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Camel spiders -- which are not actually spiders, but solifugae -- live in the deserts of Egypt, the Middle East and western Asia. They’ve been the subject of outrageous Internet rumors, and while they’re sometimes a bane to soldiers in Iraq, their menace has been greatly exaggerated. Still, they aren’t pets for the faint of heart, and you should only consider keeping a camel spider if you have extensive experience with scorpions and tarantulas.
Although they’re closely related to scorpions and spiders, camel spiders aren’t venomous. Instead they have enormous, powerful jaws that make up as much as a third of their body length. Their jaws allow them to crush and chew their prey and also can break human skin, leaving a painful bite. Camel spiders are notoriously aggressive and quick to attack if they’re handled or threatened. They can grow to 4 to 6 inches and run at speeds up to 10 miles per hour.
Natural Environment and Behavior
Camel spiders live in desert areas in and around the Arabian Peninsula, as far south as Egypt and north into Iraq. During the day they shelter from the intense sun in burrows or beneath rocks, logs or other concealment. They emerge at night to hunt, chasing their prey across the ground and even up walls and trees. Camel spiders provide a natural form of pest control; their diet includes centipedes, scorpions, spiders and other venomous creatures, as well as insects, lizards and rodents.
Because of their size, adult camel spiders need a 10- to 15-gallon enclosure. Their jaws are strong enough to tear mesh, so the lid needs to be made of bite-proof material such as heavy plastic or glass, with air holes drilled in. Always fasten the lid securely, because camel spiders can climb, are extremely fast and can quickly lose themselves in your home if they escape. Place a 4 to 6 inches deep substrate of sand, peat moss or potting soil in the enclosure, so your camel spider can burrow. Also provide a wide but shallow water dish and hiding areas, such as cork bark, logs and rocks. Maintain low humidity during the day, with temperatures of 80 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. At night when your camel spider is naturally most active, lower the temp to around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and mist to raise the humidity level to around 70 percent.
Camel spiders have short lifespans, only a year to 18 months. Wild-caught specimens don’t usually survive more than a few months as pets, but young, captive-bred camel spiders tend to be more hardy and eat voraciously. Because of their speed and aggression, you can’t ever safely handle a camel spider. If you need to reach into the enclosure to clean, wear a thick leather glove and block off all escape routes, including your arm.