When your once beautifully hairy tarantula all of the sudden starts losing its hairs, you won’t be blamed for switching to panic mode. But before you give yourself sleepless nights, grab a cup of tea and read on to find out why you don’t have to be concerned.
Why is my tarantula losing hair? There are two reasons why your tarantula is losing its hair – it is getting ready to molt or these urticating hairs were kicked off at some point in time as a defense mechanism because your T felt threatened or stressed. A bald spot on your tarantula is completely natural and nothing to worry about.
When you pay close attention to your tarantula’s behavior it will make it easier to spot if your tarantula is entering the pre-molt phase or if something in its environment stressed it, causing this unsightly baldness.
Below you will learn more about tarantulas and molting, as well as the fascinating ways they use hair to protect themselves.
1. Tarantula Losing Hairs Due To Molting
As your T grows, it will molt. This process is where they shed off their old exoskeleton and it can be very exhausting to your pet – not to mention shocking to you as the owner if you were unaware of this marvel.
One of the signs tarantula hobbyists look out for to see if a T is going to molt in the next few days or weeks is the loss of hairs on its abdomen.
When a tarantula is about to shed its old skin, it will spin a hammock-like mat that is called a ‘molt mat’ and New World tarantulas will flick these urticating hairs onto this mat as a trap for potential predators looking for an easy snack.
Tarantulas are easily hurt and completely defenseless when they molt.
- Interesting fact: Old World tarantulas do not have urticating hairs.
When the molt draws near, the bald spot will grow increasingly darker and become shiny as the flesh around the area stretches.
Your T’s abdomen will also look bigger than usual – much like a grape ready to pop. Soon, your tarantula will flop onto its back on its molt mat and start the molting process, which can take anything from fifteen minutes to a few hours.
Since molting is a regenerative process, your T will emerge with a full abdomen of hair, looking all lush until its next molt – or until something (or someone) stresses it out.
2. Tarantula Losing Hairs Due To Stress
If your tarantula feels threatened and stressed, they will flick or kick the hairs off the abdomen in an attempt to harm whatever they perceive as being a danger to them – causing a bald spot.
A lot of the times, this will take place when moving a tarantula you just got to its new enclosure; since it is already stressed by the transport and whatnot, it won’t think twice about kicking up some (hairy) dust.
Urticating hairs are worse in some species than others and their inclination to flick these hairs depend not only on the species but the individual tarantula’s temperament.
That means, although species that are recommended for beginners are fairly docile, you may get your hands on a grumpy individual, so you should learn what your T will tolerate and what stresses it out.
Tips to avoid your T flicking you with hairs
To dodge a ‘hair today, gone tomorrow’ scenario, here are a few things you can do to keep your tarantula from flicking its hairs and looking like a bald abomination.
- Make sure your tarantula has a hiding spot. Tarantulas are more likely to run and hide than stand and fight – but if it doesn’t have the option to hide, you can count on it protecting itself.
- The enclosure should be set up correctly for the specific tarantula you have, or it will cause your T stress, and just like with humans, stress tends to put you on the back foot.
- Slow movements are best when you are cleaning the water dish or other parts of the enclosure. Also, avoid bumping the enclosure and breathing onto the tarantula; they are sensitive to vibrations and may get a fright.
If something does go wrong and your T flicks its hairs, just put the lid back on the enclosure and leave it for a while. This will give the hairs time to settle and avoid any getting on you causing discomfort.
As for the bald spot your T now sports, unfortunately, a combover is not a possibility and you will just have to wait for it to magically reappear after your tarantula’s next molt.
Are tarantula hairs bad for my health?
I could hear this running through your mind as you read words like a defense mechanism, predator and protect… It’s almost as if the worry caused by your balding tarantula has taken a back seat and you’re contemplating buying a hazmat suit for the next time you have to open the enclosure.
Save your money; the chances of something really bad happening to you when you come into contact with tarantula hairs are slim. You would basically have to stick your face pretty deep into the enclosure for it to even get to areas that may cause noticeable discomfort.
These urticating hairs are most effective within a few inches and are meant to go into the eyes, mouth, and nose of a predator that is getting too close to the T.
Basically, if you get tarantula hairs on your skin, you might experience an itchy sensation followed by a rash that will go away in no time.
Of course, cleaning out a tarantula enclosure and rubbing any area of your face without washing your hands is a rookie mistake – one you won’t be making again since getting urticating hairs in your eyes is not a pleasurable experience.
If you inhale the hairs, your throat may feel itchy and you’ll probably cough for a while. The worst-case scenario is if you’re allergic and, in that case, it is best to get to your doctor for treatment.
There you have it, the two reasons why your tarantula is losing hair.
Just a side note on the issue of stress. If you’re new to owning a tarantula, don’t for one moment think they are weak creatures. Tarantulas have been around for a long, long time and that would not be the case if they were fragile and up and died at the slightest ‘boo’.
But, ultimately, you want your tarantula to live a chilled and happy life, so it is important, as mentioned before, that you get to know your T and figure out what its stressors are.
That way, you can avoid having to explain to your friends why your tarantula looks like it has mange while it’s actually just a case of PTSD.
To cut a long story short, a tarantula losing hair is completely normal and is nothing to worry about.