Me 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 aboutÂ moving to Malawi. We were in someone else’s home when a big, hairy, crab-like spider darted between the furniture withÂ startlingÂ speed. Rachel thought I was very brave to hunt it down and smash it with my flip-flop. Truth is,Â I just didn’t want it to find me later that night. We’ve never seen one in our house beforeâ€¦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 aboutÂ 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 hereÂ are some factsÂ I learned, with some photos to accompany them.
- They’re called camel spiders, wind scorpions, or sun spiders because they love dry, hot places.Â But they’re actually neither spiders or scorpions. They’reÂ Solifugae.
- Their legs are jointed differently than spiders, which is why they look double-jointedÂ when they run. Why do they have ten legs?Â The front ones are actually feelers used for findingÂ prey.
- Speaking of prey, they eat beetles and termitesâ€¦ plusÂ rodents, lizards, and even snakes! (Which is worse: snakes, or snake-eating spiders?)
- Their long hairs help them feel vibrations so they can move quickly. (Mine also hasÂ tiny wings on the back legs, which I’ll assume serve the same purpose. If youÂ learn they actually use these for flying – I really, really don’t want to know.)
- They can run 10 MPH (that’sÂ Â½Â 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 legâ€¦)
- They have very sophisticated eyesÂ and can recognise forms, giving them an advantage in both hunting and avoiding enemies. (Like a guy with a flip-flopâ€¦)
- Their long movable jawsÂ have scissor-like teeth that resemble crab claws. They use them toÂ chew through hair, feathers, and small bird bones! They areÂ calledÂ haarskeerders (hair-cutters)Â 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 aÂ 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.)
Did all that research make them less creepy? I’m not so sure. But after letting himÂ sit on my desk a few days until I wasÂ sureÂ he wasn’t moving, I felt ready to take this shot:
And now if you need me, I’ll be sprayingÂ some insecticide in the attic.