The bird-eating tarantula, beginning to shed its skin at Victoria Butterfly Gardens. (Screengrab from Victoria Butterfly Gardens video)

Tarantula the size of a dinner plate caught moulting at B.C. garden

Nine-year-old ‘goliath bird eater’ spider took five hours to shed its skin

One of the largest tarantula species in the world was caught on camera moulting its exoskeleton Thursday at Victoria Butterfly Gardens.

The nine-year-old “burgundy goliath bird eater” spider took five hours to shed its skin and the video shows the process sped-up.

View this post on Instagram

Disclaimer: Not recommended for arachnophobes⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ We had the amazingly rare opportunity to film our Burgundy Bird Eater Tarantula (Theraphosa stirmi) molting!⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ This process lasted just over 10 hours and we're pleased to report she is in perfect health. 🕷️🕸️⠀⠀ #victoriabutterflygardens⠀⠀ •⠀⠀ •⠀⠀ •⠀⠀ •⠀⠀ •⠀⠀ #vbg #insectarium #victoriabc #yyj #explorevictoria #explorevancouverisland #supportlocal #pnw #pacificnorthwest #westcoastbestcoast #butterfly #hercules #herculesbeetle #butterflies #photooftheday #coloursofnature #naturebeauty #nature_brilliance #jungle #iguana #flamingos #duck #ExploreVictoria #ShareVancouverIsland #VancouverIsland @tourismvictoriabc @sharevancouverisland⠀⠀

A post shared by Victoria Butterfly Gardens (@victoriabutterflygardens) on

Justin Dunning, the living collections manager at the Gardens owned the spider and has watched it grow-up onsite for the past five years.

“We call her Stirmi, as the species is Theraphosa stirmi,” says Dunning, adding with a laugh, “We should probably give her an official name one day.”

READ ALSO: Scorpion found in B.C. woman’s kitchen more venomous than thought

He says he has always been fascinated by nature and especially loves arachnids, due to their unusual life cycles. This particular spider comes from tropical Guyana in South America and at full spread is as large as a dinner plate.

“As young spiderlings, when they first hatch out of the egg they moult fairly often, it could be as often as every few months and they grow quite quickly, about an inch or two a year. The growth slows down quite significantly after that and you get long periods in between moultings. In the last four years, Stirmi’s moulted four or five times, and the process takes a lot of energy out of her.”

READ ALSO: Mysterious sea creature washes ashore at Island View Beach in Central Saanich

What we don’t see on the GoPro footage of the spider’s skin-shed, is the amount of diligent preparation it took to catch the event on film. Dunning laughs as he recalls setting up the camera, hitting record and … nothing happening. After nine hours of inactivity, he was forced to clear the memory card and set it up again. After two hours the second time, Stirmi started moulting in earnest over a five hour period.

“Afterwards we have to leave her alone because when insects or invertebrates moult they’re very soft in their exoskeleton and very vulnerable, so when she moults we don’t open her enclosure, or touch her, or do anything with her for at least seven to 10 days. After maybe two weeks we can start offering her food again and then she eats lots for the next few months. Basically, she has grown to her max capacity in that exoskeleton and then she is really quite tight and uncomfortable. She’ll be almost gooey-soft for 24 to 48 hours.”

READ ALSO: Necropsy on grey whale aims to unlock secrets of its death

To moult, the tarantula flips upside down and the museum has to put up a sign letting visitors know the animal isn’t dead. Theraphosa stirmi tarantulas are usually found in tunnels and tubes in the jungle floor. When threatened, they rear up and hiss, exposing their fangs. Sometimes they will flick hairs at predators, described as creating a burning sensation in humans. In captivity, the spiders are fed a diet of invertebrates such as large grasshoppers, cockroaches and crickets.

For more information, such as how to visit Stirmi, explore butterflygardens.com.

READ ALSO: B.C. group on the hunt for Cadboro Bay sea monster



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Haida Gwaii eagles recovering in Ladner care facility

Treatment for the eagles is both costly and time intensive

VIDEO: Rugby summer scrimmages get a professional touch

Former national team members hit the field with local players during weekly games

VIDEO: Kaien Anti-Poverty Society hoping to raise $20K in 50/50 community bingo nights

KAPS is looking to raise money for a new vehicle to support their growing food program

Heart of Our City: Kaps off to Colleen Hermanson

Colleen Hermanson began working in social services as early as 1968

Snickers and Superheroes at Udderfest

Fantasy and frivolity the Friday festival offerings

Captain, all-star, MVP, and all about the team

Brittanne O’Connor’s drive to create Prince Rupert’s own women’s team has led to success and inspiration

The Northern View announces inaugural Tyee Fishing Derby in Prince Rupert

More than $7,000 up for grabs for biggest legal salmon and halibut

The Northern View 2019 Readers Choice

It’s that time of year again! Vote online or at the Prince Rupert office before noon on Aug. 30

Vancouver man arrested after pregnant woman’s SUV stolen, then crashed

Police are recommending charges against a 22-year-old Vancouver man

Environment groups warned saying climate change is real could be seen as partisan

Talk of climate change could be viewed as advocating against Maxime Bernier, the leader of the People’s Party of Canada

Search crews find 4-year-old boy who went missing near Mackenzie

George went missing early Saturday afternoon

Most Read