Location: Laughlin AFB, TX
May 7, 2012 9:02 am
My children found a Solifugid about two weeks ago, and while it scared me half to death, after doing some research on these crazy looking critters I realized what good bugs they are to have around. We have since ”adopted” it and my husband lovingly named it ”Ed”. We see much smaller versions all over out here in Del Rio, TX, our ”Ed” is pretty big. ”He” is about 2.5” long in the body. I was wondering how you tell a male from a female and what the lifespan is on these guys. The photos aren’t the greatest, I took them with my phone.
We have to confess that we don’t know anything about the longevity of Windscorpions as members of the order Solifugae are commonly called, nor do we know how to sex individuals. BugGuide does not offer any information on either of those items, however, BugGuide does admit: “The order is currently under revision” as well as “They lack venom, but the strong jaws may inflict a sharp bite in self-defense if handled. The most common species are quite small and can hardly be felt except for a slight “pinch”. Larger members (e.g., Eremorhax spp.) have been known to draw blood. Immediately disinfect the bite. ‘Solifugae are the subject of many urban legends and exaggerations about their size, speed, behavior, appetite, and lethality.’ (Wikipedia)” We would urge you to handle Ed with extreme caution. Though we generally don’t quote Wikipedia, it does offer this information: “Males are usually smaller than females, with relatively longer legs. They also bear a pair of organs, one on each chelicera. The organs are called flagella, meaning whips, referring to their shape. In the accompanying photograph of a male Solifugid, one flagellum is just visible near the tip of each chelicera. The flagella sometimes are called horns, and bend back over the chelicerae. They are believed to have some sexual connection, but their function has not yet been clearly explained.” Based on that information, we suspect Ed might actually be Edwina. Because you did not succumb to your fright with the typical smash reaction, we are tagging your posting with the Bug Humanitarian award.
Thank you for the information!! We have not actually handled “Ed/Edwina” with our hands because of the potential for a serious bite…I have seen what she is capable of!! She is in a 5 gallon fish tank with sand and rocks until we get moved into a house…once there, we will set her free so she can feast on all of the resident bugs in that area 🙂 Thank you for giving us the humanitarian award, this little critter has grown on us all a little!
Additional Information forwarded by Liz
Reply to Renee’s questions on solifuges
May 9, 2012 3:24 pm
I forwarded Renee’s questions to Paula Cushing at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science since she studies solifuges. Her is her reply.
Ed certainly is a solifuge. These arachnids are in the arachnid order Solifugae. You can find out a lot of information about this group of arachnids from our NSF-funded website www.solpugid.com. The animal you have is a female. In North America solifuges are either in the family Eremobatidae or Ammotrechidae. The animal you have is an eremobatid. Although most male solifuges have distinctive flagella on their chelicerae, the flagellar complex on the chelicerae (jaws) of eremobatid males are pretty inconspicuous. However, in this family, you can tell males and females apart by the chelicerae themselves. Females and juveniles have distinctive teeth on both the upper (fixed finger) of the chelicerae as well a the lower (movable finger) whereas males eremobatids have teeth only on the lower movable finger. The upper fixed finger of the chelicerae is smooth and a bit longer and narrower than the analogous jaw of the female. Females also have hardened (sclerotized) chitinous plates
around their genital opening on the underside of the abdomen.
Solifuges are fairly aggressive and can give you a nip if you try to handle them. However, lacking venom, the worse they could do is scare the bejeezes out of you or give you a tiny cut.
To keep these animals in captivity is a huge challenge. They are voracious predators and they REALLY do not like captivity. Your best bet is to put the solifuge in a box/jar/container half filled with sand (they are burrowers). Then crumple up paper towels and put on top of the sand. This gives the solifuge lots of places to hide. They do not seem to take to open soil very well. Keep them well fed with crickets or other small insects (not ants). Add a few droplets of moisture now and then but do not keep the container too wet.
My lab is very involved in research on these animals and I’d be interested in receiving solifuges with good collecting data (date collected, collecting location, and name of collector). Solifuges can be sent alive to my lab. For more information about these beasts feel free to contact me or check out my website.
Paula E. Cushing, Ph.D.
Curator of Invertebrate Zoology
2001 Colorado Blvd.
Denver, CO 80205 Fax 303.331.6492