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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Crews called to overnight fire in Ellison

Kelowna Fire first received the call around 9:55 p.m.

Kelowna RCMP make arrest in fatal stabbing of 16-year-old Elijah Beauregard

An 18-year-old woman is in police custody facing a manslughter charge.

Kelowna Firefighters douse suspicious hedge fire

A 30’ section of cedar hedge burned prompting an RCMP investigation.

Fiery collision involving truck closes Highway 1 at Three Valley Gap

Drivers should expect major delays and congestion; estimated time of re-opening is 2 p.m.

Westbank First Nation Grand Chief Noll Derriksan passes away

Derriksan was 79 at the time of his passing

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Violent ends to past Indigenous protests haunt Trudeau government

Trudeau adopted a more assertive tone Friday, insisting the barricade must come down

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

B.C. money laundering inquiry to begin amid hopes for answers, accountability

Eby argued that most B.C. residents already know the previous government, at best, turned a blind eye

Blockades remain in place as Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs returning to B.C.

Hereditary Chief Woos said they are ready to engage in nation-to-nation talks with the B.C.

Dale family was prominent in Summerland’s past

Ruth Dale taught for many years

Tyler Toffoli scores twice, Canucks crush Bruins 9-3

Stecher, Miller each add three points for Vancouver

Zamboni driver, 42, earns NHL win over Maple Leafs

Emergency goalie called into action for Carolina Hurricanes

Most Read