Emperor Scorpion

Pandinus imperator

Order: Scorpiones

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • This is one of the few scorpions that can be housed in small groups. Use a 5-15 gallon terrarium, depending on the number you house.
  • Use a substrate of damp sand and peat moss with a top layer of cypress mulch. Substrate should be 3-6 inches deep.
  • Temperature should be between 75-80 degrees F, with humidity at 75-80%.

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, emperor scorpions mostly eat smaller arthropods, but they will also occasionally catch small lizards, snakes, mice, or other small vertebrates.
  • In captivity, they are fed crickets.

Veterinary Concerns

  • Frequent removal of any decaying organic matter will protect the scorpion from mites, fungus, mold and other potentially harmful organisms.
  • Newly molted scorpions are vulnerable to dehydration and damage to soft exosceletons. Remove any uneaten food items and avoid disturbing the scorpion for a few days.
  • Over feeding can be a problem.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

Other

Colony or Breeding Management

 

Individual Identification

 

Programmatic Information

Transportation

Temperature Guidelines

 

Crating:

Tips on Presentation

  • Smaller scorpions are best presented in a small plastic carrier.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • This species is the most docile of all scorpions and can be safely handled. It is best to gently nudge the scorpion onto an open hand. If grasped by the tail it will rear back and deliver a painful pinch.
  • The scorpion is best displayed in the palm of a slightly cupped hand.

 

Potential Messaging

Acquisition Information

 

Comments from the Rating System

  • Maryland Zoo in Baltimore: We show all arachnids in a clear box. No one handles them on program. Animal care staff packs them for program staff and volunteers.
  • Seneca Park Zoo: Depending on whether you physically handle them or display in a travel container, can effect handler experience.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Emperor scorpions are found in the hot tropical forests and savannas of Africa. Specifically, they are located in the countries of Togo, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and the Congo region. They like to burrow beneath the soil, and are usually found under rocks and other debris.

Physical Description

Scorpions are arachnids, related to spider, mites, and ticks. They have two body parts and eight legs. Their exoskeleton is a dark blue or black, but occasionally you will see a dark brown or green scorpion. Their pincers have a granular texture and a reddish coloring. They are actually pedipalps (extensions of the mouth) and not true legs. There are sensory hairs around the pincers, tail, and telson.
The cephalothorax is made up of four sections, each with one pair of legs. Behind the fourth pair of legs are the pectines, which is noticeably longer on the males than on the females. (Other sexual differences: males have broader tails and larger pincers than females.) The pectines are used to detect ground and air vibrations.
The tail, also known as the metasoma, is made up of six segments. It has a telson at the end, which is the large ball with a sharp curve used to sting. The telson contains the venom gland. The tail isn’t really a true tail, but is an extension of the abdomen.
Emperor scorpions are the largest of the existing scorprions. Adults can reach up to 8 inches long.

Life Cycle

In the wild, emperor scorpions reach sexual maturity at around the age of four, but they can mature quicker in captivity. During courtship, scorpions engage in an elaborate dance where the male grabs the female’s pincers and moves around, attempting to find a suitable location to deposit his sperm sack. Once the sperm is deposited, the male will maneuver the female over the spot, where she will receive the sperm. Mating can occur year-round, but it requires warm temperatures.
Gestation period is 7 to 9 months, after which 9 to 32 young are born alive. The young are white in color at first, but become darker after each molt. They remain with the mother through several molts. Mothers will sometimes continue to feed their young, even after they have developed enough to live on their own. However, the mothers are also occasionally cannibalistic, and may eat a few of them.
Emperor scorpions generally live for 5 to 8 years.

Behavior

Emperor scorpions are venomous, but they rarely sting and are handleable, which is why they are common both in zoos and as pets. Even when hunting, they rarely sting smaller prey, preferring to grasp it in their powerful claws and tear it apart.
Emperor scorpions are nocturnal and use their sensory hairs to detect prey.

Threats and Conservation Status

The main threat to emperor scorpions is humans. Over-collection for the pet trade has greatly reduced their numbers in Togo and Ghana. They are listed on CITES Appendix II.

Did you know…

  • Scorpions have very poor eyesight. Both prey and mates are found by vibrations picked up by the hair-like setae on the pincers, and possibly by scent.
  • Like all scorpions, emperor scorpions fluoresce a greenish-blue under black (UV) lights.
  • A baby scorpion is called a “scorpling.”

Photographs

 

Documents

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • The Baton Rouge Zoo