Kukulcania hibernalis Molt Surgery

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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She-Ra, a mature female Kukulcania hibernalis (southern house spider) I've had for over 7 years, was hopelessly stuck in her molt. I wasn't confident that I could help her, because these spiders are so small and delicate when compared to tarantulas, and she had not even begun to extract her abdomen. However, she was sure to die without intervention, so I figured I couldn't make her prognosis any worse.


First I worked on the two right legs that were stuck near the knee joint. I used my dropper to insert water into the femur tube as lubricant and gently pulled to free the legs. The first leg was easier than the second, as the second was closer to the abdomen, and I needed to cut away the rest of the sternum to free the leg without tearing her out of her abdomen.


Next I turned my attention to the abdomen. She had made no progress extracting her abdomen save for a small opening near the sternum. I used the water dropper to fill the abdominal cavity with water and then backlit the area so I could separate the old abdomen from the new one. I made a small incision along the side so I could begin removing the abdomen in sections.


Having removed the loose, easy sections, I could see that some of the abdomen appeared to be stuck around the book lungs and epigastric furrow. I continued using the water dropper to try to soften and separate.


Eventually I had removed as much of the old abdomen as I could without tearing the delicate skin of the new abdomen. (I'm not sure, but there might still be trace amounts around the pedicel and book lungs.) Then I saw that one of her left legs was still encased in the old exoskeleton, so I repeated the process described in picture #2 to free it.


Here she is after the surgery. She looks rough, and some of the legs may harden crooked, but she is very much alive.


I gently placed her back in her web so she can recover. She is a fighter, and I hope she pulls through. (The leg at the end of her abdomen is from a previous molt.)

 

WolfSoon

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I hope everything works out! She’s a beautiful lady and I bet she can do it. :) I can’t imagine how much focus that must’ve taken to help her - well done! :angelic:
 

RezonantVoid

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Awesome effort, this is not an easy task in the slightest. I'm really worried for her next molt though :(
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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Awesome effort, this is not an easy task in the slightest. I'm really worried for her next molt though :(
Worst-case scenario, if she survives to molt again but gets stuck, I gave her another year. She was already mature (gravid) when I got her seven years ago, so she's lived a full life. (I raised some of her slings to maturity.)
 

The Snark

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That read like the post operative impressions of a surgeon. For future reference, the scalpel and needle point Kellys typically used by eye surgeons would be something to keep on hand just in case. Also the small hemostats that can be used to aid traction.

@Ungoliant I just remembered. A ENT specialist in our area. He collected a pile of forceps and took them to a precision machine shop. He drew out diagrams of the shapes he wanted, having the machine shop grind the tips. The various profiles were from his memory of what he visualized would be the ideal tool during various stages of eye and nasopharangeal surgical procedures. I remember he had the maintenance handyman build a display case, tilted on a rolling stand that could be placed beside him in the operating theaters. Dozens of interesting shapes, tips and curves. The entire display case top could be removed from the stand and slid into an autoclave.
 
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RezonantVoid

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Can she traverse the web without any issues or will she have to be tweezer fed from now on?
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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Sadly, I believe that She-Ra (a spider I've had longer than any of my tarantulas) has passed on to the great web in the sky. May her slings carry on her legacy.

Update: She's not dead! She now flinches when I touch her, and if I drip water near her, she tries to get away.
 

basin79

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Sadly, I believe that She-Ra (a spider I've had longer than any of my tarantulas) has passed on to the great web in the sky. May her slings carry on her legacy.
She died "free" at least. Not stuck or trapped in her old moult. It was definitely worth helping her even though the outcome was death.
 

Ungoliant

Malleus Aranearum
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She died "free" at least. Not stuck or trapped in her old moult. It was definitely worth helping her even though the outcome was death.
I would have felt bad if I hadn't tried.

Plus, I gained experience that might help me save another spider.
 

Tortuga

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I'm truly sorry for your loss. Your efforts were Herculean.
 

Ungoliant

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Update: She's not dead! She now flinches when I touch her, and if I drip water near her, she tries to get away.
 

Ungoliant

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She is still hanging in her web. Some of her legs, including the front and back legs, don't work right, so she has trouble moving well. I will definitely have to feed her pre-killed, as she won't be able to wrap without her hind legs.
 

Ungoliant

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Unfortunately, She-Ra has been unresponsive since yesterday morning, and I am now certain that she has passed away.
 
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