After owning tarantulas for a while you might want to take the next step to breed them, but how good are tarantulas at being mothers and how involved do you need to be?
Do tarantulas eat their babies? Most species will eat their young or anyone else who dares enter their territory including the male tarantula. It’s not a big deal if you have no plan to breed tarantulas.
Some mothers will produce false egg sacs that they will eventually eat. Sometimes an unlucky owner who has no intention of breeding their spider will inadvertently purchase one that has mated.
Or you plan on breeding your tarantula. The cannibalistic nature of your tarantula is something that you will have to workaround. Hopefully, with this article, I can prevent you from seeing a massacre.
Read further to understand why tarantulas eat their young, their mating rituals, and how to care for a pregnant tarantula and their spiderlings.
Why would a mother eat their young?
It has more to do with how tarantulas live in the wild. After giving birth very rarely do they live in groups together. Tarantulas do not like living with others even if they are of the same species.
With a few notable exception’s spiders tend to be this way. So anything that is in their territory will be attacked and eaten if necessary. That includes their babies.
Once a tarantula gives birth to the spiderlings, a ridiculously cute name for baby spiders, they will stick by the mother tarantula for a time. Mostly until they eat the yolk sac for the nutritional value.
In the wild, after their first molt, the spiderlings will take off on their own. Already fully independent. After that, though they are fair gain to the mother. It sounds harsh, but living in the wild is harsh.
Since tarantulas don’t have brains, but rather a collection of nerves that guides them by instinct. This instinct tells them that survival is all that they have to worry about.
They aren’t the one animals that will eat their young either. Even more advanced animals will kill their young for nutrition while other species the mother will sacrifice herself from her children.
Life outside of civilization is often cruel and unfeeling.
This also applies to the spiderling siblings. If they are kept in the same container together they will eventually start to eat each other. Tarantulas just would rather be alone.
So what does that mean for you as a tarantula owner? Well, that depends on how old your tarantula is when you purchased them or if you are planning on breeding tarantulas.
Hopefully, your tarantula is pregnant because you planned it to be, and not a situation where you bought a spider and now find yourself with at least 1001.
The mating process for tarantulas
You should only mate tarantulas if you are an experienced owner. It’s a tricky process due to their complete lack of socialization. If played wrong you will lose your male spider along with any spiderlings that come from the union.
Besides a tarantula can have up to 2000 babies in one go and all of those little spiderlings have to be housed in separate containers after their first molt.
Overall female tarantulas live a lot longer than their male counterparts. A male tarantula can live up to 1 to 10 years while a female ranges from 10 to 30. Unfortunately for the boys they only live long enough to continue the species.
Most of that life is spent roaming about trying to find a mate.
In their natural environment, the male tarantula will search long distances through scent and touch to find a female. Once found they will very carefully go into the female’s burrow waiting to see what the other’s reaction is.
What happens next depends on the interest of the female’s reaction. If she isn’t interested he will get attached and eaten. If she doesn’t go into attack mode the male will lower his front part and hike up his abdomen.
Most species of males will edge out of the burrow drumming their feet along with a little shimmy. If the female reacts with drumming her own feet then the male knows that she is interested.
The male will take ahold of the females’ fangs with the tibia spurs on his front legs and lift her upper body. Then he inserts his pedipalp, where his sperm sac is located, into her epigastric furrow.
After that, the male tarantula runs as fast as he can or the female will come to her senses and kill him.
When mating these two in captivity make sure they have both reached maturity. For male spiders that will be at least a year and a half, the lady tarantulas take a bit longer around the 2 to 3-year mark.
You will know that your male spider is ready to mate when they have created a sperm sac. Never put a female tarantula in the male’s tank, the lady they will go straight for the kill. Instead, put the male spider in a corner of the female’s tank away from her.
Never leave the male tarantula in the tank with the female unattended you will have to act fast after they are done. As soon as mating is over the male spider will run that’s your clue to snatch him out of there.
If left too long the female arachnid will attack and eat the male spider.
What to do if your tarantula gives birth
After removing the male tarantula from the female’s terrarium it’s time to get her ready for the egg sac. Start feeding her as many crickets, or another preferred food source, as she can handle.
The amount of food needed varies from a tarantula. But don’t worry about overfeeding, she will naturally stop once she is full. This process serves two purposes.
First, it provides her with enough nutrients to build the egg sac and produce spiderlings. Second, if she is not well fed before the egg sac the female tarantula will eat part if not all of the eggs.
It could take several months for her to produce an egg sac. Sometimes it is hard for owners to tell the difference between a food bolus and an egg sac. The sac will be golf ball sized and perfectly round.
While the food bolus, uneaten food bundled in a web, will resemble the shape of the food. The excess feeding will stop around the time she starts to rotate the egg sac. This will take around 20 days to give or take for your species of tarantula.
You can look up your individual tarantula’s process for feeding while giving birth, but it’s perfectly fine to let them guide the process. After a day remove any uneaten food from the tank.
Removing the egg sac
After she starts to rotate the egg sac what’s next is up to you. Most breeders will remove the egg sac completely from the tank once the mother tarantula starts to cover her burrow with a web.
She will not like it and might try to fight you, just be careful with your fingers. To remove the sac get something long enough to push the mother to the side like a ruler. Then using long tweezers or forceps gently remove the sac from the terrarium.
It’s not as easy as it sounds. The female tarantula instinctually feels that her babies are in danger and will sacrifice herself if it means saving her spiderlings.
If your tarantula is not acting threatened and will allow you to handle her then remove her from the tank during this process. If not, just be careful.
For those who are planning on selling the egg sac as a whole talk to your buyer, especially if they are a store, to see if they can remove the egg sac for you.
The video below will show you how it is done.
Leaving the egg sac with the mother
Some breeders will keep the egg sac in the tank with the mother tarantula until they molt for the first time. This method has its advantages and disadvantages.
In this method, you will not have to incubate the spiderlings by keeping them in the terrarium. It makes sense because the mother tarantula has a better understanding of how to care for her young better than we do.
By keeping the baby spiders in the tank you will run the risk of the mother eating the egg sac if she wasn’t fed well beforehand or eating them after their first molt.
As soon as you see the spiderlings molt for the first time remove the mother tarantula to a separate tank. This is to prevent her from eating babies. Check out the lifespan for your particular tarantula to get an estimate when to remove the babies.
How to care for spiderlings
Caring for spiderlings can be a complicated process. A single tarantula can produce up to 2000 babies in one egg sac. If breeding tarantulas is something that you want to do keep in mind that it is an involved process.
However, you can sell tarantula spiderlings or egg sacs to your local dealer for a nice penny.
Spiderlings vary in size and growth by species. Some tarantulas will grow to adulthood in a year, while others take three years to be fully mature. Research your species for an exact date range.
After the baby spiders eat the yolk sac they need to be feed twice a week. When they are tiny pinhead crickets or fruit flies are a safe bet. Prey needs to be a least half of their size, at this stage spiderlings are vulnerable even to full-sized crickets.
As they get bigger you can move on to other food or cut up crickets for them to eat.
Incubating the eggs
Incubating tarantula eggs sounds intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. You will need to dedicate some time to these eggs with legs.
What you will need:
- Medium transparent plastic tub with a secure lid
- Small transparent plastic tub with a secure lid
- Black or dark-colored stocking
- Paper towels
- Plastic mesh
- Knife or something to cut plastic
For the medium-sized tub cut out two X two-inch openings spaced apart. Cover these openings with plastic mesh using the glue to attach the mesh to the plastic.
This provides ventilation for your spiderlings while also preventing them from leaving the tubs and infesting your home.
Place paper towels on the bottom of the medium-sized tub and mist with water. Spiderlings are incredibly small and run the risk of drowning even in tiny amounts of water. The paper towels soak up the water while also allowing some moisture for the humidity needed.
On the second smaller tub cut away at the lid until the only thing that is left is the part that snaps onto the base. You are going to use this part to secure the stocking tight on the second tub.
Fill the smaller tub with a couple of inches of distilled water. Enough to provide humidity for the spiderlings, but not enough to reach the stocking.
Very gently stretch the stockings or hose onto the smaller tub then cut the stocking so that there is enough room to secure the loose end. The stocking should be tight on the smaller tub because this is the place where the eggs are placed.
If it is too lose it the eggs will sink to the bottom of the smaller tub into the water below drowning them. Try not to get the stocking wet, but if you do keep a backup stocking. Place the eggs on top of the stocking then close the medium tub’s lid.
Spiderlings do need heat, but not directly on them. They need around 80° Fahrenheit. If you keep your home at this temperature there is nothing further you need to do.
Most of us don’t even in hotter areas so you will need to place artificial heat in the area the spiderlings are kept. Instead of using a heating pad or lamp place a heater in the room.
To prevent misshapen eggs or mold rotate the egg sac, this needs to be done several times a day depending on the type of tarantula. The incubation period is also dependent on species of spider.
You will keep the spiderlings in this set up until their first molt.
After the first molt
Whether you leave the baby spiders with their mother or if you incubate them yourself you after their first molt all the spiderlings need to be separated or they will turn cannibal. Each one will need its container.
There are specialty containers available, but you can also use deli containers or even baby food jars. The plastic deli containers are easier to use overall and the cheapest option. Place small holes in the lid and a few on the sides of the container.
They should be big enough for air to circulate through, but not big enough for the spiders to get out of anything to get in.
In each of these containers build a mini-environment like the one a full-grown tarantula lives. Do not put a water bowl in the mini terrarium, the spiderlings are too small for this yet.
Just lightly mist the ground cover instead. Pat down the bedding, for burrowing spiders, create a small starter burrow to the side of the container. As the babies age and molt place them in larger containers with the same setup.
Once they outgrow these smaller containers you can finally place them in their tank.
Rearing spiderlings from tiny little eggs with legs to ferocious-looking tarantulas is a satisfying hobby and could end up being quite lucrative if you play your cards right. Just keep in mind that most tarantulas turn cannibal regardless of who is involved.
Watch over the mother and babies to separate at the exact right time is difficult at first, but it gets easier after each mistake. Do your research and be observant then you will be the proud owner of thousands of babies.