Camel Spiders: Distinguishing Fact from Fiction with 5 Myths Unraveled
Camel spiders are huge. While the name “camel spider” doesn’t sound too bad, this spider’s real name is the Egyptian Giant Solpugid. I love this spider because it’s home to many myths and rumors, but a lot of these tall tales are false.
Many myths of the giant camel spider come from the Iraq War.
Table of Contents
Basic Information About the Camel Spider
Camel spiders are not real spiders. This is very confusing because the camel spider is part of the Arachnida class, but they’re really solpugids. In fact, these spiders are in the order of solifugae while also being in the class of Arachnida.
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These spiders are a part of an order that includes:
- 1,000 species
- 153 genera
You’ll find that these “spiders” are also called:
- Wild scorpion
- Sun spiders
What’s a new fact that I didn’t know for a very long time is that not all arachnids are spiders. But the camel spider isn’t a scorpion either. This is a solifugae, and we’ll see how they’re different and how to identify them by their appearance and habits.
1. Body Structure and Size
If you ever come across this spider, you’ll do a double take because it looks like they have 10 legs. But they really have eight legs. The additional appendages aren’t legs at all. These appendages are actually sensory organs that look a lot like legs but are called pedipalps.
This spider has a:
- Length of up to 6 inches
- Weight of up to 2 ounces
Horrifying at first sight, you’ll also find that the jaws of the camel spider account for as much as 2 inches of their entire body. The jaw is called the chelicerae and they’re used to catch the spider’s prey.
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The spider has a 10-segmented body and the entire spider’s length is 6 inches including the legs.
Large central eyes are present, and these spiders can recognize forms and have a hairy body to accompany their elongated jaws.
The color of this spider is:
The good news is that this spider enjoys desert environments, so you’re only going to find them roaming free in the desert and in dry conditions. Camel spiders enjoy the hot desert sun – something humans tend to avoid.
2. Diet Habits and Habitats
Wrongly called the world’s biggest spider by foreigners, this spider is different than the normal venomous spider that you’re expecting to come across. Camel spiders live in mostly desert habitats, and you’ll find them in:
- Southwestern United States
- Middle East
Nocturnal, these spiders are most common during the night and will flee when the sun is shining.
The “jaws” of this spider are big for a reason. While many spiders have venom to kill their prey, the camel spider will grind their prey using their large jaws. The powerful jaws will saw and chop the prey into little pieces, but the rest of the process involves digestive enzymes.
The digestive enzymes of the spider will liquify the flesh of the victim, allowing the camel spider to easily remove and eat the remains of its prey.
Camel spiders like to eat:
But you’ll be happy to know that despite all of the camel spider myths, these spiders don’t feast on human flesh – although they will bite if provoked.
3. Reproduction and Life Cycle
Indirect and direct sperm transfer can occur with this species, and this is very different from most “spiders.” To better understand how these spiders reproduce, you need to know the difference between indirect and direct sperm.
- Direct sperm transfer occurs when the male spider pushes the female on her back and inserts his chelicerae into the genital pore.
- Indirect sperm transfer involves the male emitting sperm in a web-like ball and inserts it into the female spider.
The female spider will lay 50 – 200 eggs at one time, and she will bury these eggs into a burrow.
There’s no telling how many eggs a female will lay at once, and the number will vary each time she lays her eggs. The female spider will often fatten herself up before laying her eggs because she will guard her eggs until they hatch.
When this occurs, the female may go weeks without eating.
Females that don’t eat enough and prepare for the severe fasting period that follows will often die.
These spiders will go through several nymphal instars before they turn into adults.
Small-to-large in size, the behavior of these spiders is rather common in the arachnid world. The spiders will avoid humans as best they can, and they will only come out at night if they have the option.
Nocturnal behavior allows the camel spider to be a deadly, nighttime hunter that pulverizes its prey with its massive jaws.
Venomous Bite and Treatment
Contrary to popular belief, the camel spider is not venomous. While some spiders use venom to help slow and kill their prey, the camel spider relies on its massive jaws to get the job done. Evolution has allowed this spider to be a fierce predator, and the digestive enzymes of this spider allow it to break down its victims so that it has an easier time with digestion.
But you will still want to seek medical attention if bitten by these spiders.
The bites from a camel spider will make most people screech in horror – they look horrifying. You’ll also need some form of antibiotic or cleaning of the wound to fend off any potential infection that may occur.
The Chelicerae will be able to break through human skin, and the bites are said to be very painful.
You’ll definitely know if one of these spiders has chosen to bite you.
The good news is that the camel spider will not bite unless provoked in most cases. This isn’t to say that they don’t bite – they do – but they will only bite when necessary. There’s also a chance that a female will be guarding her eggs, in which case she will be more aggressive and likely to attack.
Since these bites are rather severe in nature, always make sure that you visit the emergency room or a physician as soon as possible. While the bites are not deadly by themselves, this doesn’t mean that they won’t cause a lot of pain, discomfort or other side effects.
Infection may also set in, which can be serious.
Camel Spider Myths and Truths
Camel spiders are very interesting – not because of their leg-like sensory organs or horny ridges, but because they have become somewhat of a myth in recent years. People across the world are talking about these spiders.
Why? The Iraq war led to a lot of myths from soldiers and personnel who were fighting in the region. Maybe it was a joke at first or maybe these soldiers were horrified by the size of these spiders, but these myths started to become more prevalent, leading to a gross miscalculation of the truth.
And the Internet helped spread these myths even further, causing the camel spider to take on an entirely new identity.
- Camel Spiders Chase Humans. This myth is somewhat factual, but it’s definitely not what you’re expecting. Camel spiders are nocturnal, so if you see them out during the day, they will be desperately seeking shade and covering. Humans that believe they’re being chased are actually being chased, but the spider doesn’t want to eat you. Instead, the spider is trying to stay in your shadow to remain protected from the sun. And while these spiders don’t like the sun, they’re attracted to light, so they may chase your lights if it’s nighttime.
- Camel Spiders Eat Camels. No, this is not true. An old folklore that the camel spider would jump up and eat the innards of the camel likely gave this spider its name. The truth is that the camel spider is often seen under a camel because the camel casts a large shadow. Camels are far too large of an animal for the camel spider to possibly eat, although they may be bitten on occasion.
- Camel Spiders Jump. Camel spiders don’t really jump, and if they do, it’s not a significant jump that you need to worry about. The myth has it that the camel spider can jump as high as 3 feet, but this hasn’t been observed in the wild.
- Camel Spiders are Super Fast. It’s hard to provide accurately measured speeds for all camel spiders in the world, but the top speed that a camel spider has been measured at is 10 miles per hour. This speed is much faster than most humans can run without some form of training, but this is also much slower than the rumors that this spider can run 30 miles per hour easily.
- Camel Spiders Kill Humans. Under normal circumstances, a camel bite will be very painful, but the bite won’t be hard enough to kill a human. There’s a lot of you to eat, and this spider is far to small to eat a human without being attacked. And since this spider doesn’t contain venom, the bites are far less deadly than people make them out to be. The only death that can occur is if infection sets in and is not properly treated. Any bite can lead to infection, but proper medical treatment will ensure that the bite doesn’t get infected and can heal naturally.
While there are some truths behind every myth, the Internet has sensationalized the camel spider and made it larger than life. This spider is not your run-of-the-mill house spider, and if you see it, you’ll definitely recognize that its large size is nothing to be trifled with.
I wouldn’t recommend staying near one of these spiders for long, but if you do see one or even get bitten by one, death isn’t imminent.
Camel Spider Prevention
Camel spider prevention is only an issue if you live in a very hot climate or in the dessert. The problem is that these resilient spiders are not going to go down without a fight. In fact, these spiders will often attack because you’re trying to harm them.
The general rule of thumb to stop any spider in your home is:
- Clean any outside debris or covering that the spider may use to stay out of the sun. This can include foliage or wood piles where spiders are known to hide.
- Fix any gaps or cracks that may allow this spider to enter the home. While larger in size, these spiders have entered homes through large cracks or crevices.
- Food is what every spider, animal and insect in the world needs to survive. If you repel rodents, bugs and reptiles, you’ll lower the food supply of the spider, ensuring that you’re not nurturing an environment that camel spiders seek out.
A common misconception is that the spider spray that you find in the store will work on the camel spider. I am sorry to say that if you spray this spider with chemicals or some form of an insecticide, there’s a good chance that the spider will choose to attack you.
Sprays don’t work to kill the spider in most cases, but the spray will make the spider very agitated and it may attack you as a result.
So, if you see one of these spiders, it’s best to leave it alone and try to lure it outside of the home if it’s inside. I recommend not confronting this spider because their bites are very painful.
Rather, you’ll want to open windows or doors that the spider is near so that they choose to leave the space. If it’s dark outside, try opening the door and putting some form of light outside to attract the spider.
If you’re brave and have an umbrella, you can cast a shadow that the spider will chase after. This is a smart tactic and one that is also a little scary since the spider will be following after you. The key is to lure the spider to a shaded spot and then try to move yourself back into the home.