Locals say a bite from this can change your gender!
May 7, 2010
Hi! I live in a rural, arid farm area in northern Ghana. In just the last few days, a friend who lives down the path from me has been visited at night by several of these arachnids in her home, a simple cement structure which is not very well sealed. They have ranged from 2-4 inches long, and I have seen them brown, reddish-brown, and black. They tend to run very quickly around the perimeter of the room, during which time they wave around their long, fat feelers that look like ‘fake legs’ when they are stationary. We showed this picture to some of the local people and got a range of responses, including the idea that if it bites a person, their gender will be changed! One suggested that it will come up to you while you are eating, and when you run away in fear, it will eat your food. More believable, though, is the idea that if it bites you, you can become sick, so if you see one, you just have to… well, get rid of it somehow:) We’d love to know what it REALLY is and if we really are in danger from it. Thanks for your input!
North-eastern corner of Ghana, West Africa
Your letter gave us quite a chuckle. This is a Solpugid, a type of Arachnid in the order Solifugae which is profiled on BugGuide. They are commonly called Sun Spiders or Wind Scorpions, though they are neither spiders nor scorpions, nor do they have venom like spiders and scorpions do. In the Middle East, American soldiers refer to them as Camel Spiders, and the crazy stories about them have returned stateside. One of our most popular letters is accompanied by an awesome photograph that went viral about four years ago. [IDEA FOR FICTION: Titled The Gadfly: Bugman channels famous entomologists, theorists and authors including Kinsey, Darwin and Nabokov. This is the first piece of fiction written by Daniel Marlos with the exception of a short story with a biblical theme in The Curious World of Bugs.] We are highly amused by the sex change rumor, though we suppose it is a good excuse for anyone desiring corrective surgery for gender reassignment. We would not want to be bitten by a large Solpugid as we are certain the bite will draw blood, but since there is no venom, the only lasting harm is the pain.