarantula molt should be considered part-and-parcel of your routine tarantula maintenance routine.
When Should You Remove a Tarantula Molt?
While most tarantula keepers agree that sloughed skins should be removed, quite when to remove the molt is rather more contentious.
Molting is a very difficult time for your pet tarantula. It requires a huge amount of effort, and the freshly-molted tarantula is almost helpless until their new exoskeleton hardens.
For this reason, it is best not to disturb your tarantula soon after a molt. Let them do their thing for a while.
In my opinion, the best time to remove a molt is once your tarantula is back to their old self and has started to feed once again. This typically means a week or two after a molt.
It is interesting to note that many of my tarantulas that molt in a cork bark hide or down a burrow will carry the old molt out by themselves and dump it in one corner of the cage.
Whether that’s for hygiene purposes, or to maximize space in their hide is open to debate. Either way, it can make removing the old molt very simple indeed if you’re willing to be patient.
How Do I Remove My Tarantulas Molt?
Removing a tarantula molt is normally very easy indeed. I personally opt to use long forceps (mine are about 30cm in length) as I like to try and keep my fingers away from my tarantulas as much as possible. This reduces the chances of a nip, especially from a hungry tarantula that may not have eaten for some weeks.
Just as importantly, the thin construction of the forceps allows me to reach into tight areas which my fingers might not successfully reach.
While I mentioned above that many of my tarantulas carefully dispose of their skins after a molt, quite a few others do not. As a result it may be necessary to stick your forceps slowly and gently into a cork bark hide to extract the old exoskeleton. Forceps make this so much easier and minimize disturbance for your spider.
What To Do With a Removed Molt
Possibly the best thing to do with a tarantula molt that you’ve removed is to sex it. The skin is soaked to soften it, and can then be looked at under a microscope or magnifying lens. If you’re new to sexing tarantulas from skins then it can take some time to get comfortable with the process; mistakes on gender can be easily made.
Only with practice, however, will you get better at the process. So the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll manage to hone your skills.
There are of course other things that can be done with a tarantula molt you’ve removed from the cage. It is possible to “set” the molt so it makes an attractive feature in your home. You might choose to keep the molt in a labeled bag so you can see how much your tarantula grows over time.
Or worse case simply throw the molt away in your household rubbish.
Personally I quite like to add them to my compost heap, where they will slowly decompose, putting nutrients back into my garden.
How Do You Soften a Tarantula Molt?
If you want to sex or mount a tarantula molt the process is very simple indeed. Essentially it needs soaking in water for a short period of time. Don’t worry about the temperature of the water; I’ve found that cold water works just as well as warm water.
The one difficulty with softening a tarantula molt in water is that they often float on the surface of the water, and therefore fail to properly soak up enough water. This is easily solved by adding a few drops of dish soap to the water.
Personally I maintain a row of old glass jars complete with water and dish soap. Each one is lidded. As I do my routine tarantula checks, molted skins are slowly added to the jars. The lids are screwed on, and the jars are given a gentle shake. The skins then soak up the water and are ready for sexing or mounting a short while later.