Overcoming Arachnophobia

Chop Chop long shotMe and spiders are like Indiana Jones and snakes. They’ve always creeped me out a bit.

Rachel and I first met a “Chop-Chop” in 2008, while we were gathering info about moving to Malawi. We were in someone else’s home when a big, hairy, crab-like spider darted between the furniture with startling speed. Rachel thought I was very brave to hunt it down and smash it with my flip-flop. Truth is, I just didn’t want it to find me later that night. We’ve never seen one in our house before…until now.

He was very still. I cautiously dropped a container over him. Sure enough, he was dead. Apparently the insecticide we use for mosquitos works on Chop-Chops too. But I still wasn’t really excited about our unwelcome guest.

So I decided the best way to overcome my fear was to photograph him. I love studying and observing God’s creation, perhaps they wouldn’t be so creepy if I learned a bit about them. So here are some facts I learned, with some photos to accompany them.

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  • They’re called camel spiders, wind scorpions, or sun spiders because they love dry, hot places. But they’re actually neither spiders or scorpions. They’re Solifugae.
  • Their legs are jointed differently than spiders, which is why they look double-jointed when they run. Why do they have ten legs? The front ones are actually feelers used for finding prey.
  • Speaking of prey, they eat beetles and termites… plus rodents, lizards, and even snakes! (Which is worse: snakes, or snake-eating spiders?)

Chop Chop profile

  • Their long hairs help them feel vibrations so they can move quickly. (Mine also has tiny wings on the back legs, which I’ll assume serve the same purpose. If you learn they actually use these for flying – I really, really don’t want to know.)
  • They can run 10 MPH (that’s ½ as fast as me!) They like the dark, and they often seem to be chasing a person when they actually just want to get in their shadow. (Or up their pant leg…)
  • They have very sophisticated eyes and can recognise forms, giving them an advantage in both hunting and avoiding enemies. (Like a guy with a flip-flop…)

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  • Their long movable jaws have scissor-like teeth that resemble crab claws. They use them to chew through hair, feathers, and small bird bones! They are called haarskeerders (hair-cutters) in Afrikaans.
  • Their bite can be painful, but is not dangerous to humans. They have no venom. (Which means the British family who fled their house because they thought a camel spider killed their dog was probably in no real danger.)
  • Soldiers on desert assignments have historically staged fights: camel spider vs. camel spider, or camel spider vs. scorpion. (No record of camel spider vs. snake, which would definitely have been worth seeing.)

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Did all that research make them less creepy? I’m not so sure. But after letting him sit on my desk a few days until I was sure he wasn’t moving, I felt ready to take this shot:

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And now if you need me, I’ll be spraying some insecticide in the attic.

4 comments on “Overcoming Arachnophobia

  1. Eric Floreen says:

    Creeped me out! I was OK until the front picture of its face. I remembered the millions of glowing “stars” in the attic in Jamaica. Then I recognized the wedding band. No, sir…. not on your life would I let him sit on MY hand! ~ Dad

  2. Kirk Smith says:

    Great close up pictures you took. Thanks for the information – I always wondered about them the first time I saw that picture of the huge one from 2008. You are a good protector of the family.

  3. photojaq says:

    Very cool extreme photography. Good enough for National Geographic, I think. And the info is cool – especially that they are not deadly to humans… since I hope to visit in the Spring.

  4. mark burke says:

    lived in Zam for a couple of years, and hated these. They were so fast ! Luckily I had a cat who was fond of hunting them . Highly recommend getting cats in southern Africa to deal with all manner of nasties !

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