One of the Mojave Desert’s most enduring urban legends is one of the giant camel spider, a ferocious monster who allegedly hitched a ride home in the packs or more likely, the shipping containers the military sent home from battlefields in the Middle East.
But exactly what IS a camel spider?
Some quick camel spider facts:
Well, it’s a creature that is neither “fish nor fowl”, meaning, it sits in its own niche somewhere between a scorpion and a spider. The official term is “Solifugae” and it’s one ugly little customer.
Usually found between 1 and 5 inches in length, this fierce little hunter usually contents itself with eating insects, but some of the larger specimens are known to east small reptiles and even rodents! And with its fierce set of huge jaws and fangs, when the camel spider attacks it makes short work of any prey unlucky enough to fall into its grasp.
But do they attack humans? And did they attack our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan?
It’s a Mojave Desert mystery worth examining….
Here are some interesting facts about these nightmarish little desert monsters that might interest you…
Are camel spiders poisonous?
So far none that have a poisonous bite or venom have yet to be documented. Some have claimed that they have experienced reactions to the bite of a camel spider, or lost pets to the creatures, but so far this seems to be more urban legend than truth.
Do camel spiders scream?
I had never heard this one until I started researching the various urban legends and tales told about them, but this one too seems to be a bit of a myth – although hearing a spider “scream” might just be one of the more terrifying things one might encounter in the Mojave Desert!
How did it get it’s name?
Supposedly in the Middle East, the larger ones would run up to a camel, rip open its belly with their giant fangs, thereby disemboweling the poor animal – then feast on its body when it collapsed to the ground. Nice, huh?
What are some of the other names for the camel spider?
In the Mojave Desert they are most often called “sun spiders” or “wind scorpions”. Colorful, but factually incorrect as they are neither a spider OR a scorpion.
Do giant camel spiders exist?
While there are surely some very large (and in some cases, yet undocumented species out there) nothing along the lines of some of the most outlandish and frankly, horrifying, accounts that have been circulating on the Net. But who knows?
Would YOU want to suffer the attack of a giant camel spider?
Any tips to help avoid a camel spider attack?
Well, don’t be too worried about an actual attack (unless you’re an insect, small reptile or rodent – or the incredible shrinking man) but one thing I can tell you from personal experience is ALWAYS shake out your gear (sleeping bag, pack, shoes) before returning from the desert. The three times I have had a sun spider in my house was when it hitched a ride home in my backpack, was hiding in some dirty laundry in the garage, or decided to chase some beetles in off the back porch when I left the door open to the backyard for longer than I should have.
And yes, I’ve had them run up my leg when standing near the fire while out camping, although to be fair, once they realized they were on a living human and not some rock or cactus – they skittered down and ran off faster than I could react.
PS – you might want to check out my Mojave Mysteries article and episode on another creepy giant spider encounter in the Mojave too!