The Creepy Truth About Camel Spiders

Of the many creepy-crawlies that haunt an arachnophobe's nightmares, perhaps none seem so chilling as the dreaded camel spider. It was only back in 2004 that much of the world first met these seemingly herculean monstrosities, due to a viral photo from U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, but ever since, people all over the globe have whispered tales about how these many-legged arachnids can disembowel camels, run like the dickens ... and, uh, eat human flesh. Yes, eat it, the same way you tear into a steak. Horrifying, no?

However, many of the popular beliefs surrounding this allegedly chihuahua-sized creature are, well, not quite accurate. For one, they're a lot smaller than you think. Two, their fangs aren't even venomous. And three, much like how daddy long-legs aren't considered spiders, neither are these guys: as Live Science points out, they belong to a separate class of arachnid called solifugae. 

Frankly, these beasts might be the most misrepresented creatures in the arthropod kingdom, and it's time to redeem their wounded reputation. 

Everything you (think) you know about camel spiders is wrong

Much like that myth regarding how many spiders you swallow in your sleep, much of what people say about camel spiders is total bunk. These tall tales first came out of the Gulf War, but most people learned about camel spiders from the image (and accompanying story) above, which went viral in 2004. As good ol' Snopes recollects, the picture hailed from U.S. troops in Iraq, and described the arachnids as being the size of a dinner plate, capable of jumping several feet in the air, and able to chase humans at 25 miles per hour. Scary? Not as scary as the allegations that they ate through camel stomachs (hence their name) and laid their eggs inside, or that soldiers were waking up with big hunks of their flesh bitten out. Yikes!

None of this, for the record, is true. 

Now, to be fair, camel spiders are quite terrifying  ... if you're, you know, an ant. They are insanely fast (10 mph, rather than 25), have ridiculously powerful jaws, and are super aggressive. For instance, according to HowStuffWorks, these arachnids sometimes obliterate entire ant nests, killing the poor buggers like The Punisher on a bad day. To humans, though? They're harmless. As for their size, take a longer look at the infamous picture above, and you'll notice that it uses clever camera angles to make you think the arachnid is the size of the guy's shin, when really, it could easily fit inside the close-up shirt sleeve on the right. In real life, as it happens, you won't find a solifugae that's more than six inches, max, and most are smaller.

 So don't worry about camel spiders, guys. There are far creepier things out there.