The Truth and Myths of Camel Spiders

Are camel spiders really poisonous? Legends describe them as venomous monsters that grow to the size of humans. Learn the truth behind these myths.

By Jeremy Hillpot
Nov 21, 2023 2:00 PMNov 21, 2023 3:00 PM
A camel spider is an arachnid, not a spider. This camel spider looks tan in color and has eight legs
Camel spider (Credit: Carlos Mora Rubio/Shutterstock)

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The camel spider, also recognized as a sun spider and wind scorpion, is one of the most unique arachnids of all time and holds captivating secrets — like the fact that it isn't even a spider, for one.

The spine-chilling legends of the camel spider are so nightmarish that the faint of heart may want to hit the back button and take a coffee break immediately — because we’re about to dive into some of the goriest spider tales you’ve ever heard.

Crazy Myths About Camel Spiders

The stories we’re about to share aren’t exactly true, but some of them are based on enough truth to scare the living daylights out of you. Prepare yourself as we explore the worst of these myths.

According to legend, the Middle Eastern camel spider is the most enormous spider you’ve ever seen. Stories tell of these spiders growing up to half the size of a human, hunting, and killing large prey — even going after humans and camels.

The legend says these spiders position themselves under the belly of a camel, leap into the air, slice open the abdomen, disembowel it and eat the stomach while the camel is still alive. Another legend says that camel spiders lay their eggs in the skin around the abdomen of camels. When the babies hatch, they bore into the digestive tract of the camel and eat it from the inside out.

These gruesome stories inspire images of ravenous killer spiders covered in blood, guts, and gore. They’re patently false, but there are a few hints of truth in them.


Read More: Why Do These 6 Animals Represent Death in Cultures Around the World?


What Are Camel Spiders?

While they are neither true spiders or scorpions, camel spiders are a real species of arachnids

What Do Camel Spiders Look Like?

Camel spiders have a distinctive appearance. They are typically tan or dark brown in color, which helps them blend into their arid environments. These arachnids are covered in fine hairs that provide insulation from the desert heat. They have eight legs, but they often appear to have 10 due to two additional leg-like appendages called pedipalps near their mouths.

What Do Camel Spiders Eat? 

As carnivores, camel spiders prey on lizards, small birds, gerbils, beetles, snakes, and termites. They use their pedipalps to sense prey and their jaws to capture and consume it. They are capable of eating prey larger than themselves and can store fat in their bodies for periods when food is scarce. They aren’t even close to being half the size of a human, but this doesn't mean they're not terrifyingly large. 

How Big Do Camel Spiders Get?

Growing to approximately 6 inches (15 cm) in length and weighing about 2 ounces (56 grams), camel spiders are some of the biggest arachnids in the world. To put the sun spider into perspective, that’s about half the size of the Goliath birdeater spider, a tarantula that reaches up to 11 inches in length and weighs up to 6 ounces.

Where Do Camel Spiders Live?

As you may have already guessed, camel spiders do not eat camel stomachs or lay their eggs in the skin of camels either. They do however live in the Middle East. They also crawl around the deserts of the United States and Mexico.

Where Are Camel Spiders Found?

Camel spiders are found in various arid and semi-arid regions. They are primarily distributed in desert, semi-desert, scrubland, grassland, and savanna ecosystems.These arachnids are adapted to live in hot, dry environments and are known for their nocturnal habits, often seeking shelter during the day and becoming active at night.


Read More: Meet 5 of the Biggest Spiders in the World


Are Camel Spiders Venomous?

First, camel spiders aren't venomous. Unlike many spiders and scorpions, which use venom to subdue their prey, camel spiders do not possess venom glands.

Are Camel Spiders Poisonous?

Similarly, camel spiders do not contain or produce toxins that are harmful when touched or ingested, making them non-poisonous as well. Their primary defense and hunting mechanism is their strong jaws, not venom or poison.

Do Camel Spiders Bite?

They have sharp and powerful spider jaws — also called chelicerae — and they’ll bite you if provoked. This can result in swelling and severe bleeding, but there’s no venom involved. Remember: At a mere 6 inches in width, a camel spider isn’t large enough to put your life at risk.

Although the most horrifying legends about camel spiders aren't true, we think they’re scary enough as they are — all 6 inches and 2 ounces of them.

Are Camel Spiders Dangerous?

Camel spiders are not known to aggressively attack humans. However, like any wild animal, if threatened or provoked, they may defend themselves, potentially leading to a painful bite. The bite of a camel spider, though not venomous, can be painful due to their strong jaws. It is important to remember that camel spiders are more interested in avoiding humans and typically pose little danger when left undisturbed in their natural habitat.


Read More: 8 Facts You Didn't Know About Venom and Toxic Animals


How Fast Can Camel Spiders Run?

Another myth about camel spiders is that they run as fast as humans (some say sprinting at speeds of 25 MPH) — and they will chase you down if you try to run away. Does this mean that desert nomads in the Middle East could find themselves the victims of a gruesome snack attack as soon as a camel spider gets the urge?

There’s no running away from these cheetah-like arachnids, so you’d have to wrestle it to the ground and hope you come out on top.

Why Do Camel Spiders Chase You?

Camel spiders are fast, and they might chase a human who runs away — but it’s not what you think. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), they’re simply chasing your shadow. Camel spiders are primarily nocturnal and instinctively flee from the sun.

Also, Camel spiders do not eat people. Instead, they prefer hunting smaller game.


Read More: 5 Unique Ways Animals Avoid Getting Eaten


Does a Camel Spider Scream?

Allegedly, camel spiders have something like a blood-curdling battle cry — a loud screaming noise that they make while chasing down large animals, humans and other prey. And for spider bites, some say that the bite from a wind scorpion leaves a gaping, gangrenous hole all the way to the bone.

What Sound Does a Camel Spider Make?

Camel spiders do make a sound. But they don't scream (exactly). Instead, they make a hissing and buzzing sound due to an entomological phenomenon called stridulation. The hissing happens when arachnids rub their body parts together. It’s a little bit like the sound a pair of corduroy pants make when you're speed-walking.


Read More: Humans Are the Only Animals That Cry — And We Don’t Know Why


This story was originally published on June 10, 2023 and has since been updated by the Discover staff.

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