This is the time of year when those not listening to ‘Test Match Special’ with a beer or a glass of spritzer to hand are busy commenting on Facebook about the perennial monster ‘insect’ that spends its life inflicting life-threatening poisonous bites on the unwary or scaring the crap out of the rest of us as it scuttles by at about 10mph (16kph).
I’m talking about Wind Scorpions aka barrel spiders aka camel spiders, or sun spiders after its Latin name Solifugae, which means “those that flee from the sun”. There are around 1000 recorded species around the world. Wind Scorpions look pretty bizarre and pretty dangerous, they are fast movers and they hiss and act extremely aggressively if you happen to piss them off! All of which adds to the urban myths that surround them.
Size: the largest species are around 5-6 inches (12-15 cms) in total length and about 4 inches across the legs and not ‘nearly half a metre’ as indicated by your best friend after a nerve-soothing gin or three!
Speed: they are capable of moving at up to 10 mph (16 kph) which is about a third of the speed of a human sprinter – well worth bearing in mind next time you see one trotting along the balcony rail!
Poisonous: despite what you read or hear they are not – with the possible exception of a species in India. That their bite is extremely painful and the wound liable to secondary infection is without doubt. If you are unlucky enough to get bitten or you suspect that your pet has been bitten get to the vet pronto! Well, you go to the doctor . . !!
Here in Turkey, should you come across one these creatures, it will be Galeodes araneoides, so let’s focus on this particular species. It hails from the same family/class as spiders and scorpions so it is an Arachnida although it sits firmly in its own group. Arachnida have eight legs but Wind Scorpions appear to have ten with the front pair carried off the ground and in front of the creature – rather like some ghoul or an extra in an early ‘Frankenstein’ movie! This impression is going to be reinforced because these ‘ghouls’ hunt by night and hide up in cool, dark places by day.
These extra, front ‘legs’ are highly modified pedipalps (those little finger-like things in front of your average spider’s fangs). They are used primarily as sensing organs but can also act as secondary legs for hunting, fighting and climbing. They also have a sort of sticky-pad that helps entrap prey or grip smooth surfaces. The photo left shows the threat/defence pose.
The ‘jaws’ of these creatures are formidable – well able to pierce the toughest beetle case, chop through reptile or small birds’ bones and go straight through your thumb or toe nail! They are also used to make a ‘hissing’ sound that is a clear warning to leave Galeodes alone or face the consequences.
The close-set eyes are worth a mention as they are anything but as simple as they look. They are well able to discern form and are capable of telling friend from foe.
Meanwhile enjoy a Family Photo Album
So, what should you do if you find one of these creatures sharing your home with you? First off, don’t reach for the tin of ‘death spray’ – it will not kill your average adult Wind Scorpion which will take off at a third of the speed of Usain Bolt at his best for some dark place that you will never think to look! Having had a good look at you, Galeodes araneoides will nurture a grudge and a deep, abiding hatred because you used chemical weapons and at a time of its choosing will sneak into your dreams and turn them into your worst nightmare!
Alan in Okçular
ps . . as for what you should do, I suggest you carefully shut the fellow up in a decent sized jam jar then, when no one is looking, sneak out and set it free in the garden of the neighbour you like least!