Ever since viral pictures of camel spiders, and urban legends about them, started circulating on the internet, a lot of people have been afraid of this particular spider. The camel spider usually lives in dry desert areas, but what are these spiders like? More importantly, what does a camel spider bite feel like and how can one be identified and treated?
What Does a Camel Spider Look Like?
The easiest way to identify a camel spider bite is to see the creature that inflicted the bite. Therefore, it’s important to know the distinguishing characteristics of the camel spider.
A camel spider is not actually a spider. It is an arachnid, but not all arachnids are spiders. The camel spider belongs to the group of arachnids known as “solfugids”, meaning “those who flee from the sun”. As far back as the time of the Ancient Greeks, these arachnids were classified as separate from spiders.
Camel spiders do look a bit like spiders, but they also have features resembling a scorpion. To properly identify this creature, we need to know the characteristics that differentiate them from both spiders and scorpions.
Camel Spider Identification and Comparison Chart with Spiders and Scorpions
|Number of Legs||Eight legs with two more “false” legs which are actually pedipalps.||Eight legs.||Eight legs.|
|Number of Body Segments||Two body segments; the head and the abdomen.||Two body segments; the head and the abdomen.||Three body segments; the head, the body and the curved tail.|
|Eating Habits||They prey on mice and small desert creatures. Solfugids eat until they cannot move. They grab the prey and bite off chunks of its flesh to digest.||They inject a fluid inside their prey, partially digest the prey outside of their body and sip the liquefied flesh as their food.||They inject a fluid inside their prey, partially digest the prey outside of their body and sip the liquefied flesh as their food.|
|Appearance and Key Characteristics||Usually tan in color. The smallest solfugids can be just an inch long and the biggest ones can be up to 6-8 inches long. Solfugids will seek shade at every opportunity they can, giving the appearance of “chasing” or “attacking” the source of the shade. Some species also make a hissing sound which were often misinterpreted to be a sort of a battle cry of the “attacking” solfugid and perpetuated in urban legends. Perhaps the most striking feature they have is the presence of chelicerae or pincers, and their long pedipalps which look like an extra pair of legs.||Has a range of colors and sizes. Some spiders have shiny exoskeleton and some, like those who belong to the tarantula family, have a hairy appearance.||Scorpions have a distinct curved tail which they use to inject venom to their prey. They also glow under ultra-violet light.|
|Habitat||Desert areas.||Almost all types of habitats.||Desert areas usually.|
|Toxicity||Does not have venom.||Have venom. Some spiders have venom with enough potency to harm humans.||Have venom. Some scorpions have venom with enough potency to harm humans.|
Camel Spider Bite Identification
The best way to accurately identify a camel spider bite is to properly identify the creature that inflicted the bite. Once the camel spider is positively identified as the creature that caused the bite, the following camel spider bite signs and symptoms may also be present
1. An intense pain – A camel spider bite is very painful because of the creature’s chelicerae which act and look like crab pincers.
2. Swelling – Because the bite from a camel spider causes trauma to the surrounding tissue, swelling will follow as the normal inflammatory response of the body takes place.
3. Bleeding – Depending on the size of the camel spider, and the area bitten, the bite may produce mild to intense bleeding.
Camel Spider Bite First Aid and Treatment
Because camel spiders are non-venomous, the wound created by the bite can be treated and given first aid just like any other similar wound caused by other means.
5 Steps for First Aid and Treatment
1. Wash the area with saline solution or mild soap and water. Camel spider bites do not have venom, but they can be full of bacteria which may cause infection later on. It is therefore important to cleanse camel spider bites as thoroughly as possible.
2. Apply an antibiotic ointment.
3. Depending on the size of the wound, a bandage may be applied to prevent dirt from getting into it.
4. Observe the wound. If possible, get an anti-tetanus shot.
5. If any infection or fever develops, or any other symptoms which are not listed amongst the expected symptoms appear, seek immediate medical attention.
A non-complicated camel spider bite will fully heal in a couple of weeks, just like a normal wound or laceration sustained from sharp objects.
Bites of Wisdom
Camel spiders do not attack humans, or any other creature bigger than themselves, unless they believe they are in danger. The widely held belief that camel spiders attack humans comes from their habit of chasing any available source of shade, which in a desert environment is anything big, including camels and humans. They are typically seen near camels in the Middle East, earning them their name, but they can also be found in the American continent.
Camel spider bites have become feared after modern myths of camel spiders supposedly attacking American troops stationed in the Middle East went viral online. Most of the claims about these creatures are untrue, however. Especially untrue is the claim that a camel spider bite is venomous, or that it can kill a man or a camel. Another untrue story is that of huge camel spiders which attack troops and lay their eggs on camel stomachs. Knowing what is fact and what is fiction is the first step towards understanding if you do indeed have to fear a camel spider bite.