The mysterious Camel Spider is a creature often surrounded by misconceptions and fear. In reality, these arachnids are fascinating creatures deserving of a closer look. This article will provide essential information about Camel Spiders, revealing their true nature and debunking common myths.
Native to arid regions, Camel Spiders are often mistaken for dangerous predators due to their unique appearance. Contrary to popular belief, they are neither venomous nor aggressive towards humans. Understanding their behavior and characteristics can help alleviate any fears and misconceptions you may have.
Some intriguing features of Camel Spiders include:
- Humpbacked appearance
- Long, spider-like legs
- Lack of wings in adult stage
- Not venomous or aggressive toward humans
By learning more about these unique arachnids, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for their role in our ecosystem and be better equipped to differentiate fact from fiction.
Camel Spider Basics
What is a Camel Spider?
Camel spiders are a unique type of arachnid from the order Solifugae. They aren’t actually spiders, but share common features with them. They’re also known as sun spiders or solifuges.
Camel spiders belong to the class Arachnida. This includes other arachnids like scorpions, ticks, and true spiders.
Size and Appearance
Camel spiders exhibit a range of sizes:
- Body length: 0.4 to 5 inches (1 to 12.5 cm)
- Leg span: up to 12 inches (30 cm)
- Large, powerful jaws
- Multi-segmented bodies
- 8 legs and 2 leg-like front appendages (pedipalps)
Habitat and Distribution
Camel spiders are mostly found in:
- Deserts of the Middle East
- Southwestern United States
- North Africa
- Parts of Asia
Their habitats include:
- Sand dunes
- Gravel plains
- Rocky areas
Table: Distribution comparison between Camel Spiders and other arachnids:
|Camel Spider||Deserts, Middle East, US||Insects|
|True Spiders||Various, almost worldwide||Insects|
|Scorpions||Deserts, Africa, US||Insects, small animals|
Camel Spider Features:
- Fast runners (up to 10 mph)
- Skilled predators, mainly of insects
- Nocturnal creatures
- Nonvenomous but have painful bites
Behavior and Abilities
Speed and Movement
Camel spiders are known for their fast movement and agility. They can reach speeds of up to 10 mph (16 km/h). Their extraordinary speed is attributed to their strong, spider-like legs.
- Fast: Up to 10 mph (16 km/h)
- Agile: Excellent climbers and jumpers
Camel spiders are nocturnal creatures, preferring the cover of darkness to conceal their movements.
- They stay hidden during the day
- They are more active at night
Diet and Feeding Habits
Camel spiders are carnivorous predators, with their primary diet consisting of smaller insects and arthropods. They are also known to devour small animals such as rodents and snakes.
- Carnivorous diet
- Predators of smaller insects, arthropods, and small animals
Reproduction and Lifespan
Camel spider mating involves a complex series of rituals between the males and females. The male deposits a sperm packet on the substrate, and the female picks it up with her genital opening. After mating, the female lays her eggs in a safe location, which are then protected by a mixture of soil and secretions.
- Complex mating rituals between males and females
- Females lay and protect the eggs in a safe location
|Speed||Up to 10 mph (16 km/h)|
|Abilities||Climbing and jumping|
|Diet||Carnivorous (insects, arthropods, small animals)|
|Reproduction||Complex mating rituals, female lays and protects eggs|
|Lifespan||Varies depending on the species|
Camel spiders are truly unique creatures with their impressive speed and nocturnal lifestyle, combined with their predominantly carnivorous diet and complex mating rituals.
Are Camel Spiders Venomous?
Camel spiders, despite their intimidating appearance, are not venomous. They do not possess venom glands and their bites are generally harmless to humans. Here are a few facts about camel spiders:
- They belong to the order Solifugae, not typical spiders
- They do not produce venom
- They use their chelicerae (jaw-like structures) for capturing prey
Do They Pose a Threat to Humans?
Camel spiders are mostly harmless to humans, although their bite may cause pain and discomfort. However, they are not considered dangerous and any negative effects are usually a result of an individual’s allergic reaction. Some key points about their threat towards humans:
- Bites can cause pain and discomfort but are not dangerous
- Seek medical attention for severe allergic reactions
Origin of Rumors
The rumors about camel spiders originate from misleading information shared by soldiers deployed in the Middle East. Their myths have been perpetuated by sensationalized stories and images on the internet. Here’s a brief overview of the origin of these rumors:
- Exaggerated claims by soldiers in the Middle East
- Sensationalized internet stories and images
|Fact or Fiction||Description|
|Fiction||Camel spiders are venomous and have a deadly sting|
|Fact||Camel spiders do not possess venom glands and are harmless to humans|
|Fiction||Camel spiders are dangerous and pose a severe threat to humans|
|Fact||Any negative effects of camel spider bites are usually a result of an individual’s allergic reaction|
By understanding these myths and facts about camel spiders, we can better appreciate these unique and fascinating creatures for what they truly are rather than perpetuating fear and misinformation.
Chelicerae and Pedipalps
Camel spiders possess powerful chelicerae that they use for feeding and hunting. They primarily prey on insects such as beetles and termites. On either side of their chelicerae are pedipalps, which aid in capturing and immobilizing their prey.
- Chelicerae: used for feeding and hunting
- Pedipalps: help capture and immobilize prey
Compared to other spiders:
|Attribute||Camel Spiders||Other Spiders|
Camel spiders have long leg-like appendages that give them a spider-like appearance. These leg-like structures aid in their movement and enable them to be agile hunters.
- Long leg-like appendages
- Aid in movement and hunting
Visual and Sensory Structures
While camel spiders do not possess the best vision, they have other sensory structures that allow them to react quickly to their prey or potential threats. For example, they can detect vibrations in the ground, helping them locate their prey without relying solely on vision.
- Limited visual abilities
- Use vibrations to locate prey
Camel Spiders as Pets
Care and Maintenance
Caring for a camel spider requires monitoring and maintaining their environment. The following are some essential aspects of their care:
- Habitat: Camel spiders inhabit arid environments like deserts; therefore, pet owners should replicate these conditions in the enclosure with minimal humidity.
- Temperature: Keep the temperature between 75-85°F during the day and between 65-75°F at night.
Camel spiders are carnivorous and require a diet consisting of live prey. Some feeding tips include:
- Feed camel spiders smaller insects like crickets and lizards.
- A typical feeding schedule is every 2-3 days.
- Provide fresh water in a shallow dish for regular hydration.
Housing and Enclosure Setup
Creating a suitable habitat is crucial for camel spiders’ survival. Here’s what you need to know in setting up their tank:
- Tank size: Use a ventilated tank as camel spiders need fresh air; a 10-gallon tank is ideal for a single spider.
- Substrate: Use a combination of peat moss and sand, which allows the spider to dig and burrow comfortably.
A comparison table for camel spiders and a similar desert-dwelling arachnid:
|Feature||Camel Spiders||Desert Arachnid|
|Length||3-6 inches||2-4 inches|
|Substrate||Peat moss, sand||Coarse sand|
Despite their exotic appearance and unique features, camel spiders may not be suitable for all hobbyists due to their specific care requirements and aggressive behavior.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – The Thing That Drives the Chief from His Chair: Chichotsa Mfumu from Malawi
Subject: Unknown Spider
Location: Malawi, Africa
December 25, 2014 10:52 pm
I live in Malawi, Africa. Recently I have moved to a more rural part of the country than what I have been previously acquainted with. There are many unknown bugs to me here. Although I do not have a particular fondness of these creatures, my curiosity has got the better of me. Attached is a picture of a large spider. I believe it is typically nocturnal. It moves very fast and has dangerous fangs. The largest one I know of was three inches. The people here do not have a name for it in English, in the native tongue it is called “Chichotsa Mfumu”. Which being translated means, “The Thing That Drives the Chief From His Chair”. Like I said earlier, I am curious and would like to know if it has an English name.
Thank you for your time,
Signature: Sarah – Malawi, Africa
We love your exotic letter with its colorful, local vocabulary. This Arachnid is a Solifugid in order Solifugae, and though the members are commonly called Sun Spiders or Wind Scorpions in North America, they are neither spiders nor scorpions with which they are classed in Arachnida. In the Middle East they are called Camel Spiders and there is much internet hysteria surrounding their alleged traits. Solifugids, including your local Things that Drive the Chief from His Chair, are formidable predators, and though they lack venom, we would not welcome a bite from a large individual. We are featuring your submission and dubbing it our favorite end of the year posting.
Thank you for your prompt reply and for your assistance in helping me identify this creature. I am so pleased with your services I may call on them again. Thank you very much.
Letter 2 – Galeodes sp.
We just heard back from the spider expert (relayed through Weiping) at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, and he provided us with this information on the Camel Spider. “I just met our spider expert and had the name for your spider. It is from Galeodes sp, ca 3 inches long exclude legs. It distributes in Iraq and Kazakhstan area.
Letter 3 – Blurry Creature Scares and Horrifies Californian
Subject: Identify this bug for me please
Geographic location of the bug: Turlock California
Time: 02:57 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please help me identify this I’ve seen them several times and they are scary and horrifying
How you want your letter signed: Please help me
In addition to being “scary and horrifying” this bug is also quite blurry, so much that we cannot identify it, but it might be a Solifugid.
Letter 4 – Hoax or Not?
To the whatsthatbug.com staff,
Shame on you for perpetuating the myth that camel spiders are nasty vicious insects that inflict painful bites on humans. I can’t believe you would give a “best photo ever” prize to that infamous “GIs with 3-ft long camel spider” photo. More like most misleading photo ever. Any bug expert worth his or her salt would take a few minutes (even seconds) to look up the facts instead of posting the letter from “Ron Larson, Pilot Army Missile Command” which is chock full of urban myths. Please, next time get the straight dope Or the plain facts.
Sorry to come down hard on you, but I applaud your efforts to inform the public about insects and arachnids so I just want to see you inform them well.
Dear Alice Ringer,
While I applaud your efforts to debunk our credibility, I think your angry letter poses more questions than it answers. Ron Larson sent the original letter last November along with an amazing close-up photo. He went on to relay his experiences using colorful language, and his letter contains many first hand observations that have not been disproved by the “straight dope” (a questionable domain name with stoner connotations) or “plain facts”. He writes “The Camel Spider can grow to the size of a coffee cup saucer , it can run upwards of 5 miles an hour and jump several feet into the air ” all of which are substantiated. He also states they are not venomous. According to renound expert Charles L. Hogue in his landmark book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, our local species which only attain 2 inches in length “possess a formidable pair of jaws (chelicerae) and can pinch with some force” but are harmless. He goes on to describe their eating habits: “They are extremely voracious carnivores and crush and tear captive organisms to shreds with their huge jaws.” The Middle Eastern species are larger and have potentially stronger jaws which might be able to pierce human skin. Granted, saliva may be a stretch and ripping faces might be an exaggeration, but it is also possible that healing in the desert might be compounded by lack of sanitation and adverse conditions. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t want to be bitten by a Middle Eastern Solpugid which would be, at the very least, painful.
I also believe Ron Larson is accurate in saying “I honestly believe if these evil creatures were the size of a German Shepard, they would rule the earth! ”
Now on to the, in your words, “infamous ‘GIs with 3-ft long camel spider’ photo.” I ask you, why is it infamous? Has it appeared elsewhere without my knowledge? How do you know they are three feet long? Because they look 3 feet long? Cameras equiped with wide angle lenses are known to distort perspective, making objects closer to the lens appear to seem larger than they are. While it is possible that the image was altered, I prefer to believe it is the result of optics and not designed to perpetuate a hoax. I did send the image to an arachnid expert at the Museum of Natural History in Los Angeles and am awaiting his reply.
I also am curious, Alice, have you ever been to the Middle East and seen a Camel Spider for yourself? We are always telling our readers that the eye can be fooled into thinking that things are bigger than they actually are.
On a final note, regarding your comment “Any bug expert worth his or her salt would take a few minutes (even seconds) to look up the facts instead of posting the letter from ‘Ron Larson, Pilot Army Missile Command’ which is chock full of urban myths,” I would liike to respond that we do not take the liberties of altering our readers letters. We print them verbatim with all of their grammatical and factual errors. Just as in your case, we let the readership decide. We do have our own scorpion and solpugid page with local specimens and factual information, but when we recieve a photo like the “infamous ‘GIs with 3-ft long camel spider’ photo,” how can we help but be in awe? It seems you are attributing malicious intent to deceive on a genuine letter and a photo I still maintain is amazing. Daniel,
I’m sorry I was harsh on you. I do agree my letter does pose questions, and it should. That’s what makes the natural world interesting, all the questions. To answer where I’ve seen the photo, it’s been circulated in emails (forwarded from unknown sources), and a chatty message board (which linked the photo to http://beerbaron.kibblesnbits.net/Misc/whoadude.jpg). All 3 times, the forwarded text would include various exaggerations, misinformation, and/or vague references like “my brother’s friend is in Iraq and has seen one of these things”.
Being curious of course, I google’d for more info on camel spiders, and read a couple of websites, including the two I mentioned to you. One of the google results led me to whatsthatbug.com, and I was dismayed to see that the only reply you gave to the sender of the photo was Ron Larson’s letter. I was wrong to assume that Ron Larson was a play on the name Gary Larson (our favorite bug-friendly cartoonist) and I apologize to Ron if he does exist and does have first-hand knowledge of camel spiders.
As to my calling the photo the infamous “GIs with 3-foot long camel spider” I was not saying I know they’re 3 feet long, I was using words from a subject line of one of the mass emails floating around. I was trying to say the same thing you said in your reply to me: that the photo is misleading and these camel spiders are not 3 feet long. I’m sorry my sarcasm by calling them 3 feet long wasn’t clear.
I just wanted to close by saying you run or help run a great website, and I thank you for taking the time to get further information from others when you replied to me.
Hi again Alice,
I think in the interest of remedying this situation, we are going to re-reply to Chas with some factual information. I am still waiting for the reply from the Museum of Natural History. The poor Camel Spider has been much maligned online as you point out, and sadly, we here at What’s That Bug have inadvertently added to the myth by reposting Ron Larson’s colorful letter with a genuine, though brief, request for information. I’m glad your original letter brought this to our attention.
Never having seen a Camel Spider ourselves, except the small local Solpugids which go by common names like Sun Spider and Wind Scorpion, we go on record saying they are harmless, but can deliver a painful bite. The Middle Eastern Camel Spiders probably do have jaws strong enough to pierce skin. There is no venom or saliva to prevent healing, but adverse conditions and poor sanitation might lead to infection and scarring. Camel Spiders are shy. They will not attack humans, but are reported to snip hair from dead and sleeping animals and humans to build their nests. They are fast and they do jump far. Reports vary as to their speed: Ron Larson says 5 miles per hour, another website clocks them at 10 MPH and claims they are the fastest terrestial arthropod, but claims of 25MPH clocked running along side a Humvie are probably an exaggeration. They are predatory and fierce hunters, but their prey is limited to scorpions, insects, small lizards and rodents and anything else they can catch. Considering their size, they are one of the fiercest hunters alive, but thankfully, humans are too large to be considered lunch.
Letter 5 – Windscorpion
Subject: Ant mimicry?
Location: Case Grande, AZ
April 29, 2014 5:51 pm
My father’s cat was playing with a large bug yesterday night (4/28/14) that I have not been able to identify on the internet. He lives in Casa Grande, Arizona where there is a vast amount of desert. It is the tail end of Spring and currently 90 degree weather during the day and in the 60’s at night. He sent me this photo of the bug inside a medicine bottle but it isn’t all that clear. It appears to have four sets of legs which indicate that it is not an insect but likely an arachnid though not likely a scorpion since it is missing pinchers and a stinger. It also seems to have an abdomen, thorax and a head with antennae and what looks to be mandibles, which means that it is not a spider unless it is ant mimicry. As far as the whereabouts of this thing at the present time, my father dropped it off by a canal near his home because he does not like to kill things.
Signature: Erika H.
Despite its common name of Windscorpion, this Arachnid in the order Solifugae is considered harmless since it does not have venom. Large specimens might deliver a painful bite if carelessly handled. Because of your father’s kindness to the lower beasts, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award. Windscorpions are also called Sun Spiders.