High Desert Insects Challenge Your Sanity
It’s a buggy world. If you stop and consider there are more insects hatched daily than there are people living around the world, you wonder why we aren’t up to our ears in bugs.
That buggy world we live in — especially in the Southwest — keeps us ever watchful to know which bug is a friend and which one is out to get us!
One of the ugliest insects is a night traveler that looks a lot like a scorpion but doesn’t have a stinger or a tail. Light yellow honey-colored is the “Sun Scorpion” also known as “Wind Scorpion” or “Sun Spider” even “Nina de la Tierra” or “Child of the Earth.” Its more scientific name is a solpugid and solfugid, depending on the books I looked into.
Its head is large and looks like it shouldn’t be able to walk let along race across the ground. When you find it in your home, it’s usually in your bathtub or crawling up a wall. They sneak around at night, falling into tubs and sinks, then can’t climb out. They can grow as large as two inches (5 cm).
The good thing — if there is good thing about weird-looking bugs — is that it’s fragile, more fragile than any scorpion, beetle, or spider. Just swat it with a rolled up paper or a flyswatter and it’s dead.
Sci-Fi Alien Mouth
Before you annihilate it, take a look at its strange head and large mouth parts. Its sci-fi alien looking mouth comes right out of a nightmare. It has four pointy jaws that open and close like a grappling hook in those stuffed toy coin-operated vending machines. Their bald head is actually covered in fine hairs — always on the alert. It helps them feel their surrounding due to their lack of good eyesight. But that’s typical with nigh bugs.
They also have giant fake pincers called pedipalps that look like they could hurt you but they aren’t harmful or even poisonous. They use these strong front arms with the next pair behind to control their prey. When they feel threatened they raise their front arms up defensively like scorpions or tarantulas do. This can make them look more dangerous to predators or even humans. Most solpugids live less than a year so they need to live on the defensive or die early.
Glow in the Dark
The closest bug that looks like a Sun Scorpion is a large, caramel-colored Jerusalem Cricket it sometimes shares its name “Nina de la Tierra” with the sun spider, also found in the Southwest deserts. It has a large head, long legs, moves slower, but is active at night. I’ve only seen two of these in 40 years so they may be more rare today.
Another way you can tell differences between true scorpions and pseudo-types is to use a black-light and hunt at night. A scorpion will “glow in the dark” while a Sun or Wind Scorpion will not.
So keep an eye open for those creepy-looking bugs but also take the time to see what they are and how they share the desert with you. Most are beneficial and eat other bugs, so they’re doing you a favor. Really.