Camel spider bites are generally not lethal to humans. However, they are capable of causing large amounts of pain and a serious looking wound. The biggest risk one can encounter if bitten is the possibility of infection if treated improperly. As such, it is highly recommended one seek medical treatment if bitten by a camel spider.
The name “camel spider” is a misnomer; it is not actually a spider, nor is it a scorpion (and it most definitely is not a camel). Rather, it is a separate by related type of arachnid known as a solpugid. It inhabits the desert terrain of the Middle East, southwestern United States, and parts of Africa. The camel spider is also referred to as the wind spider, sun spider, and wind scorpion.
What Makes Them Terrifying?
Most people fear the camel spider because of its large chelicerae, which are the large fang-like limbs near their mouths used to grab and chew food. These slicing chelicerae are the reason solpugids are referred to as “beard cutters”. Though solpugids don’t inject venom when they bite, their chelicerae are still something to be wary of because they can rip apart human skin. Typically, camel spiders will not attack someone unless they feel threatened.
As is the case with any puncture wound, the bite of a camel spider can be infected if bacteria enters the exposed wound. Statistically, only 9% of spider bites eventually become infected, so nearly one in ten are at risk. As a result, it is imperative that the wound is sanitized and cleaned to reduce the chances of further maladies.
Urban Legends about the Camel Spider
Extraordinary stories regarding the camel spiders (that live on even today as urban legends) began to appear sometime in 2003 when U.S. troops stationed in Iraq were photographed holding up what looked like a gigantic camel spider began to go viral on the internet. This image is often misunderstood. In reality, two camel spiders were clinging on to each other, making it look as if it were an unusually large one. Additional photographs began to emerge showing bite wounds which allegedly were due to camel spider bites – it is graphic, with large swelling and blood oozing out. However, the bite marks are inconsistent with camel spider bites, and it is more likely that a venomous spider was the culprit.
Many myths spread insisting that camel spiders prey on cats and dogs. There are also tales of solpugids ripping the stomachs out of camels. Another incredulous rumor claims that the desert arachnids can move at up to 30 miles per hour (48.2 km/h), follow people around, and attack them.
The reality of all this is, camel spiders are not that large (definitely nowhere near what rumors say). They hunt and eat mostly insects, small lizards, and scorpions. They are in fact quite fast, moving at 10 miles per hour (16km/h), but leave humans alone.
The meaning of solpugid is “those that flee from the sun”. The name refers to the fact that camel spiders tend to hide from the sun, preferring to stay in the shadows. Unfortunately, this means that sometimes they follow the shadows of people and animals, giving the illusion that they are being chased. As such, most who witness this phenomenon in action often mistaken it as an act of aggression.
“Solfugid in veld near Uniondale (Western Cape) 1600” by JonRichfield – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.