If you’re new to the hobby, then you may doubt that a seemingly harmless cricket could pose a threat to your spider. However, they should not be underestimated.
Crickets can and will start eating a tarantula if they find an opportunity. This usually happens during a molt when the spider is at its most vulnerable. However, it can also happen specimens that are in the resting period right after molting while the exoskeleton is still soft, as well as young slings if the cricket is too large.
Can you leave crickets in with a tarantula?
Don’t leave live crickets in with your tarantula. If the spider does not show any interest in them, then try to pull them out within 24 hours. The hobby has adopted this timeframe as a general rule of thumb because tarantulas can be unpredictable. You can be surprised by a molting tarantula no matter how good your records are.
Tarantulas are not a suitable pet for free feeding. With the exception of communal tanks, you should never dump a bunch of crickets in with your spider with the intent to leave them. They do not need access to food 24/7.
Sometimes, I’ve noticed my tarantulas killing prey items (but not eating them) when they are a nuisance if the spider is nearing a molt. However, this kind of behavior isn’t guaranteed, and a live cricket poses a risk to a vulnerable molting specimen.
How can crickets harm tarantulas?
Crickets are known to kill tarantulas while they are molting, and you can find mention of this in the care guide put out by the American Tarantula Society.
When a tarantula molts its new exoskeleton is soft and pliable, and it is unable to defend itself while it’s on its back. Even the fangs are soft (if you look at them they will be white). While it only takes slings a few days to harden again, it can take up to two weeks for an adult specimen to fully harden.
Crickets can and will start nibbling on an unhardened tarantula that is flipped over on its back or still resting after the molting process. It’s not a planned attack on the part of the cricket, but they are very opportunistic feeders and will start eating a spider that isn’t defending itself. This is also true of the beetles that mealworms turn into (click here to read through a forum thread discussing fatalities caused by feeders).
There are also reports on tarantula forums of people running into problems with crickets attacking small slings. This will sometimes kill the sling, other times they walk away with a few missing legs. Aside from preying on the spider, crickets can be a source of stress for a molting tarantula due to how active they are.
Are crickets bad for tarantulas?
Crickets are not inherently bad as a prey item, and many hobbyists choose to use them as a staple part of their tarantula’s diet. They are readily available at most pet stores, and most tarantulas will accept them.
However, some keepers prefer to avoid crickets because they can develop a distinct odor when you are keeping them in bulk. The smell combined with their tendency to prey on vulnerable spiders make them not worth the hassle for some people.
That being said, the best diet for a tarantula is a varied one that consists of different types of feeder insects. Roaches and mealworms make excellent feeding options to rotate with crickets. I use a combination of all of those plus the occasional hornworm for my own collection.
How long does it take for a tarantula to eat a cricket?
It depends on the size of the cricket in relation to the spider. In general, it will take at least several hours for the spider to finish eating. Sometimes, it will only take them around four hours. However, it isn’t unheard of for a tarantula to take a full day (or slightly more) to finish a large meal.
The size of the spider and size of prey item will obviously affect how long it takes. My slings and juveniles don’t take as long to finish eating because they are being fed large meals, whereas my adults routinely get multiple prey items at a time that they work on for hours in a large ball.
Do tarantulas eat crickets whole?
Tarantulas do not eat the entire body of their prey. Instead, they digest their prey externally. When a tarantula grabs its prey, they use a sharp line of hardened points called cheliceral teeth located above their fangs to essentially rip the insect into small pieces. This is how the spider creates the later unrecognizable cricket ball when you offer multiple prey items. If you look closely, you’ll even notice the tarantula manipulating the ball with its fangs.
As the tarantula is manipulating their ball of prey, they regurgitate digestive enzymes onto it, then suck the broken-down particles back into their mouth. The spider will do this repetitively until they decide there is nothing left. Once they are finished the tarantula will leave a bolus somewhere in its cage. This is the leftover exoskeleton of their prey.
Can a cricket eat a tarantula?
Given enough time and the right opportunity, yes, a cricket can begin to eat a tarantula. But, so can a mealworm or a superworm. They pose the most risk to small tarantulas and spiders in the process molting or just after molting while they are soft.
Crickets in small groups pose even more of a threat to vulnerable specimens, which is why it’s so important to make sure you aren’t leaving live food in the enclosure.
Should you remove stuck crickets when a tarantula is molting?
If you notice live feeders in the cage after a spider has already started molting, then you should attempt to cautiously extract them with tongs. This is one of the few times that hobbyists will advocate for disturbing the enclosure of a molting specimen.
Can you put more than one cricket in with a tarantula?
You can offer larger specimens more than one cricket at a time, and they will often hunt all of the feeders turning them into a giant food ball. Don’t give small tarantulas more than one prey item at a time, though. It’s unnecessary and they aren’t likely to be able to handle a meal that size.
Is a cricket the same size as a sling okay?
This will depend on the individual spider. Tiny tarantulas are perfectly capable of killing their own prey (although I have a few that run in the other direction).
Some tarantula slings will readily stalk live prey that is nearly the same size as they are. It’s pretty impressive to watch them tackle something so large!
However, other specimens are timid around prey close to their size and will even show reluctance to hunt anything live until they’re larger. Especially something as bouncy and active as a cricket. For these spiders, it’s best to just stick with really tiny prey items that they can easily take down or pre-killed options.
One important note when you’re offering larger meals is that clean-up will be required. You will need to remove the remaining uneaten parts of the cricket so that they don’t grow fuzzy mold.
How do I safely feed a cricket to a small sling?
I will usually cut up pieces of mealworms or use meaty cricket back legs for really small tarantulas because pinheads are hard for me to find.
If you can get a hold of pinheads, though, they are the perfect size for most slings and typically aren’t a problem for the spider to take down. I supervise all of my slings when they are hunting live prey until I confirm they have started eating it.
When I offer a cricket to a sling that I know is reluctant to take live food, then I will usually squeeze the cricket’s head in my tongs before I put it in the enclosure. This usually makes the reluctant feeders more willing to approach the cricket (probably because it isn’t hopping around wildly).
Final Thoughts on Crickets Hurting Tarantulas
Although crickets have the potential to kill or harm a tarantula, they still make a great routine feeder item. As long as you monitor your specimens during feeding time, never feed during a molt, and promptly remove uneaten crickets from the enclosure, then you are unlikely to run into a problem.