Myth: Near East "camel spiders," danger!

Myth: Near East "camel spiders," danger!

October 23, 2015
Rod Crawford

Myth: In the deserts of the Near East, there are "camel spiders" that anaesthetize sleeping humans and eat large chunks of their flesh.

Fact: This legend is widespread in Arab countries (dating back more than 200 years) but was unknown in North America until it was disseminated by Gulf War veterans and repeated by the uninformed narrator of a TV documentary. Since this section was originally written, a much more extensive body of "camel spider" legends has arisen from the Iraq war; the newer ones are discussed in the next section.


Solpugid, Eremobates sp. Small Western U.S. species; much larger Near East species are called "camel spiders" but are not spiders.
Photo: Ken Davis

"Camel spider" is a common name for solpugids, large non-spider arachnids found in desert regions. Solpugids (possibly excepting one species in India) have no venom, not even an anaesthetic, nor any means of delivering a venom even if they had any, and are strictly predatory on smaller creatures.

A few soldiers (and a lot more civilians) have written me claiming this legend is, nonetheless, true. But not a single one has been able to supply the name, rank and serial number of any victim – or even just a name! It always happened to "a friend," the friend never has a name, and no matter how far down the line you follow the story, that elusive named person is always at least one "friend" away. That's how urban legends work.

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