Feeding after molt

Estein

Arachnoknight
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Feb 11, 2016
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We all know the after-molt adage about waiting to feed until the fangs are black again. Obviously there isn't anyone in the wild preventing prey from wandering by while a T is still hardening (unless the T has blocked the entrance to its burrow), so I'm just trying to get a handle on the origin of this advice to help inform my own knowledge. Here are my questions:

Is eating before the fangs have hardened something that commonly happens in the wild that results in mortality? Or do we not know enough to confirm or deny, so we err on the side of caution?

Is the concern less about fang damage and more about the threat live prey presents while a T has less defense? So in waiting until the fangs are black, it significantly minimizes the chance that prey will successfully attack the T? I'm thinking along the lines of the poison ivy warning "leaves of three, let it be," where there are tons of three-leaved plants so it's kind of an overkill warning, but you're not going to get PI if you don't touch any three-leaved plants at all.

Have people seen captive Ts go for prey before their fangs were hard often enough for it to be a common problem in the hobby?

Is it a combination of these reasons? Something else?

I'd love to hear whether anyone has any insight on the subject, and thank you for indulging my curiosity.
 

Venom1080

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the T usually avoids the food if fed too early after molt, no need to stress it and leave the prey in. the tarantula can probably escape any cricket with evil intentions.
 
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cold blood

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I've often pondered this as well, because from what I can tell, if they aren't ready to eat, they probably don't, at least I haven't experienced much aggression if they weren't ready....I often feed slings of faster growing species just 2 or 3 days after molting, as they harden a lot faster, but lets face it, its really difficult to get an eyeball on the teeny fangs of a 1/2" (or less) sling.

Now strangely (timing-wise), just before leaving my house for the week, I offered an AF A. avic an adult dubia. It had been 12 days since her last molt, her fangs were clearly black for many days, and she drilled it just like I anticipated....however as quickly as she pounced, she backed off and became very disinterested...now we can't talk to them, so I really won't ever know if it was just that she didn't want a roach, or she suddenly realized she wasn't quite ready yet....but I suspect the latter as she'd never shown anything but enthusiasm for roaches in the past. We'll see her response on Sat. night.

I have noticed a lot though, ts, generally larger specimens, where the fangs will be black for weeks, yet they still don't want anything to do with prey. So clearly there's more to it than just the fangs being black, although its still a reasonable guideline. Perhaps its the sucking stomach that takes the longest time to recover from a molt in adults.

the T usually avoids the food if fed too early after molt, no need to stress it and leave the prey in. the tarantula can probably escape any cricket with evil intentions.
yes, i have seen tarantula with broken fangs, this most likely happened after being fed too early after molt.
I've had several with broken fangs over the years (not because of feeding too soon, though)...in fact my largest P. cancerides lost both fangs shortly after a molt a little over a year ago. Recently he snapped one off again....It had nothing to do with being hardened though, this thing ALWAYS tries to escape, and he breaks his fangs in the ventilation. Hopefully the new sterilite enclosure fixes this.
 
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Estein

Arachnoknight
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Feb 11, 2016
Messages
154
I've often ponbdered this as well, because from what I can tell, if they aren't ready to eat, they probably don't, at least I haven't experienced much aggression if they weren't ready....I often feed slings of faster growing species just 2 or 3 days after molting, as they harden a lot faster, but lets face it, its really difficult to get an eyeball on the teeny fangs of a 1/2" (or less) sling.
I was thinking the same thing, which is part of why I'm so curious. I'd like to be able to throw a mealworm with a crushed head in with my slings a couple days after molting and not worry that something is going to go wrong. As you say, it can be tough to get a good look at those fangs.

I have noticed a lot though, ts, generally larger specimens, where the fangs will be black for weeks, yet they still don't want anything to do with prey. So clearly there's more to it than just the fangs being black, although its still a reasonable guideline. Perhaps its the sucking stomach that takes the longest time to recover from a molt in adults.
Now there's a thought. I wonder if there's a significant difference either way in the time it takes to harden.
 

CarbonBasedLifeform

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the T usually avoids the food if fed too early after molt, no need to stress it and leave the prey in. the tarantula can probably escape any cricket with evil intentions.
Exactly this. My general rule of thumb is to feed at night and take out uneaten prey in the morning then wait until next feeding time to try again. After a molt I generally take it back out if the feeding response isn't near immediate (most of the spiders are pretty hungry after a molt), unless it is a specimen that usually eats in private like my H maculata, C portoricae, or the A chalcodes. For the private eaters, I generally check their enclosures when I get up at night for a snack or something if feeding after a molt.

No need to unnecessarily stress the spider trapping it in with prey or multiple feeding attempts day after day. The spider knows when it is ready.
 

14pokies

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I would imagine that in nature the T would just let the prey item pass by the same way we wouldn't think about touching our favorite food if we had a severe toothache.

I would also assume that in nature if the prey became a threat the Ts first responce would be to either try to flee or threaten the prey item in an effort to scare it off in the case of N/W Ts they may possibly/likely kick hairs as a first defense..

As a last ditch effort the T may try to bite a perceived threat before it's fangs have hardened but that is very different scenario than a T willingly eating before it's ready.. It's the same way in that I would never eat a human but if one was trying to kill me and I thought my teeth could do the most damage I would bite them.

IMO we have enough evidence that around the time a Ts fangs are black they are willing to eat.. Whether or not it's the deciding factor or there are other internal biological processes that occur around the same time is irrelevant to some extent.
 

mistertim

Arachnobaron
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Sep 4, 2015
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551
Probably a combination. I've also noticed that my spiders tend to know whether or not they're ready to eat. Usually with larger specimens they will just ignore/avoid the meal if they aren't ready. I've also seen a couple that have stamped the sub in front of the cricket in apparent annoyance to get it to go away. But that's with larger Ts where there really isn't the danger of a cricket hurting it. With small slings I usually offer prekilled as their first meal after a molt just to be sure that they can't become the prey themselves if they aren't ready to eat.
 

AphonopelmaTX

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We all know the after-molt adage about waiting to feed until the fangs are black again. Obviously there isn't anyone in the wild preventing prey from wandering by while a T is still hardening (unless the T has blocked the entrance to its burrow), so I'm just trying to get a handle on the origin of this advice to help inform my own knowledge. Here are my questions:

Is eating before the fangs have hardened something that commonly happens in the wild that results in mortality? Or do we not know enough to confirm or deny, so we err on the side of caution?

Is the concern less about fang damage and more about the threat live prey presents while a T has less defense? So in waiting until the fangs are black, it significantly minimizes the chance that prey will successfully attack the T? I'm thinking along the lines of the poison ivy warning "leaves of three, let it be," where there are tons of three-leaved plants so it's kind of an overkill warning, but you're not going to get PI if you don't touch any three-leaved plants at all.

Have people seen captive Ts go for prey before their fangs were hard often enough for it to be a common problem in the hobby?

Is it a combination of these reasons? Something else?

I'd love to hear whether anyone has any insight on the subject, and thank you for indulging my curiosity.
You have to consider what is going on after a tarantula molts. The hardening process is called sclerotization. That is the process in which the compounds chitin and sclerotin, along with other compounds, combine to make the exocuticle hard and tough and what makes the fangs, claws, and other body parts black. If you were to remove all of the hair from a tarantula's body, you will see that the body is mostly black like the fangs, claws, etc. because of the presence of sclerotin in the exocuticle. After a tarantula molts, the fangs along with these other hardened parts, are soft and pliable because that bonding process hasn't completed. This is also why they appear white. Aside from the external anatomy, some parts of the internal anatomy such as the sucking stomach, esophagus, and larynx also have to harden after a molt.

The idea of waiting until the fangs turn black, signaling the end of the sclerotization process, before feeding indicates that the tarantula is fully hardened both inside (where applicable) and out and able to eat without damaging itself. Most of the time tarantulas know not to eat before they are ready, however, I have seen a few of my more aggressive feeders attack and consume prey before this process is fully complete which is indicated by the fangs being some shade of red. I've never though seen a tarantula go after food right after a molt when it is more or less all white. How could it? It's body is basically a rubbery mass barely able to move!

Typically, wild tarantulas will block the entrance to their retreats in some fashion during the times that make them most vulnerable (i.e. molting, egg laying, etc.). This can be seen in captivity as well and a good indication that it happens frequently is by the plethora of "my tarantula blocked its hide!" type of threads here. Our observations of tarantula behavior in captivity is skewed. More often than not, tarantulas in captivity perceive their whole enclosure as a burrow no matter how big it is or simply don't feel vulnerable enough to construct their own retreats. In the wild, most tarantulas will never be exposed for very long and exhibit and much more reclusive lifestyle.
 
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Marijan2

Arachnobaron
Joined
Oct 21, 2012
Messages
505
You have to consider what is going on after a tarantula molts. The hardening process is called sceloritization. That is the process in which the compounds chitin and scelortin, along with other compounds, combine to make the exocuticle hard and tough and what makes the fangs, claws, and other body parts black. If you were to remove all of the hair from a tarantula's body, you will see that the body is mostly black like the fangs, claws, etc. because of the presence of scelortin in the exocuticle. After a tarantula molts, the fangs along with these other hardened parts, are soft and pliable because that bonding process hasn't completed. This is also why they appear white. Aside from the external anatomy, some parts of the internal anatomy such as the sucking stomach, esophagus, and larynx also have to harden after a molt.

The idea of waiting until the fangs turn black, signaling the end of the sceloritization process, indicates that the tarantula is fully hardened both inside (where applicable) and out and ready to eat. Feeding before this process is complete could result in damage to the part of the anatomy that needs to harden. Most of the time tarantulas know not to eat before they are ready, however, I have seen a few of my more aggressive feeders attack and consume prey before this process is fully complete which is indicated by the fangs being some shade of red. I've never though seen a tarantula go after food right after a molt when it is more or less all white. How could it? It's body is basically a rubbery mass barely able to move!

Typically, wild tarantulas will block the entrance to their retreats in some fashion during the times that make them most vulnerable (i.e. molting, egg laying, etc.). This can be seen in captivity as well and a good indication that it happens frequently is by the plethora of "my tarantula blocked its hide!" type of threads here. Our observations of tarantula behavior in captivity is skewed. More often than not, tarantulas in captivity perceive their whole enclosure as a burrow no matter how big it is or simply don't feel vulnerable enough to construct their own retreats. In the wild, most tarantulas will never be exposed for very long and exhibit and much more reclusive lifestyle.
Uh... I think you have some typos here buddy, it's Sclerotin and Sclerotization ;)
 

Estein

Arachnoknight
Joined
Feb 11, 2016
Messages
154
You have to consider what is going on after a tarantula molts. The hardening process is called sclerotization. That is the process in which the compounds chitin and sclerotin, along with other compounds, combine to make the exocuticle hard and tough and what makes the fangs, claws, and other body parts black. If you were to remove all of the hair from a tarantula's body, you will see that the body is mostly black like the fangs, claws, etc. because of the presence of sclerotin in the exocuticle. After a tarantula molts, the fangs along with these other hardened parts, are soft and pliable because that bonding process hasn't completed. This is also why they appear white. Aside from the external anatomy, some parts of the internal anatomy such as the sucking stomach, esophagus, and larynx also have to harden after a molt.

The idea of waiting until the fangs turn black, signaling the end of the sclerotization process, before feeding indicates that the tarantula is fully hardened both inside (where applicable) and out and able to eat without damaging itself. Most of the time tarantulas know not to eat before they are ready, however, I have seen a few of my more aggressive feeders attack and consume prey before this process is fully complete which is indicated by the fangs being some shade of red. I've never though seen a tarantula go after food right after a molt when it is more or less all white. How could it? Its body is basically a rubbery mass barely able to move!

Typically, wild tarantulas will block the entrance to their retreats in some fashion during the times that make them most vulnerable (i.e. molting, egg laying, etc.). This can be seen in captivity as well and a good indication that it happens frequently is by the plethora of "my tarantula blocked its hide!" type of threads here. Our observations of tarantula behavior in captivity is skewed. More often than not, tarantulas in captivity perceive their whole enclosure as a burrow no matter how big it is or simply don't feel vulnerable enough to construct their own retreats. In the wild, most tarantulas will never be exposed for very long and exhibit and much more reclusive lifestyle.
I do understand how the molting process works, so sorry you had to type that all out (but thanks for doing so). My question is more along the lines of why we say "don't feed until the fangs are black" when the tarantula almost certainly will wait until it is ready anyway, instead of saying something more like "after a couple of days, throw in some prekilled prey to see if your sling is ready to eat yet." I certainly could have worded my question better.

I've never--to my knowledge--offered food to my Ts while their fangs were still hardening, so I've never had the opportunity to see whether they would go for the prey before being ready. I'm curious--did you notice any damage to the fangs after you saw this happen? I never thought about an enclosure in captivity more or less mimicking a burrow in the wild, but it makes sense now that I consider it. Ultimately, I think many of my questions about Ts in captivity have to do with the disparity between their wild life and their captive life.

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply!
 

Estein

Arachnoknight
Joined
Feb 11, 2016
Messages
154
IMO we have enough evidence that around the time a Ts fangs are black they are willing to eat.. Whether or not it's the deciding factor or there are other internal biological processes that occur around the same time is irrelevant to some extent.
The factors themselves may be irrelevant on a practical T keeping level, but I'm still interested in knowing what those factors are and how they affect one another. One of my favorite parts of the hobby is learning how our critters tick! :)
 

PinkT

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Sep 18, 2017
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So my G. Iheringi molted on 11/30. While doing maintenance on my other T's enclosures yesterday I noticed she was slowly dragging out her molt from inside her cork. Now since yesterday she has been hanging outside in the area where I drop in the roaches she feeds on. Hmmm, is she telling me she's ready?
 

cold blood

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So my G. Iheringi molted on 11/30. While doing maintenance on my other T's enclosures yesterday I noticed she was slowly dragging out her molt from inside her cork. Now since yesterday she has been hanging outside in the area where I drop in the roaches she feeds on. Hmmm, is she telling me she's ready?
Maybe...if your t is under 1"

Otherwise wait.
 

PinkT

Arachnopeon
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Maybe...if your t is under 1"

Otherwise wait.
So I finally got a good look of her fangs this morning and they were showing some red still. Guessing a few more days for them to darken to black.
 

ccb

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Messages
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I've had several with broken fangs over the years (not because of feeding too soon, though)...in fact my largest P. cancerides lost both fangs shortly after a molt a little over a year ago. Recently he snapped one off again....It had nothing to do with being hardened though, this thing ALWAYS tries to escape, and he breaks his fangs in the ventilation. Hopefully the new sterilite enclosure fixes this.
My B hamorii does that too. She hangs out at the top a lot and hangs upside down, clinging to the vent holes of the acrylic enclosure and will often fang the holes. (to where I can actually hear it). I get really worried as I know fang loss can result in a dead tarantula? Can they survive with just 1 fang?
 

Arachnid Addicted

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I've often pondered this as well, because from what I can tell, if they aren't ready to eat, they probably don't, at least I haven't experienced much aggression if they weren't ready....I often feed slings of faster growing species just 2 or 3 days after molting, as they harden a lot faster, but lets face it, its really difficult to get an eyeball on the teeny fangs of a 1/2" (or less) sling.

Now strangely (timing-wise), just before leaving my house for the week, I offered an AF A. avic an adult dubia. It had been 12 days since her last molt, her fangs were clearly black for many days, and she drilled it just like I anticipated....however as quickly as she pounced, she backed off and became very disinterested...now we can't talk to them, so I really won't ever know if it was just that she didn't want a roach, or she suddenly realized she wasn't quite ready yet....but I suspect the latter as she'd never shown anything but enthusiasm for roaches in the past. We'll see her response on Sat. night.

I have noticed a lot though, ts, generally larger specimens, where the fangs will be black for weeks, yet they still don't want anything to do with prey. So clearly there's more to it than just the fangs being black, although its still a reasonable guideline. Perhaps its the sucking stomach that takes the longest time to recover from a molt in adults.
When it comes to bigger spiders, I dont know if it is a good idea to rely on the fangs coloration to gave them food.

I have this theory that, even though their fangs are black, they still need to hardened up a lil more.

I had the same experience as you with A. avicularia (6.5") and with both my adult females L. subcanens and L. parahybana (both with about 9") , they refused food for a bigger period of time after their fangs turned black.

There were other examples but these three were the most relevant.
 
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