African Cave Spiders, Anyone?

Whoa…it’s creepy, it’s crawly, it looks like a very large, squashed scorpion with some daddy-long-legs glued onto it!  It’s actually an African Cave Spider, officially called a tailless whip scorpion (Damon variegatus), and it’s perfectly harmless. How novel… a creepy crawly at Zoonversity that doesn’t bite, pinch, or sting — our creep-phobic zookeepers are very grateful.

Unlike other arachnids, such as true spiders and scorpions, these guys have only six legs. Their other two legs have been modified into very long feelers — to help them feel their way around tree bark, under logs, and in the dark caves of Eastern Africa. These nocturnal arachnids eat super tiny insects, using their pincher-like pedipalps to push their bugs into their crushing jaws.

Even though they are harmless to humans, these creatures have been much maligned in modern media. For instance, in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, they are described as "lethal" by Mad-eye Moody, who tortures the animal with a curse until Hermione begs him to stop. And, in the TV show  Fear Factor, contestants were forced to eat these creatures, proving that humans are much more dangerous to the cave spider than they are to us.

A fellow wildlife educator was kind enough to share a surplus bunch of these big ol’ guys with us, so be sure to invite one of these stunning fellows to your next event. Let’s see if fear is a factor for you! And, we promise we won’t make you eat it.

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10 Responses to African Cave Spiders, Anyone?

  1. Robb says:

    Thank you for your website. I aquired an African Cave Spider at a pet store that went out of business. What kind of habitat should it have? I currently have it in the one gallon terarrium it was in at the pet store. What temp. range should I be providing? Food (other than crickets)? water? I haven’t been able to find any care instructions online. Thank you for your help.

    -Robb G.

  2. niv says:

    Dude I’m from south africa, he have those spiders thingys all over our yard and house, dark and damp is where they like to hide. So think you got it covered

  3. skylar says:

    Are these African cave spiders found in Missouri?

  4. Allison says:

    No — just in Africa.

  5. Matthew Yaworski says:

    They DO pinch AND bite! Might not hurt but they still do it

  6. Lisa Truscott says:

    We just found one in Sri Lanka!

  7. freyja says:

    i saw one in puerto rico, in a cave, yes?

  8. Neil says:

    Hi and thanks for the info on this Guy, can you tell us what their distribution is?

  9. Marie says:

    Allison,
    This is not true, they are not only found in Africa. I live in the US in Arizona. I find them all the time in the abandoned mines by me.

  10. CrazayCows says:

    I was vacationing in Costa Rica and I saw one in my bathroom

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