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Solpugids – a.k.a Sunspiders or Windscorpions

Relatives of arachnids like true spiders and scorpions, solpugids (or sunspiders as they are more commonly called) have 4 pairs of legs, large jaws and long, leg-like pedipalps (mouth parts used for manipulating food and climbing smooth surfaces).  Their oversized jaws and quick movements tend to frighten those that encounter them.  Sunspiders powerful jaws are capable of puncturing skin; however, they have no poison glands and only bite in defense when picked up or restrained.  The nickname of windscorpion is due to the rapid movements often exhibited by sunspiders along with their tail-less scorpion appearance.  Sunspiders range in size from ½ to 1 ¼ of an inch in length.  Depending on their species, their color will vary from light brown to reddish brown.  Predominant, centrally located eyes are typically set very close together giving them an almost Cyclops appearance.

Myths abound in regards to this order of arachnid.  In the Middle East, they are known as camel spiders with legends claiming that these creatures are capable of running 25 miles an hour, devouring humane flesh while they sleep and being monstrous in size.  In reality, even the Middle Eastern versions are only about 5 cm in length still contain no venom and although they do move quickly; their top speed is no where near 25 miles per hour.  Due to movement of military troops in and out of the Middle East, many believe that these arachnids have ended up in the United   States by hitching a ride in luggage and gear transported from other countries.  In reality, the chances of this occurring are slim.  Other myths include the belief that if a sunspider falls into a watering trough that it will kill livestock or horses that drink from the tank.  All such myths are exactly that, a myth or legend.

Sunspiders are in fact beneficial to homeowners.  They are predators of both small, soft bodied insects and arthropods.  Primarily active at night, although they may be found during daylight hours as well, sunspiders hunt primarily by touch, using their pedipalps.  Their large jaws are used for crushing and chewing prey.  During July and early August, residents frequently encounter sunspiders within homes.  This is an accidental invasion by the sunspider as they seek out food.  Night lighting in homes often attracts insects which in turn attracts the sunspiders.  Sealing gaps and cracks around the foundation level of the home as well as replacing damaged or missing weather stripping around doors and windows will greatly reduce the likelihood of sunspiders entering the home.  In addition, reducing or limiting the amount of light in a home in the evenings will reduce insects attracted to the home in general, therefore reducing available food sources for sunspiders and other arachnids.

Average lifespan of a sunspider is one to two years in their natural habitat.  Females lay their eggs in burrows under rocks or covered areas.  Silk is used to line the burrows.  The mother guards the eggs and hunts for prey to feed the young until they are able to care for themselves and venture out of the burrow on their own.  Some people find sunspiders to be interesting short term pets.  In captivity they usually live a few short months.  They can be kept in a terrarium with a sand substrate, but should be kept covered as they are known for climbing the sides of tanks without problem.