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Solifuges creepy or cute?
By: Lauren, Assistant Manager of Animal Collections at the Insectarium
Working with insects I often get asked what my favorite bug is. When I was new to the field I always had a current favorite but now that I have been working with them for so long it is hard to really say because there are so many cool and interesting animals out there. I have always, however, kept a special place in my heart for the odder more unique arthropods that roam about – especially those that are misunderstood. One animal that is both odd and extremely understood is the solifuges.
Most people know this interesting critter by the name of camel spider they are also called sun spider, sun scorpion, wind spider and several other different names. I have always simply called them solifuges because the other names include “spider” or “scorpion” which misrepresents them being that they are neither but rather a completely different arachnid.
Some of the more fun rumors about these animals include that they can run around twenty-five miles per hour, scream like banshees, and have several nefarious things they do to camels (ranging from simply attacking them to laying eggs in their bellies). None of the above is true. Though these animals are quick and can run rather fast – most scientific articles cap them out at much lower speeds none faster than one mile per hour and none of them make any type of loud noise. As for parasitizing or preying on camels – this is also completely false. These animals are voracious predators and eat more than a lot of their relatives generally do but this is because they have high metabolisms in comparison to most other insects and arachnids. They are fun to feed because they like to eat and often put on a good show but they generally won’t take on living prey that is much larger then they are.
They are still very interesting animals – not only because what we know of them but also because of the things we don’t. I enjoy them due to the mystery that tends to surround them. They are very unusual – unlike anything that we encounter on a daily basis. I also enjoy arthropods that “react” to my presence and these little fellows certainly do that.
We were recently lucky enough to get a rather large solifuge from Arizona brought back by some staff that went on a trip there. So if you have any interest in seeing a living specimen then now is the time to make a visit. They aren’t terribly long lived animals so we don’t expect to have it for too long but we are certainly enjoying showing it off while we have it.