The Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator) is one of the largest scorpions in the world. Despite this intimidating fact and its horror-show appearance, it is still popular as a pet. The Emperor scorpion has existed virtually unchanged for 300 million years.
Emperor Scorpion Lifespan and Size
The Emperor scorpion lives about eight years and can grow to be 23 cm long, or over eight inches.
Behavior and Characteristics
The Emperor scorpion appears to be a shiny black hue, but it can run the gamut of colors from green to brown. One of the oddest characteristics of this creature is it can reflect ultraviolet light. It will show up blue under a black light. It has red claws and a red stinger, just to put the finishing touches on its creepy crawler appearance.
It is difficult to tell the difference between male and female Emperors because they look similar. The males will appear smaller, and not as wide through their body.
They have sensory hairs covering their tail and pincers. The hairs make them sensitive to vibrations, allowing them to track prey.
These stinging monarchs originate in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, Congo, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, and Ghana. They like to tunnel deep into the dark soil of rainforest. Overturning rocks or other organic forest debris can disturb them.
Emperors are active at night. Although their appearance can cause a hair-raising reaction, they are passive and their venom is relatively benign. In fact, the venom is currently being researched for its potential properties to battle malaria and other bacteria.
Emperors eat crickets, termites and other insects. Young scorpions will dispatch the prey with their tail stingers. Adults prefer to dismember them with pincers. They are opportunistic predators, so they will eat other small animals they can crush with their claws. This might include mice, small lizards, and other scorpions.
While shopping for food for your Emperor scorpion, look for gut-loaded crickets and mealworms. These are nutrient-loaded insects. Most gut-loaded prey are available in pet supply stores. For variety, waxworms are a nice alternative.
Feed an Emperor every few days, to once a week. Supplementation is not necessary. Emperor scorpions will cohabitate if the tank mates are all properly fed to avoid cannibalism. Young scorpions will eat more, as they are growing. Adults, especially the males, go through fasting periods lasting several months. Typically, they gorge themselves first.
Emperor Scorpion Care
Although they are the giants of the scorpion world, Emperors do not take up a lot of room. They can be kept together with others around the same size. A 10-gallon glass terrarium is ideal for a scorpion or two. Since Emperors are a tropical species, they should be kept warm. Ideally, a temperature of around 80 degrees during the day is enough and slightly cooler at night. Avoid heat lamps, since scorpions like the dark, and prefer a humid environment. For warming your tank, consider using a heating pad under the bottom.
Scorpions prefer bedding a few inches deep, that they can dig into, with a surface that is slightly moist. There are several types of substrates that will work well. These include:
- Coconut Husk
- Cypress Mulch
- Orchid Bark
Scorpions like plenty of cover, and will make use of pieces of wood or bark, or commercially available reptile caves. They prefer a hiding place that is small and tight and will burrow if they don’t find adequate shelter.
Water and Humidity
All scorpions should have fresh water available in a shallow bowl. The water will help add humidity to the habitat, as well as providing a source to drink.
Scorpions thrive on humidity levels of 60% to 80%. They would benefit from a crop of sphagnum moss in the tank, along with frequent mistings of the habitat.
Because Emperor scorpions are notoriously passive in spite of their frightful appearance, they are popular as pets. Even though they are slow to provoke, always handle them with care.
Some people may have a reaction to the sting, and there is no way of knowing until it happens. Therefore, there is an amount of risk in handling them. It is best to own a scorpion with a “look, but don’t touch” philosophy.
Although Emperor scorpions can be cannibalistic at times, they are fairly easy to breed. In the wild, they reach sexual maturity between four and seven years. You can breed scorpions much earlier – even at year one – in captivity. Identifying gender is the most challenging portion of breeding scorpions. Size is a factor. Often, male scorpions are smaller than females. So, the best way to tell is by examining the parts. Place the scorpion in a clear box and look up from the bottom. Differing in shape, the genital openings allow you to identify male and female. The male’s pectens will be a bit larger than the female’s. Distinguishing this difference may take some practice and a lot of observation.
One sure way to tell if you have a successful pair is to observe a mating dance. Courting scorpions will join claws and move around the terrarium. Experts believe this clears an area in the substrate for the deposit of sperm, but scorpions may also do this to identify each other.During the dance, the male drops a sperm packet and then pulls the female over it. The sperm packet hooks into the female’s genital opening.
Gestation and Birth
Gestation can range from seven to ten months, but it sometimes lasts for over a year. Females continue feeding during these months, and many of them will grow obviously wider. Her offspring are born alive, and she may have anywhere between eight and thirty little scorplings. They are white, and the mother will carry them on her back until they molt the first time. You must remove other adult scorpions from the tank, to prevent them from cannibalizing the offspring.
After their first molt, the baby scorpions turn darker in color and fall off the mother. They will start moving around the terrarium on their own, and they will eat tiny mealworms and other small prey.
The mother scorpion will feed her young insects that she has torn up. Emperor scorpions take great care of their offspring, becoming more aggressive toward disturbances in the environment. At times, they may turn on and eat their own young, perhaps due to their poor eyesight. Disturb the mother as little as possible while the young are still dependent on her.
While she is raising the babies, raise the temperature of the terrarium to 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit.
As the babies grow, you will enjoy watching their mother feeding and caring for them. Emperor scorpions are certainly among the most interesting of pets to own.