Yes, that’s right – we have been invaded. By the meanest Romans ever. They are big, they are red, they are fast, they are aggressive and they have a mean bite.
Arachnid Solifugae (Red Roman Spider)
This group of arachnids has various common names most of which suggest that they are spiders, which they are not. The only similarity they share with spiders is the fact that they have eight legs. Solifugids have no venom glands and are not a threat to man although they are very aggressive and fast-moving and can inflict a painful bite.
The name of the solifugids originates from the Latin for ‘fleeing from the sun’. The term ‘sun spider’ applies to those species active during the day that tend to avoid the heat and dash from shadow to shadow – often of a person – giving the alarming impression that they are giving chase. The term ‘red roman’ probably originates form the Afrikaans term ‘rooiman’ (red man) due to the red-brown colour of some species. The popular terms ‘haarskeerders’ and ‘baardskeerders’ (Afrikaans words for hair and beard cutters) originate from the strange behaviour of some of these animals where they cut hair from sleeping people or animals (dogs) at night. It appears that female solifugids find hair to be an ideal nest liner.
Solifugids appear to have 10 legs but in fact, the first pair of appendages are the pedipalps that are very strong and are used for various functions such as drinking, fighting, feeding and mating. The first pair of legs are thin and short and used as tactile organs. The fourth pair of legs are the longest and strongest and carry white structures called racket organs – the purpose of which is not known.
They vary in size and can reach 70 mm and with legs included, can measure 160 mm. The head is large, supporting large strong chelicerae (jaws). The 11 segmented abdomen is soft and expandable that enables the animal to each large amounts of food.
These arachnids are found mostly in the hot arid regions and have a resistance to high temperatures and low humidity.
Solifugids prey on various insects, spiders, scorpions, small reptiles, dead birds and even each other. They run their prey down and once they catch it they eat while the prey is still alive with vigorous ripping and cutting actions of the powerful jaws.
They are solitary animals living in scraped out sand retreats under rocks and logs (and my kitchen).
Once they get deported from the kitchen they have a tendency to commit suicide in my swimming pool and I then have to fish their corpses out of the filter. Argh – even when they are dead the still give me the creeps.
Info from www.spiderzrule.com