Talk of spiders came up in class yesterday and I mentioned that the one thing I am terrified of is a Camel Spider. I have been chased by one and it is not fun. Just thank your lucky stars you don’t have them in Sweden!
I mentioned that they chase you – they do this because they seek shade and so they chase your shadow. Because they tend to seek out shade during the daytime, it’s possible to see one charging across the desert at you — only to come to a screeching halt when it reaches your shadow. And if you run, they run…. and the faster you run, the faster they run.
From Wikipedia – Solifugae is an order of animals in the class Arachnida. They are known variously as camel spiders, wind scorpions, sun spiders or solifuges. The order includes more than 1,000 described species in about 153 genera. The Solifugae is a different order from the true spiders (order Araneae) and the scorpions (order Scorpiones). Much like a spider, the body of a Solifugid has two tagmata: an opisthosoma (abdomen) behind the prosoma (that is, in effect, a combined head and thorax). At the front end, the prosoma bears two chelicerae that, in most species, are conspicuously large. The chelicerae serve as jaws and in many species also are used for stridulation. Unlike scorpions, solifugids do not have a third tagma that forms a “tail”. Most species of Solifugae live in deserts and feed opportunistically on ground-dwelling arthropods and other small animals. Some species grow to a length of 300 mm (12 in) including legs.
And here is a story from South Africa
Camel Spiders, or as we called them, sun spiders are common in hot desert climates. I grew up in the then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and we had them there as well. The hotter the climate the bigger. The first time I saw one was when we lived in Wankie (now Hwange) which regularly was 40 degrees c plus in the summer, and I was lying on my bed reading when I heard a noise like a buzzing clockwork toy, and on looking over the side saw this thing as big as a dinner plate, moving slowly over the floor, from side to side, with the two “forearms” raised in the air.
They used to hide in the shadows just outside of a lit area and pounce on whatever came and sat in the lit area. If you happened to come round the corner they jumped away with a most frightening rattling noise. They did indeed run after a person, I am told to get underneath the person or their shadow. One evening was walking next to a concrete stormwater drain when I noticed a rat chasing my shadow. I threw a stone at it and hit it with a lucky shot, but when I jumped down into the ditch to look at the “rat” it was actually one of them, the biggest I ever saw. I picked it up, presuming it to be dead, and took it home. It laid along the length of my hand, with the legs dangling over the sides. At home I put it on the dining room table to look at it and the son of a ***** came alive! And was it angry! What if it had woken up while it was lying in my hand? It took about half a can of spray to kill it, and before it croaked it went into a sort of fit and the jaws separated, one set upwards and the other down. Killing it was a shame really but how else to get it out of the house?. These have to be the most repulsive spiders I ever have seen, and fearless too. They will take on a big scorpion, no problem, I saw it many times, and kill small mice with ease. Aaaaaargh! They have hairs on them which carry an irritant to human skin. One walked across my brother and I as we were sprawled on the floor, and we both had lines of blisters across us afterwards. Keep away! Regards, Mike T., Johannesburg
Below are two photos – one of a bite from one of these spiders and one of two of them fighting so you can see the size of them. There is also a web address on the one photo so that you can look them up further if you wish.
Note: they aren’t venomous but they do inflict a nasty bite. Camel spiders are not deadly to humans (though their bite is painful), but they are vicious predators that can visit death upon insects, rodents, lizards, and small birds. These hardy desert dwellers boast large, powerful jaws, which can be up to one-third of their body length. They use them to seize their victims and turn them to pulp with a chopping or sawing motion. Camel spiders are not venomous, but they do utilize digestive fluids to liquefy their victims’ flesh, making it easy to suck the remains into their stomachs. They use three pairs of legs for running, holding the fourth pair in the air as they run, like antennae.