Camel Spiders in Arizona
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- The term camel spider is a bit of a misnomer, as the arachnid itself is a dissolver, not a spider.
- Camel spiders are neither venomous nor web-spinning; that is, they are capable of dealing with fairly painful bites.
- Despite their preference for arid regions, they don't like all that extreme heat and will burrow underground to escape it.
If you're lucky enough to spot a camel spider in the Arizona desert, you're in luck. These creatures are fascinating, but not real spiders. Instead, they are a type of solifugid or solifuge. Also known as wind scorpions or sun spiders, Arizona camel spiders are native to arid climates. However, they can also be found in other desert regions.
An interesting fact about camel spiders is that they are fast! They have long legs and are able to move their bodies at speeds of up to 10 miles per hour, which is quite remarkable for such a small animal. Camel spiders are also known for the large jaws they use to catch their prey. Unfortunately, these jaws are so powerful that they can also pierce human skin.
Read on to discover more exciting facts about camel spiders, and why they're not actually spiders at all.
What is a Camel Spider?
Although called a spider, the camel spider is a type of solifuge (solifugid). Two notable differences between spiders and solifuges are that spiders have venom and silk glands, while solifuges do not.
Without venom, the Arizona camel spider is non-venomous, but the bite can be painful if provoked. Additionally, it has a reputation for being fast and aggressive, leading to some exaggerated stories about its size and behavior. So if you've heard stories about camel spiders the size of your hand and dangerous to humans, they're not true.
Let's clear up another mistake people often make when counting the legs of camel spiders. At first glance, this desert arachnid appears to have five pairs of legs, or a total of decapods. However, camel spiders only have eight legs. Or, more accurately, their leg-like appendages are known as pedicles. A pair of those ten pedicles are used for perception, not locomotion. Therefore, we say that camel spiders have eight legs, not ten.
These arachnids come in different colors including brown, yellow and red. They can grow to about 6 inches long, but most are between 2-3 inches.
Camel spiders are sometimes called wind scorpions or sun spiders. The name camel spider comes from a myth that it crawls into the stomach of a camel and eats it. Unfortunately, this is another untrue story about these creatures.
However, this arachnid is sometimes naively confused with a scorpion. However, camel spiders are very different from scorpions, which can be deadly to humans.
Where Do Camel Spiders Live?
Camel spiders are native to the Arizona desert and can be found in other arid climates as well. These arachnids live in deserts around the world, including the American Southwest, Africa, Arabia, and Australia.
Camel spiders build their homes by burrowing underground. This burrow is where the spider lives and lays its eggs.
How Do Camel Spiders Reproduce?
Camel spiders mate by mating. Or the male will offer a bag full of sperm from his chelicerae to the female. The female will then lay her eggs in her burrow. Once the eggs hatch, small camel spiders (called mites) immediately start looking for small insects.
Females give birth to about 50-100 spiderlings at a time. If they survive the hungry predators, the eggs mature and hatch in about 3-4 weeks. Arizona predators that may feed on these eggs include wasps, ants and beetles.
Do camel spiders have teeth?
Camel spiders have large, segmented jaws for biting and capturing prey. These jaws are powerful enough to pierce human skin. Although camel spiders don't technically have teeth, their mouths have sharp spines. This helps them grab prey while feeding.
A unique physical feature of this arachnid is its large chelicerae. These are the appendages that camel spiders use to catch and kill their prey. They are also sometimes called pincers or fangs. The chelicerae of camel spiders can reach up to a third of their entire body length. That's a long time for such a small creature!
What is the lifespan of camel spiders?
Camel spiders typically live 1-2 years unless killed by predators. Common predators of Arizona camel spiders are lizards, toads, bats, and birds.
These animals also don't survive the extreme heat for long. So to protect themselves, camel spiders burrow underground to escape the heat of the Arizona desert.
Can You Keep Camel Spiders As Pets?
Camel spiders are not recommended as pets due to their aggressive and biting nature. However, if you decide to keep one as a pet, treat them with care and keep them away from small children and animals. Important steps in keeping camel spiders as pets are highlighted below.
These spiders also require special care, such as warm climates and dry habitats. You'll want to monitor their tank temperature closely and adjust it to cooler temperatures overnight. Consult trusted arachnid resources for best practices. You may want the tank temperature set to 95°F (35°C) during the day and drop to 75-80°F (24-26°C) at night.
Choose a tank that holds at least 5 gallons and has a secure lid that allows good airflow through the mesh material. To prepare a tank for your camel spider, you will need to fill it with sand to 2 inches from the bottom. Then, add some stone or wood for hiding places.
one pet per crate
Camel spiders are not social animals and do not get along well with other animals. Therefore, it is best to leave them alone in the tank, otherwise you run the risk of them killing and eating each other.
feed your pet
You'll want to feed your pet camel spider live insects every other day. Make sure to remove all uneaten food from the enclosure to prevent mold growth. You will also need to give this pet a water dish and fresh water daily.
Are camel spiders dangerous to humans?
Camel spiders are not dangerous to humans, but as we've established, you don't want to get bitten by one. Their bite is painful, causing a sting, and the bite area may temporarily swell and turn red.
If bitten, wash the wound with soap and water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. If the bite site appears to be infected, consult your doctor for medical support.
What is the Difference Between Camel Spiders and Scorpions?
There are many differences between camel spiders and scorpions, even though they both live in the hot desert. For example, while camel spiders and scorpions are both arachnids, they are classified in different taxonomic orders. Camel spiders belong to the order Solifugae while scorpions belong to the order Scorpionidae.
Also, camel spiders are smaller than scorpions, only 2-6 inches long. Scorpions, on the other hand, can grow very large, with some species exceeding 8 inches in length.
Another difference is that camel spiders are not venomous, while scorpions are. If you are stung by a scorpion, you could have serious health problems. Symptoms of a scorpion bite can include serious conditions such as seizures and difficulty breathing or swallowing.
If you are bitten by a camel spider, it can injure and cause puncture wounds. However, it is not life-threatening. Other symptoms may only appear if an injury becomes infected or if someone has a rare allergic reaction.
They're like spiders and scorpions, but they're not.
Arizona camel spiders are similar to spiders and scorpions, but are also unique arachnids with uniquely fascinating qualities. They can be aggressive and bite, but are not poisonous or life-threatening to humans. They are fast, but have only eight leg-like structures called pedicles. They live in the desert, but burrow underground to avoid the hot desert temperatures. They can be kept in captivity, but only as solitary pets in temperature-controlled tanks filled with sand.
To learn more about arachnids, check out our post on how many spiders are there in the world. Also, while in Arizona, consider visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to discover more about camel spiders. This museum has wonderful exhibits about these amazing creatures.
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