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

Dinner plate-sized tarantula crawls out of its own skin in Central Saanich

Staff at Victoria Butterfly Gardens catch spider moulting on video

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

West Shore Rotary Club raises $20,000 with Golf Ball Drop fundraiser

Nearly 4,000 golf balls poured onto Olympic View golf course Saturday

Construction slows weekend traffic at Millstream overpass

West Shore RCMP recommend Leigh Road exit instead

TRAFFIC: Saanich emergency crews responding to Pat Bay Highway collision

Incident took place at Haliburton Road intersection

Saanich race car driver shifts gears as pandemic cuts U.S. season short

Bill Okell, 65, sets sights on Canadian racing circuit for 2020

Chorus expands online options to in-person rehearsal in Langford, Oak Bay

Free, non-auditioned SingYourJoy recruits those aged 16 to 29

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

POLL: Do you agree with the decision to call a provincial election for Oct. 24?

British Columbians will put their social distancing skills to the test when… Continue reading

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vancouver Island Tour de Rock riders roll into Parksville Qualicum Beach

Saturday’s schedule includes Port Alberni, Ucluelet and Tofino, followed by Nanaimo on Sunday

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Most Read