Visitors to House of Oracles over the next few days will notice unusual behavior from the blood red-legged tarantula–dubbed Betty by our gallery monitors–in Huang Yong Ping’s installation The Wise Man Learns from the Spider How to Spin a Web (she’s enclosed in the cage above the table in this photo): the spider has flipped on her back. But Registrar Gwen Bitz assures everything’s fine.
“I called Bruce at Twin Cities Reptiles to find out what I should do,” she says. “He informs me that she is in the molting process, shedding her skin. She has been losing hair off of her butt and her back in the past week. The skin on her back has probably split and she takes the prone position to protect her back. The molting process takes about 48 hours. Sometimes they do not survive the process, but we are confident she will be okay.”
Should you visit, though, don’t disturb Betty. Eightlegs.org writes that molting (called ecdysis) is a “stressful activity that consumes every ounce of its energy. The tarantula will pump fluid pressure in its body to get the carapace to pop off first. The opisothoma or abdomen will split along its sides, and the spider will continue to slowly, almost imperceptibly, pump fluid in its limbs to ooze the old skin off its legs. The process can take anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours.”
[Photo: Gene Pittman]