How to Keep an Emperor Scorpion Colony

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Emperor scorpions are the largest species of scorpion in the world but, fortunately for hobbyists, their venom isn’t as formidable as their size. The fact is, these bulky arachnids are often rather docile; they don’t often use their stingers when handled. These factors, along with their ease of care, have made emperor scorpions the most popular pet scorpion.

Emperor Scorpions in the Wild

Emperor scorpions live in the tropical forests, savannas and urban areas of West Africa. Emperor scorpions are often found in termite mounds, feeding on their preferred prey. Able to excavate their own burrow if they don’t find one to their liking; emperor scorpions are known to live in colonies of up to 15 individuals. Emperor scorpions are nocturnal, rarely found active during the day.

Enclosure and Furnishings

Emperor scorpions can be kept in an aquarium or a plastic storage box. Provide at least 1 to 2 square feet of floor space for an initial pair of scorpions; larger groups of four to six scorpions should have 4 to 6 square feet of floor space. Ensure that the enclosure has a secure, screened lid to prevent escapes or unauthorized access by children or pets. As burrowing creatures, the scorpions need a 2- to 4-inch-deep layer of cypress mulch, organic top soil or coconut fiber substrate. Additionally, place a few short, wide, hiding places in the cage to help the scorpions feel secure. Include a shallow water dish and keep it clean and full at all times. Use a heat lamp or heating pad to raise a small portion of the cage to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Feeding and Maintenance

Emperor scorpions feed heavily on termites in the wild. In captivity, crickets usually form the bulk of their diet. Occasionally offer mealworms, beetles and roaches for variety. Feed your scorpions twice per week -- they may not eat when molting or if they are pregnant. It doesn't hurt to offer food during these periods, but don't leave uneaten crickets in the terrarium very long, as they may stress a scorpion. Emperor scorpions need relatively high humidity, so either mist the cage with lukewarm, dechlorinated tap water on a regular basis or cover a large portion of the screen lid to restrict evaporation.

Breeding

You can distinguish male emperor scorpions from females by observing a specimen's operrculum -- the scale covering the arachnid’s genitals -- or the pectines. Pectines are small, comblike structures visible on the scorpion’s ventral side, behind the legs. Male pectines have longer, thinner fingers that are closer together than those of females. Between and in front of the pectines, the male's operrculum is oval-shaped, whereas the female's is heart-shaped. When mating, males will grasp females by the pedipalps and engage in an elaborate dance during which he deposits sperm on the substrate and maneuvers the female over the sperm so she can pick it up. Young scorpions are born live, and crawl onto the mother’s back for protection. They will stay here, going through several molts until they are ready to fend for themselves.

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