What Are Camel Spiders?

Habits and Traits of Camel Spiders and Windscorpions

Windscorpions are non-venomous. Getty Images/PhotoLibrary/James Gerholdt

When the Iraq War started in 2003, stories about a giant, deadly spider that attacks soldiers and eats the bellies out of camels ran rampant on the internet. Camel spiders do inhabit Iraqi deserts, as well as many other arid parts of the world. Let's set the record straight on these arthropods. Exactly what are camel spiders?

Camel Spiders Aren't Really Spiders

Camel spiders are not spiders at all. They're more closely related to pseudoscorpions than they are to spiders. Camel spiders belong to the arachnid order Solifugae, known as windscorpions. 

Camel spiders vary in size from several millimeters in length to 4 inches (or 10 centimeters). Like other arachnids, camel spiders have four pairs of legs. They carry an enlarged pair of pedipalps in front, which may give them the appearance of having a fifth set of legs. Solifugids looks a bit like scorpions, but lack the scorpion tail.

Are Camel Spiders Dangerous?

Camel spiders are entirely non-venomous, although they do bite in defense. A camel spider bite may lead to infection if the bite area is not cleaned properly. But they aren't deadly as the internet memes suggest. There are far more dangerous things in the desert than camel spiders.

Windscorpions (Order Solifugae)

Windscorpions look similar to scorpions, and are said to "run like the wind." Solifugids also go by the common names sun spiders or camel spiders, but in truth, they are neither spiders nor scorpions.


As arachnids, windscorpions have two body regions and four pairs of legs. At first glance, a windscorpion seems to have 5 pairs of legs; the first set is actually the pedipalps, used for feeding and mating. The first pair of legs functions as feelers, similar to an insect's antennae. Windscorpions tear their prey apart with large, scissor-like chelicerae.

The name for this order, Solifugae, comes from the Latin for "flee the sun." Most windscorpions are, indeed, nocturnal. Those that are active during the day can usually be seen darting from shadow to shadow. Windscorpions dig burrows, where they take shelter.

These predators generally hunt at night, feeding on other invertebrates (including spiders). Many windscorpions specialize in certain types of prey. Some species are known to feed on termites, and others on bees. Larger windscorpions can consume lizards or mice. Though they can and will bite in defense, windscorpions are nonvenomous and not considered dangerous.

Habitat and Distribution:

The majority of windscorpions live in warm, arid areas with limited vegetation, like desert southwest in the U.S. Worldwide, the order Solifugae includes some 900 species; about 235 species of windscorpions live in the U.S.

Major Families in the Order:

  • Family Ammotrechidae - Curve-faced Solifugids
  • Family Eremobatidae - Straight-faced Solifugids


  • NWF Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America, by Dr. Arthur Evans
  • Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th Edition, by Charles A. Triplehorn and Norman F. Johnson
  • Order Solifugae, Windscorpions, Bugguide.net