Camel Spiders: Desert Myth or Giant Hoax?

Though at first glance, these camel spiders appear huge, upon closer inspection it is clearly an optical illusion caused by their closeness to the camera. (Note the cuff of the uniform's relative size next to the spiders.)
Though at first glance, these camel spiders appear huge, upon closer inspection it is clearly an optical illusion caused by their closeness to the camera. (Note the cuff of the uniform's relative size next to the spiders.)

You may have seen something on the Internet about the huge, vicious dog-and-camel-eating "camel spiders" that our troops are having to deal with in the Middle East. Some of it may have seemed far-fetched to you and maybe you wonder just exactly what the truth is. Never fear, my friends, your friendly neighborhood DarkSinistar is here to set the record straight. Camel spiders are not truly spiders, though they are in the same class as spiders, ticks and scorpions known as Arachnida. The camel spider, found in sandy, desert regions, is part of an order known as Solifugae, that includes more than one thousand different species. Camel spiders are probably the best known member of this order, though a lot of what is "known" is nothing more than myth and legend.

Some of the more common misconceptions are noted in the chart below along with the correlating facts. Though you will notice that some of the exaggerations are quite extreme, encountering a camel spider can still be unnerving, even knowing the truth. Certainly anyone who suffers from arachnophobia would not deal with such a meeting well. It is not always easy to remember that they are more afraid of you than you are of them.

Camel Spiders: Myth Vs. Fact

 
MYTH
FACT
Top Speed
25 - 30 mph
10 mph
Noise
Screams or Hisses
Makes No Noise
Aggression
Very Aggressive
Only If Attacked
Jumping
Up to 3' - 5'
A few inches
Size
12" or more
4 1/2" - 6"
Venom
Numbs Area Bitten
Has No Venom
Flesh Eating
Camels, Dogs & Humans
Only Small Rodents
Diet
Small to Mid-Sized Animals
Mostly Small Insects
Camel spiders? What about the spider-camel?!? There is also an all black variation.
Camel spiders? What about the spider-camel?!? There is also an all black variation.

The Oddest of the Odd

One of the more bizarre rumors about camel spiders is that they get their name because they will eat the stomach of a camel and lay their eggs there. Sometimes the story goes they jump onto the bottom of the camel's belly and eat their way in while at other times it is said they supposedly eat their way from the inside out, though no explanation is given as to how they supposedly get into the camel's stomach. The reality is that female camel spiders burrow into the sand to lay and hatch their eggs.

Another unusual "fact" is that camel spiders have been known to eat whole dogs. In truth, camel spiders almost exclusively eat small arthropods such as termites and beetles. But camel spiders are both carnivorous and omnivorous so they do not pass up opportunities and have been known to eat small lizards and even rodents or occasionally a particularly unlucky snake. But they will not generally attack anything larger than themselves unless they are attacked first or feel threatened, so if they have ever eaten a dog, it had to be either a very small dog or a very annoying one!

If you absolutely must have something a bit odd to hold onto about these amazing creatures, consider this... In both World War I and World War II, troops stationed in the Middle East would stage fights between two camel spiders or a camel spider and a scorpion and make bets on the outcome. That was the weirdest thing I could find, but maybe it says more about humans than camel spiders.

The average camel spider is rarely larger than a playing card or pack of cigarettes.
The average camel spider is rarely larger than a playing card or pack of cigarettes.

Cuddly, Warm and Oh So Huggable

So now that you know these guys aren't all that bad, maybe you are wondering if they make good pets. Indeed, camel spiders are a sought after pet by those whose tastes lean toward the more exotic. If you decide a camel spider is for you, you will need a large tank with at least 4" of sand so that the spider has room to burrow. You should also provide a few small logs or some cork so they have places to hide if they do not burrow.

You will need to provide a diet of crickets, mealworms, beetles, etc. with an occasional treat such as frozen mice fluffs thrown in. Camel spiders liquefy their prey then ingest it through their pharynx, so sitting down to an enjoy a meal with your new pet might be a bit disturbing. Be sure they are provided with fresh water in a shallow dish. You will need to keep their habitat warm during the day (around 32°C / 95°F) and a bit cooler at night (about 26°C / 78°F). You will also need to adjust the humidity each day and night. Come to think of it, maybe a cat is a better idea.

But seriously, if you choose to adopt one of these guys, be sure to keep in mind that the greatest threat camel spiders pose to humans is biting in self-defense when someone tries to handle them. Their bites have no venom but can be terribly painful. Experience with scorpions or tarantulas is recommended before taking on the responsibility of one of these cute little buggers!

The Bottom Line

So the truth is camel spiders are not the horrifying creatures they are often reported to be, but on the other hand, you would certainly not want to get on one's bad side. Their bites, even without venom, can be painful and, though rare, infection is always possible as with any wound. But if you find yourself having to spend the night in the desert, do not fear -- you will not wake to find a camel spider has burrowed inside you and devoured your spleen. At least, you probably will not...

The Moment of Truth

What do you think about the camel spider?

  • You're out of your mind! These things are giant flesh-eating monsters!
  • I wouldn't want to meet one in a dark alley, but they are just bugs.
  • They're adorable! I'm heading for the pet store!
  • I wonder what they taste like with jalapeno cheese sauce?
See results without voting

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Comments 5 comments

QudsiaP1 profile image

QudsiaP1 5 years ago

For some reason, I would never class a spider as cuddly, warm and oh so huggable.

Thanks for the information though. :)


Ghost32 5 years ago

In truth, I'm not fond of either spiders OR camels. Except for our wolf spiders. Wolfies are cool!


Shaddie profile image

Shaddie 4 years ago from Washington state

I love this hub. Thank you so much for making it, I go CRAZY when people try to tell me all the stupid lies about these guys... They are just animals, not horror movie monsters :)


PhiMaths ATB profile image

PhiMaths ATB 4 years ago from Charlotte, NC, USA

I know that you're right, though I kind of wish some of the myths were true...


aly 3 years ago

I am glad that camle spiders are not real because I would not want to meet one and never will want to meet one.

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