Camel Spiders

I'm not going to tell how I became privy to this photograph from Iraq, just in case it's classified, but I can say that these things crawl into people's sleeping bags at night. Can you imagine?! Look, if you dare.


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I shouldn't have looked. E

I shouldn't have looked.



They look bigger in the picture than they actually are. They're about the size of an adult's hand; also, they bite, but they don't have venom. Still--I don't want them in my sleeping bag, that's for sure.

Holy crap...

those are huge and I HATE spiders!

Holy Mother of spiders, that

Holy Mother of spiders, that is disgusting. I've got the willies.


Actually, this is the truth...

From the Straight Dope:

Dear Straight Dope:

For the last few years, I've read things about the famed camel spider or wind scorpion (Eremobates gladiolus) in the Middle East. From pictures I've seen, it's a little bigger than your hand and very aggressive. Here's what I've heard that I can't verify conclusively:

1. It can run upwards of 25 mph (by soldiers that have tracked the speed with humvees since it runs in their shadows).
2. It's called a camel spider because it climbs onto the bellies of camels and eats the stomach--because the spider secretes anesthetics to numb the flesh, the camels don't notice until their intestines fall out.
3. It makes a screaming/squealing noise when it runs, similar to a child screaming.

So, pretty much the most horrifying thing you can imagine. How much of this is true? How horrible is it really? --Christian Vanderbeck

SDSTAFF Doug replies:

Doesn't this sound like the perfect topic for today, April Fool's Day? We thought you'd appreciate it.

Urban legends about the camel spider (properly termed a solpugid or solifugid) are as old as the proverbial hills, but they made a huge resurgence when vectored by American troops in Kuwait during Desert Storm. They're not quite as big as your hand (unless you're a five-year-old), and very shy and secretive. They do like to hide in the shadows, and they do run very, very quickly for a critter (they can reach about 10 MPH, the fastest known non-flying arthropod). They make no noise whatsoever, they have no venom whatsoever, and they do not eat flesh--they eat small desert arthropods like crickets and pillbugs. The rumors of their attacking camels, or crawling onto sleeping GIs' faces, apparently stem from one of two things, both of which may be true to some extent: (1) they may use hair to line their burrow when they are about to lay a batch of eggs, said hair being clipped from dead camels or other dead mammals (and a sleeping GI is not much different), and/or (2) dead camels are covered with flies, and crawling over a camel corpse may make for a convenient way to get a good meal of flies.

We have camel spiders in the sandy parts of the southwest U.S. and Mexico (in Mexico they are called matevenados), considerably smaller than the Middle Eastern types, but of the same shy, unassuming habits. Completely harmless and beneficial critters, like the desert equivalent of a praying mantis.

Straight Dope Science Advisory Board

[Comment on this answer.]

Staff Reports are researched and written by members of the Straight Dope Science Advisory Board, Cecil's online auxiliary. Although the SDSAB does its best, these articles are edited by Ed Zotti, not Cecil, so accuracywise you'd better keep your fingers crossed.

Fun with Perspective...


If you'll look closely, the perspective of the camera makes these spiders look about four times their actual size. Do not compare them to the GI's leg in the background of the photo, but the sleeve of the GI in the foreground. BTW, Clancy, no need to worry about the classified-ness of the photo. It's all over the internet. :)

Just a friendly reminder that knowledge can trump fear most of the time.


2nd comment

Yeah, I was talking about that in the second comment under this post. An officemate of mine who's a biologist told me they're not that big, and that they're not poisonous either.

Yeah, but still. . .

Eeeeww. Big as a hand is plenty big. Yeesh.

Two anecdotes: first, when I was living in Pittsburgh, I got bitten by something -- I'm assuming it was a spider -- while sleeping. Big ugly red bump on the inside of the forearm. Then, the next day, there was a three-inch-long green line going up the vein towards the elbow from the bite. I called my doctor and he didn't believe me but grudgingly said he'd see me that day. I went in there and showed the nurse my arm and her eyes got really huge and she called out, "Doctor? You better come look at this." Long story short: they gave me antibiotics and I didn't die.

Second: when I got stationed in Georgia, on the first afternoon of my very first field training exercise, out there in the swamp, I was in the platoon tent and just about to sit down on my sleeping bag when I looked down and saw a little bright red scorpion, about an inch long, its tail all cocked up and flexing away.

I. Hate. Arthropods.



I really think that the world was made for the human been...
Maybe if we stop to think we will see that we are only a little piece of shit!
No more comments!!!

Uh, okay.

Thanks for sharing. :?

The Real Truth

Windscorpion, any of an order of arachnids known for their speed and their large, forward-pointing chelicerae, or biting fangs. They live in tropical or subtropical dry areas of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Worldwide, there are about 900 known species of windscorpions, and in North America there are 120.
Windscorpions are so named because they seem to move "like the wind." They are also called solfugids, after their order. Other names for windscorpions include camelspiders, sunscorpions, and sunspiders, because some species are active during the day. Most species of windscorpion are actually nocturnal, but they are often attracted to light. They prey mainly on insects and other invertebrates, although some of the larger species occasionally eat small vertebrates, such as young lizards. Their unusually large chelicerae, or jaws, point forward and are used to crush and shred the prey. Windscorpions are not venomous but they can bite humans and the wound may become infected. Windscorpions range in length from 1 to 70 mm (0.25 to 2.75 in). The most common species in the United States are a few centimeters (up to 1.2 in) long. They inhabit the drier, warmer parts of the west (though one species can be found in Florida) and are harmless.
The prosoma, or combined head and thorax, of the windscorpion is covered by a carapace (shell-like covering) and has one pair of eyes. The opisthosoma, or abdomen, is sac-like and is covered by 11 segmental plates. Windscorpions do not have a sting-tipped tail like true scorpions. The sensory pedipalps, or leg-like mouthparts, are very long, and reach ahead of the animal as it moves. Windscorpions have four pairs of true legs. The first two legs are small and are used like antennae; the three pairs behind them are used for running. The windscorpion's body is usually light colored and covered with sensory bristles. Windscorpions breathe through three pairs of trachea (branched air tubes) on the abdomen.
During mating, the male usually grasps and strokes the female to make her receptive to his advances. He uses his chelicerae to open her genital orifice and deposits his sperm inside her. Alternatively, he may deposit sperm onto the ground in a spermatophore, or packet, and then move it to her genital orifice using his chelicerae. The female lays her eggs in a burrow. The young pass through a series of molts and may take several years to mature.
Scientific classification: Windscorpions are in the order Solifugae, class Arachnida, phylum Arthropoda. Their relatives include true spiders, true scorpions, ticks, and mites. Species found in the United States are in the families Eremobatidae and Ammotrechidae. Solfugids should not be confused with the separate arachnid orders of the whipscorpions, tailless whipscorpions, or pseudoscorpions.

"Windscorpion," Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2000. © 1993-1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

You can buy them here!

We will surely be seeing these things in the near furture. At least one egg sack will make it back with a troop. And even if it doesn't people will be ordering them just like big snakes and other deadly exotic animals from abroad. Here is one site already they can be ordered from:

... so pet stores will soon have them to supply the growing demand. They can't survive the climate in Ohio where I'm at fer very long but "Southwest lookout!" is all I have to say.

not too big

I grew up in the High Desert of Southern California. My sister and I were constantly assulted with desert survival training and tactics from our first steps. It came as sort of a shock to me that city people didn't shake out their shoes before putting them on when I attended RCC in fall 2002.

I know lots of people who hate spiders because they are creepy. I love them, they're beautiful. Unfortunately I have the job of sweeping up my mom's porch in arid Las Vegas today and while taking a break decided to do some surfing on spiders because I'm clearing out a lot of old webbing.

I couldn't find most of them, I don't know what they're called. I killled one of the brooms on a male widow spider of some sort. I dislike killing any of them, but I can't leave black widows under chairs, some idiot would sit down and get bitten and I'd get sued or something.

These camel spiders though don't seem like bad critters. I wouldn't mind being in one of those humvees watching them tumble along side. Seeing the picture kind of reminded me of taurantulas. We used to watch the males (noticably smaller than females) wander about. Kids would bring babies to our grade school in dixie cups for show and tell. I wonder what some of my teachers would say if a kid brought in a camel spider though?

They are a lot bigger than our common windscorpions, which are rarely seen ever while surrounded by hundreds of square miles of protected and predominently empty wildlife reserves.

If you're going to dislike something in the Mojave it would more likely be the little yellow scorpions. They can climb walls and are responsible for a vast majority of bites and stings requiring medical attention. (Followed by various rattle snakes and occationally black widows or violin spiders aka brown recluse.)

Why get bent over something innoculous that lives half way around the world when there are scarier things much closer to home?

Oh yeah, I had a point at some point. If anyone knows what the name of a spider fitting this description is please e-mail poi4pyro at christismybitch dot com.

Very fragile looking, long spindly legs, mostly brown with joints banded in black/white/black. Small body, smaller bulbous abdomen with bands or spotty stripes. The biggest spider I've seen is about two inches over all diamiter, slightly longer than wide when all spread out. They seem to like to sit in the middle of a web and most have many old molts present. They live in colonies, sometimes sharing webs between two ro five individuals. No other species are present near the webs, possibly because they eat other spiders. Mostly I see lots of moths and mosquito eaters, one dead widow adult.

There are big widows in the yard, but never too near these other guys. The closest being about eight feet away under a chair and twelve in the pool rail. The skinny weavers are all along the walls from the ground to the roof but don't seem to like to get too far away from there. I've never seen this type in a house and they almost completely disappear when it gets cold.

I doubt they're poisonous (or I'd have been told their name by now) and aren't aggressive. By next week the webs will be all over again, but won't have all the dust and leaves blown in. I wonder if the whole thing isn't just one big web more than individual webs. Some of the bigger individuals stick to the same areas, but the little one's don't seem to keep territory. Almost like the juveniles have to compete for space while the adults are well established. It's interesting to watch them wander about.


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