The Itsy-Bitsy Spider...
Date Added: May 2, 2004
During any protracted military action, tales of freakishly adverse conditions our soldiers face, in addition to the hardships of war, become popular fodder for water-cooler discussions. With the advent of e-mail and digital photography, however, these 'you should have seen it' tales are now illustrated.
Subject: Be glad you're not in the desert
From someone stationed in Baghdad. He was recently bitten by a camel spider which was hiding in his sleeping bag. I thought you'd like to see what a camel spider looks like. It'll give you a better idea of what our troops are dealing with. Enclosed is a picture of his friend holding up two spiders. Warning: not for the squeamish!
This picture is a perfect example of why you don't want to go to the desert. These are 2 of the biggest I've ever seen. With a vertical leap that would make a pro basketball player weep with envy (they have to be able to jump up on to a camels stomach after all), they latch on and inject you with a local anesthesia so you can't feel it feeding on you. They eat flesh, not just suck out your juices like a normal spider. I'm gonna be having night mares after seeing this photo!
The photograph above is a study in perspective. The creatures pictured do, indeed, appear to be camel spiders. However, most accounts describe them as "golf-ball sized" or "about the size of a child's hand," and not the monsters they appear to be above. The composition of the photo draws your eyes to the legs of the soldier in the background for size comparison, rather than the other soldier's sleeve in the right foreground, which is the more accurate perspective. Then, the intertwining of the two insects also complicate getting a feel for their true size. The photo below gives a better indication of the Camel Spider's true size.
The narrative included with the photo above is as misleading as the photo's use of exaggerated perspective. Solifugids are commonly called camel spiders simply because they share the desert with camels, not because they eat them. The spiders are, indeed, very quick and frighteningly aggressive. They have a strong bite, but rarely attack humans or larger animals. Primarily, they prey on other arthropods, like scorpions, but have been known to kill lizards, mice and birds.
Many of the rumors about camel spiders (which technically aren't spiders, but are arachnids) commonly in circulation originated from the 1991 Gulf War. Other versions of the text accompanying the photo insist that these creatures scream when they run, are capable of running 25 mph and are extremely venomous. Reality, however, is not as horrifying.
Camel spiders are quick, but far from capable of the speeds attributed to them, and are completely silent. They are fearsome hunters, but are not venomous, though their bite may produce slight numbness and extreme pain. Break this chain.
References: Uniformed Nurse Practitioner Association, 3rd Brigade Family Readiness Group, About.com, TruthOrFiction.com, Snopes.com