Scorpions as Pets
Habitat, Food, Breeding and Handling
There are over 600 species of scorpion and most stings can be extremely painful rather than deadly, though about 1% of human adults stung by the most venomous Buthidae family of scorpions do die. The figures are higher amongst children, but it is considered inadvisable to keep scorpions as pets with children around. The larger scorpions have large pincers that are their main weapon. A scorpion's normal reaction is to run from anything much larger than itself, such as a human. Scorpions generally only attack when cornered or when hunting prey.
The large, black emperor scorpion is the most popular one for keeping as a pet. Forest-dwelling scorpions are normally dark-coloured as adults though some scorpions originating from desert regions are sand-coloured.
Scorpion Habitat for Keeping
The recommended method for keeping scorpions is a glass-sided terrarium, minimum size 4x1x1 feet, with a secure, ventilated lid. The temperature in the tank should normally be around 27 degrees Centigrade, with high humidity maintained by spraying water mist regularly. Some species of scorpion endure a cooler winter in their natural habitat, so around 19 degrees is relevant for these types during that time.
A shallow water bowl will be required, as scorpions do take on a lot of water. Around five or six inches depth of peat, compost, bark and leaves is required for forest-dwelling types, or sandy soil for desert dwellers. Low wooden or stone shelters are also suitable. Scorpions will burrow into these habitats.
They are generally nocturnal so only a normal level of light is required and low levels encourage them to be active.
Scorpions shed their skin as much as six times per year when young, but this slows to annually from about three years old. The skins are not often seen as they often hide when shedding and eat the skin afterwards.
Most scorpions are kept solitary as they fight and are cannibalistic, but some species can be kept in small numbers if space allows.
Scorpions feed mainly on insects, which can be grubs or caterpillars if live, or dead mice, locusts or crickets. They can be fed directly using tweezers to put the prey in their pincers if preferred. Normally they are fed twice per week in captivity. It is sometimes recommended to coat insects with calcium when feeding scorpions. The calcium helps strengthen the scorpion's exoskeleton.
Scorpion Mating and Breeding
The mating "dance" of the scorpion occurs when the male, after grabbing the female's pincers to prevent her attacking him, deposits sperm on the ground, often on a flat rock. The pair then shuffle backwards and forwards over it, resembling dancing on occasion, until the female takes it into her body. The male then has to escape to avoid being eaten.
The female scorpion will keep her eggs internally, pregnancy lasting up to twelve months depending on type and the young are born live. They then climb onto their mother's back and from this point the female will be more aggressive. She should be left undisturbed in any event, to reduce the likelihood of her eating any of the babies. They should not be removed from her back. When they free themselves, they are best kept solitary in a moist environment to help their shedding.
Rearing young scorpions can be tricky. Adding vitamin supplements and calcium to a varied diet is advisable.
Some keepers risk picking the scorpion up by the segment of the tail in front of the sting barb itself but using forceps with padding wrapped round the ends of the forceps is the recommended method.
In the event of being stung, a doctor's advice should be sought immediately. Some stings create fever in a human victim in addition to the pain itself.