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.