The camel spider, or solifuge, is known by several other names, including wind scorpion and sun spider. Despite these nicknames, the solifuge is neither a scorpion nor a spider, but it is related to these similar arachnids. The common nickname of “camel spider” is derived from the solifuge’s preference for dry, desert-like climates. The Solifugae order includes over 1,000 species of arachnids that could be considered camel spiders. The camel spiders commonly found in Utah are typically found in the southern areas, but sightings have been reported all over the state.
Camel spiders are found in colors that range from a brownish or sandy appearance to red or orange. Their bodies and legs are covered in tiny hairs. Despite myths about camel spiders being several feet long, most species have been recorded around 6 inches, and the types found in southern Utah are even smaller. Similar to a true spider, the solifuge has a body that is divided into 2 sections: the abdominal area and the head/thorax area. Though camel spiders appear to have 10 legs, the very front appendages are actually pedipalps that the animal uses as sensory tools; it does not use these appendages for walking, giving it the 8 legs of an arachnid.
NOTE - The chelicerae of camel spiders are the primary identifier of the many different species due to a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and teeth.
The mating habits of camel spiders have only been examined in a few select species. It is believed that the males of most species will travel long distances to find a mate. Once a mate is found, the male strokes the female with its pedipalps, which causes the female to fall into a frozen state of “torpor.” While the female is in the frozen state, the male will inseminate her either by injecting a spermatophore, which is a small packet of sperm, directly into the reproductive opening or by using his mouthparts to transfer the sperm into the reproductive organ. Most camel spiders reproduce once per year. Camel spiders are incapable of producing silk for egg sacs, so the mother must begin searching for appropriate shelter immediately.
The female camel spider will burrow a hole into the ground where she can lay her eggs. ➥ The female then lays between 50 and 200 eggs. ➥ The newly hatched offspring will stay in clusters in the beginning stages of their lives. ➥ The camel spider will venture off on its own during its 2nd of 10 nymphal stages. ➥ The maturing camel spider will build and hunt out of a subterranean nest. ➥ Many species will live only between a year and 18 months.
Camel spiders prefer desert-like environments, but some species have also been known to inhabit grasslands and forests. Though they like the warm weather, they tend to hide from the sun in underground nests, beneath large rocks, or under other structures that provide shade. Not all camel spiders are nocturnal, but the majority are, and they come out at night to hunt. Their most common prey are other arthropods, such as termites, beetles, spiders, and scorpions. Due to their formidable size and dangerous mouthparts, camel spiders have also been known to prey on smaller rodents, reptiles, and birds, as their chelicerae can cut through the brittle bones of these animals.
Over the years, many myths have developed about the behavior of camel spiders. Below are just a few of those misconceptions and the truth behind them.
TRUTH: They are not venomous at all. They do, however, cover their prey in a digestive enzyme and use their dangerous chelicerae to dismember victims.
TRUTH: They can reach speeds up to 10 mph, which is more than enough to catch their prey. The unique tracheal system of camel spiders enables them to take in more oxygen for better movement.
TRUTH: Despite being called Camel Spiders they do not in fact eat Camels or other large animals. Their name most likely comes from how they live in hardy desert environments similar to Camels.
TRUTH: They are known to emit a “hiss” sound when they feel threatened, but this is simply created by rubbing/moving their bodies.
TRUTH: They are always looking for shade in the desert, including the shadows produced by much larger humans, which is likely the source of this myth.
Solifuges are not typically found in Utah homes, and you are most likely not going to find one unless you go looking for it. However, if you do encounter one, remember that they are aggressive and can quickly attack before you have a chance to escape. As previously stated, camel spiders are not venomous, but their sharp mouthparts will pierce human flesh with a painful bite. The bite may heal on its own without any major issues, but you will deal with swelling and irritation for up to a couple weeks. In some cases, the bite of a camel spider can lead to a more serious infection that requires medical attention. Bites can potentially be even more serious in smaller pets. It is always important to be mindful of your surroundings when you are out enjoying the natural beauty of Utah.
Call Holmes Lawn & Pest at (801) 616-5296 for more information on spiders and pest control in Utah.
Thank you for reading our article on th camel spider. If you want to learn more on the common spiders found in Utah, our last article on the black widow spider and our latest article on the huntsman spider are the perfect reads for you.