This Lovecraftian creature, about two inches long, was wandering around the outdoor room Sunday night.
Identified by Bill Loveless in Comments (thanks Bill) as the solpugid.
I believe this is a member of the Order Solifugae, a “Sun Scorpion”. They don’t sting though and are safe. They are not true scorpions and not true spiders but rather have their own unique Order. (Or they are advance scouts of some extraterrestrial race). Here is a link to a photo of one from California and the Wikipedia page:
that’s easy. it’s a sun spider, a.k.a. solpugid. surprised you haven’t seen one before. very common at night during the warm weather months. terrific bug hunters. not poisonous but can bite if handled.
Bill – Is there a good info page on these critters…I haven’t found one. I’d assume that they part of the Order Solifugae that Bob mentions? Also, how the heck do you pronounce their name?
Well well well; Your first, and definitely not last, Solpugid (pronounced saul-pew-jid).
On a balmy summer evening in 1993 I was stretched out on the living room sofa watching television in our new Palm Desert home. In a fraction of a second, a 3 1/2 inch diameter tan colored blur ran across my bare chest. I cannot remember the last time I flew to my feet and did the screaming banshee dance in my Fruit of the Looms so quickly. Amazing how a grown man’s vocal cords can suddenly reach the falsetto high screech of a frightened 3 year old girl. I couldn’t do it in a recording studio in a million years, but what a note. Off the scale.
So began a year long research, which started that very night. During the dance I had completely lost track of where it crawled off to. So rattled was I, that I spent the next 3 hours sitting across from the couch with a wrinkled brow, glaring eyes and a broom.
My brain was filing options like an IBM. “Too round-ish to be a scorpion. Was it a giant dreaded Brown Recluse spider? A Wolf spider? But the beigey pink color and the speed! ” But mainly, where the fuck is it lurking?
Every half hour my wife would attempt to quell the terror trance and yell from the bedroom “It’s gone!” And just as sure I would snap “It’s not GONE! It’s here. In the house. In the LIVING ROOM!”
Finally, in the wee hours I retired. The next day a few friends visited. Opportunity knocked. “Hey you guys. do me a favor and lift the couch off the ground an inch and drop it.” Out IT ran. Before I could get a clear look, couch lifter number 1 yelled “Vinegaroon!” and smashed it into the carpet with his boot. So started the soon to become annoying yarns from every desert neighbor and acquaintance I asked; “Oh yeah, them’s Vinegaroons, and when they bite you, you get sick and have the taste of vinegar in your mouth for 2 weeks!”
Off to Palm Springs public library (pre-laptop days). Now wait a minute, every Vinegaroon photo I could find was NOT what I saw. Also seems the Vinegaroon, a variety of the Whiptail scorpion was mainly found east of the Colorado in Arizona.
And thank God, as it may be the ugliest, scariest bug I’ve ever seen a photo of. Look it up.
Stories piled up. A neighbor across the street said had one on her leg in bed one night. She said it was a Vingeroon. All I could get people to utter was Vinegaroon. And I knew they were full of shit.
Months passed. More TV. The Discovery Channel I believe. An Australian desert documentary, or maybe African. I only remember a hole in the sand on the screen and the British narrators voice, “And at night time, out of it’s nest comes the fiercely aggressive Solpugid!” THERE IT WAS. The thing that ran across my chest. I was ecstatic. The Vinegarooners were all wrong, stupid and misinformed. Back to the library, and a subsequent 16 years of low and high desert residences and about 1000 Solpugids later and here is a brief rundown:
The names literally means ‘sun refugee’. The following years in Palm Desert, Indian Wells and Joshua Tree gave me the opportunity to have 2 run across my head at night, have 2 large ones simultaneously on my leg, countless streaking across the bedroom floor, patio, parking lots, on my truck and even a rather large confused one running in circles on the corner of Highway 111 and El Paseo Drive (the low desert’s chi-chi fashion district). Apparently, it just couldn’t decide WHERE to start shopping!
They are nearly blind. Eyes are tiny, the size of pin-heads. So, they attack the vibration of the passerby. And that means you too. Also the reason they run erratically around you as you dance the terror dance. They do pack a mean, but not poisonous bite. A friend was bitten on the neck in a desert loft bed and had a nice welt for a day or two.
Perhaps the most disturbing features are it’s long antlers and an almost square machine like mouth. I’d heard there was online footage of one attacking and decapitating a small lizard. The larger ones that I’ve seen crushed have quite a bit of a sickening green bile goo in their hind quarter. Enough to omit an offensive odor when one rotted near a swimming pool that I was in.
One other thing. In springtime, the new generation average about an inch in length, by July and August they are much bigger. Sleep well. Bwah, hah hah hah…
Don’t fear vinergaroons,their harmless docile creatures which can be safely handled and help by eating pests like roaches.They can spray a smelly liquid from their abdomens to deter predators but only if their alarmed or roughly treated.It smells like vinegar which is where they get their name.Sun spiders are pretty harmless but can give a painful nip so best not handle.
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