You’re transferring your tarantula from one enclosure to another and all of a sudden it gets spooked, bolts and falls – is it injured, or worse, dead? As tarantula owners, we get attached to these big and hairy creatures and want them to live long and happy lives.
But what happens if they fall?
Can tarantulas die from falling? Yes, tarantulas can die from falling because they have very fragile exoskeletons – much like an eggshell. However, the severity of the fall will depend on a variety of aspects, including from how high they fall, on what they land, and most importantly, if this fall happens soon after molting.
The possibility of a tarantula falling is one of the main reasons why hobbyists discourage random handling of Ts. Tarantulas are wild creatures and even if very docile, can be startled and will react by running or jumping off of your hand with no time for you to react.
The sad reality is that falls frequently lead to the death of tarantulas, so it is best to minimize any possibility of harm to your Ts. Read on to learn why tarantulas are so fragile and what to look out for should your tarantula fall.
Why Are Tarantulas So Fragile?
As mentioned, tarantulas have exoskeletons. Now, when you think exoskeleton, you’re likely to first think of crabs and other crustaceans and may want to compare these hardy shells to that of a tarantula. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
The rear half of a tarantula’s body (opisthosoma) is quite soft, where the front half (prosoma) is much harder.
This, together with the fact that larger spiders have a much higher terminal velocity, makes it highly likely that your Ts abdomen will rupture in a fall, leading to damage of internal organs, bleeding, and worst-case scenario, death.
This is why larger and heavier species of spiders are mostly ground-dwelling. Tarantulas that are arboreal usually have a lighter build compared to terrestrial tarantulas, making injury after a fall less likely.
Regrettably, terrestrial Ts still climb, especially when exploring a new enclosure. They are notoriously bad at climbing, so a fall or two can be expected. But, by taking certain precautions, you can keep your tarantula safe in the enclosure.
How To Protect Your Tarantula From A Fall
Firstly, it goes without saying that handling your tarantula for the fun of it puts it at unnecessary risk. A 12-inch fall is adequate to kill a large ground-dwelling T because of the thinness of the opisthosoma. So, why take the chance?
That being said, there may come a time where you’ll have to handle your tarantula for some or other critical reason – or because you’re just hell-bent to show your friends how hardcore you are.
When that day comes, be sure to work on the ground and on a soft surface that will lessen the impact of a possible fall.
Okay, that covers potential accidents happening when you have to handle your T, but what about the danger that exists in its enclosure?
Weighing up to 50gm, climbing can be a risky business for adult terrestrial tarantulas.
For that reason, you have to make sure to create a safe environment for your T.
- Use a soft substrate that will reduce the impact of the fall when your tarantula slips while climbing up the side of the glass enclosure. Trust me, this is going to happen if own ground-dwellers, so best be prepared.
- Don’t give them the opportunity to climb too high. Some tarantula hobbyists say it is best to keep the height terrestrial tarantulas can climb to one leg span, but a little higher won’t do any harm. Arboreal tarantulas, on the other hand, will need much more room to climb and explore.
- Avoid injuries by removing any hard objects that will break their fall should they lose their grip, including water bowls and solid decorations.
Here is an informative video on how NOT to house a tarantula. Not only did the poor thing get stuck on the screen lid (a big no-no) of the enclosure, it also fell from a fatal height. But don’t worry, the T made it!
Also, we wanted to give credit to the owner, because not everyone would make a mistake and be so open about it so that others can learn from it.
How To Treat A Hurt Tarantula
Your tarantula may appear okay after a fall, but the potential of internal or unnoticed injuries still exists. If your T wounded its pedicle or ruptured its abdomen, your tarantula will almost certainly die in a few hours.
There are some tarantula first aid measures you can try to save your T’s life, but first, assess the damage: Can you see a milky white fluid (hemolymph) leaking from the tarantula’s abdomen?
Interesting fact: You don’t have to be too concerned about injured legs. Tarantulas have the ability to ‘self-amputate’ and shut off the flow of blood to the injured limb – preventing bleeding out.
Hemolymph is a tarantula’s ‘blood’ and it is imperative to stop the bleeding – fast. Some tarantula hobbyists swear by clotting the wound with corn starch, others use Vaseline, but I am a believer in household superglue – an essential item in any tarantula first aid kit.
If the injury is spotted right away, applying superglue can repair a ruptured abdomen following a nasty fall.
After stopping the bleeding, place your tarantula in a makeshift ICU made up of a smaller container lined with moist paper towels and access to water. If possible, also give it a little more warmth. With a lot of luck, your T may survive the fall – but sadly, most of the time, it won’t make it.
Also, as you read above, you may think your tarantula is one lucky spider and believe it is completely unharmed because you don’t see any visual signs of injury.
Don’t let the relief wash over you yet – unlike cats, these fragile creatures don’t have nine lives. Internal damage is highly likely, and you should keep an eye on your T – or place it in ICU just in case.
There isn’t much you can do if the damage is not noticeable; it is a matter of waiting while hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
How Do I Know My Tarantula Is Dead?
The ‘death curl’ are two words that bring about nothing but dread if you’re a tarantula owner. If you’re a new T owner who has not yet seen a tarantula molt, you may find yourself in a panic pretty soon.
I’m here to save you from a heart attack. If your spider is on its back or side, take a deep breath, Fluffy Bum is going to be just fine; that is the molting position you’re seeing.
However, if you check in on your tarantula after a fall and see it with its legs tightly curled up underneath it, then it is a sign that your T is dead or is busy dying.
That is what hobbyists refer to as the ‘death curl’, and is the position you will find your tarantula in if it succumbs to injuries caused by a fall.
While some tarantula owners may argue that natural selection corrected any weakness tarantulas may have had when it comes to dropping from heights, you can clearly see, these big and hairy spiders are delicate creatures.
Arboreal tarantulas differ in weight and can, therefore, handle a fall better than ground-dwelling Ts. Keeping this and the other factors mentioned above in mind when setting up their enclosure and especially when handling them is vital for their well-being.