Hello Mr. Roly Poly

Showing His Underside

Showing His Underside

Collin Collecting Bugs

Collin Collecting Bugs

Shield Bug and Grasshopper

Shield Bug and Grasshopper

Crazy as this may be, a Pale Windscorpion is not a scorpion at all, though they are related. They are also related to spiders because they are arachnids, and belong to the order Solifugae (in Latin, this means “those that flee from the sun” which lets us know they are nocturnal).

Back in June of 2012, we were very lucky to get to know a Pale Windscorpion. Collin’s dad was digging at work, and there he found one in the dirt. Collin was very excited and wanted to show us, so his dad brought him to our house in a jar, and we decided to keep him in a terrarium. We filled the bottom with dirt and Collin put some rocks from his rock collection in. We kept the habitat arid and desert-like.

Collin quickly gave him the name, Scorpy, and spent a lot of time observing him and catching insects for him in our backyard. Collin does not like to kill bugs, but he understands that they often are food for other animals. He captured daddy longlegs (harvestmen), shield bugs, a lacewing, roly polies (pill bugs), boxelder bugs, a grasshopper, earwigs, and an ant. The boxelder bugs even mated and had babies there in the terrarium! (And I don’t know if you’ve ever seen boxelder juveniles before, but they’re a beautiful red with a burst of orange in the center of their backside. Very pretty!)

We had no idea as to what he ate specifically. There isn’t a ton of available information out there on Solifugae.  The information to first come to our attention were myths summing up this arthropod as a huge, lightning fast, shrieking, venomous terror. This was most certainly an exaggeration, as well as some just being plain untrue.  As far as keeping them in captivity, it didn’t seem there was much success in having them for a long time. I read that two to six weeks by an experienced arachnid handler was about the max. We were only able to keep Scorpy alive for about two and a half weeks. Collin was very sad. He loved Scorpy, and really missed finding food for him.

In his short time, he had us all captivated as he was such a fascinating animal! The name Windscorpion is given to them due to how fast they move, making it seem as if they “run like the wind.”  They hunt in a zigzag pattern, while using their pedipalps (front leg-like appendages) to sense and feel for prey. The pedipalps are also used for fighting and eating.

We really enjoyed watching him dig in the dirt, and move across the terrarium. He would come upon the glass, and reach up vertically giving us a view of his underside. There are three thin openings there that take air in, allowing him to breathe. Also visible were sticky sucker looking things, like an octopus has, on the tips of his pedipalps.

Though they look a bit terrifying, they are not venomous. (When I shared a picture of him online, many thought we were brave to have him in our house. I did duct tape the lid shut, though I’m sure it was unnecessary.) They have no stinging tail like their scorpion cousins, but they do have some rather large chelicerae  (mouth claws), much like a crabs pincers, that they bite with in self defense.

We don’t know what killed Scorpy. It may be that he needed more room, as he is used to getting a lot of exercise with all of that fast running about. Some windscorpion experts have a name for this called, “taming.” It could also be that he was an old adult, as we have no idea of his age.

We feel very fortunate to have spent some time with this amazing animal. Our aim was to be able to submit some of our own observations to the small pool of research out there so others could better understand this misunderstood arachnid.

Hope you are inspired to find out more  about the many species – over 1,000 – of Solifugae out there! Let me know about your interesting finds!

Have you ever seen a Solifugae? What experiences have you had with observing an animal in a jar, terrarium, or other such container?

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