The disappearing Red Roman

03 January 2018  Read: 1542


One thing to understand about a Red Roman Spider (also known as a Camel Spider) is the fact that it is not really a spider, although it belongs to the Arachnid Class which includes spiders, scorpions, mites, etc.   The terminology used to describe this class is Solifugae which is Latin meaning “those that flee from the sun”.

This Red Roman can be brown, beige or light grey and can range in size from zero point four inches to six inches.   The most notable feature of this species is its paired wide jaws which work like a combination of knife/pliers, tools.   These jaws are used to grab and crush their prey and work in a sawing motion to crush it to a pulp.

Red Romans live in warm areas (like the lowveld) and spend most of their time trying to avoid the sun.   They live under rocks, debris and very often underground.   They are mainly active at night…….which many of us are frighteningly aware of!!

A few general facts about these interesting creatures:-

  • They eat scorpions, centipedes, other spiders, insects and occasionally small lizards.
  • They are not excellent jumpers but can climb trees and over walls when in search of prey.
  • Their average lifespan is less than twelve months
  • At night they will run towards any light source including flashlights and camp-fires.
  • Although they look like they are chasing you, they are actually trying to walk in your shadow.
  • Their eyesight is very poor so to get around they rely on vibrations
  • These spiders do not attack anything larger than themselves AND that includes humans.
  • They move at approximately 10 miles per hour.


A number of urban legends exaggerate the size and speed of this species and their potential danger to humans – which is negligible.   Apparently they have neither venom glands nor any venom-delivery apparatus. such as the fangs of spiders the stings of wasps or venomous setae of caterpillars.

During World War I, British troops stationed in Egypt would stage fights between captive red romans which they referred to as “jerrymanders”.   Similarly during World War II, troops stationed in Libya arranged fights between scorpions and the red romans (and actually took bets on the outcome).

These interesting residents of the lowveld are non-threatening in spite of their frightening appearance and when they arrive in your lounge and appear to be chasing after you they are actually trying to avoid the light.   Just show them the way to the door (without killing them).

And remember ….they eat centipedes and scorpions which DO bite humans!!



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