Black Emperor Scorpion, African Emperor ScorpionFamily: Scorpionidae Pandinus imperatorPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley
The Black Emperor Scorpion is the ideal starter pet for a scorpion enthusiast!
The Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator is one of the most docile of all the scorpions kept in captivity. Despite their formidable appearance and large size, these black scorpions are hardy, quiet, and easy to care for. They are impressive to look at and are much more handleable than most of their relatives. This black scorpion also has a long lifespan, it can live for up to 8 years. This is an ideal scorpion species for a beginner.
The Emperor Scorpion, also called the Black Emperor Scorpion and African Emperor Scorpion, is probably the most recognizable scorpion species. It is possibly the most commonly kept invertebrate in the world as well. Thousands have been imported from Togo and Ghana. They have flooded the pet trade and have become very popular.
Television shows play on the fierce appearance of this large, black scorpion. They are a large, shiny black scorpion with massive pincers and a thick robust body and tail. Despite their gruesome look, the sting of the Emperor Scorpion is mild, causing only localized pain which disappears after a few minutes.
For more Information on keeping scorpions, see:
Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets
Habitat: Distribution/BackgroundThe Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator was first described by C. L. Koch in 1842.The Pandinus genus was originally recognized as its own genus by Tamerlan Thorell in 1876. Later the genus was subdivided into five subgenera, but the subgenera now are in question. Emperor Scorpions are widely distributed through West Africa in Guinea, Liberia, Togo, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and in the Congo region. Other common names it is known by are Black Emperor Scorpion and African Emperor Scorpion.
The Emperor Scorpion was placed on the CITES II species list as threatened, in February 1995. They are the only scorpions listed by the CITES Appendix II since 1995. Their numbers had been greatly reduced by over collection, especially in Togo and Ghana. Importing and exporting countries must issue a permit for international sale.
Description The Emperor Scorpion is a large, black scorpion species. They are quite bulky and impressive and have a shiny, black granulated exoskeleton. The average size of a mature adult is between 5 to 8" (13 - 20 cm). They reach sexual maturity at about four years in the wild, though in captivity it can be closer to one year. They have an average lifespan of about 8 years.
Food and FeedingFeed large scorpions a diverse diet consisting of adult crickets, grasshoppers, Tenebrio larvae, and only occasional feedings (once or twice a month) of mice. There is a tendency by keepers to feed their large, aggressive species lots of live mice. But this variety more closely mirrors the diet of this scorpion nature and will keep them healthy.
HousingEmperor Scorpions live in burrows in moist forest areas. They can be kept in a 2 1/2 to 15-gallon terrarium depending on the number of scorpions. They do well under humid conditions. A substrate of damp sand and peat moss with a top layer of cypress mulch, at least 3" deep (4 - 6" is even better). Also provide a shallow, wide water dish. They will dig deep burrows if the substrate is suitable.
Temperature and humidity requirements:
This species like it warm and humid. Keep the temperature maintained at about at 75° - 82 °F with the humidity level at 75 to 80%.
Cage CareA good habit to get into is cleaning up any uneaten prey items the day after feeding your scorpion as decaying organic matter commonly attracts mites, fungus, mold and other potentially harmful organisms into the enclosure. If your pet has recently molted, remove uneaten prey items immediately. Newly molted scorpions are vulnerable until their exoskeletons hardens.
Behavior Typically scorpions are loners, but the Emperor Scorpion is a bit of an exception. The young will stay with their mothers and even as adults they can be kept in groups of three or more. They can get into occasional scraps, and it is usually over a cricket. So be sure they are given enough food. It also helps to provide more hiding places than you have scorpions.
Handling The Emperor Scorpion is perhaps the most docile and easily handled of all the scorpions kept in captivity. Its large size and strong claws have obviously instilled in it less of a need for "fight or flight". It can be cupped in the palm of a your hand without mishap. If "tailed" they will often rear back and try to pinch. Their pinch is very strong and can be quite painful. Their sting is mild and they are usually unwilling to sting until they are pinned or grabbed carelessly.
Reproduction As long as Emperor Scorpions are not overly obese and are kept in a well-suited vivarium, they will often breed and produce offspring in captivity. The pectines on the underside of scorpions can be inspected to give you an idea of your scorpion's sex. Place the scorpion in a clear plastic tub and hold it up to inspect the underside of the scorpion. Typically, males have longer combs on their pectines and females have shorter and often fewer combs on their pectines.
The male quickly grasps the pincers of the female and begins a shaking action known as "juddering". Then, after a short shoving match, the male deposits a spermatophore onto the substrate and positions the female over the packet of sperm. The female lowers her abdomen and picks up the spermatophore into her genital opening. The two separate and often beat a hasty retreat in opposite directions.
After a gestation period of seven months, a litter ranging in size from 15 to 40 young scorpions is produced. The young grow in the mother, are born live, and then will climb onto the mothers back. They are white at first, becoming darker when they molt. The mother scorpion will feed her young by killing an insect and leaving it on the floor of their enclosure. The baby scorpions will then descend from the mother's back and feed on the dead insect.Even with a multitude of captive breedings, very few young Emperor Scorpions reach adulthood, many die from molting difficulties. Inability to exit their old skins from too dry conditions is proving to be the most commonly encountered problem. Large vivaria with a deep, damp substrate of sand and peat with multiple shelters and live plants have proven best for raising these large but delicate babies to maturity.
Diseases: Ailments/Treatments Scorpions are generally quite hardy and adaptable if they are provided with the right environment. A few signs that may indicate that your pet is not acting or feeling normal are a loss of appetite, acting listless or sluggish, having an overly swollen stomach, and missing or deformed limbs. Another problem can be an infestation of mites.
One of the most common reasons for the death in scorpions is the molt. The scorpion has a tough outer covering, a cuticle, that forms a rigid exoskeleton. All scorpions must shed their old exoskeleton and secrete a new one in order to grow, this is called the molt. Scorpions will molt from 6 to 10 times during their lifetime. This molting process takes a lot of energy and they are very vulnerable for a couple of days after the molt until their new skin hardens
For about 24 hours prior to molting it is not unusual for a scorpion to get quite sluggish.
A difficult molt can result in lost or deformed limbs, or death. This is thought to be related to humidity levels. There can be either too much humidity or too little, depending on the species. In captivity a lot of immature scorpions die during the molting process.
- Other Problems
Though many scorpions can go for long periods of time without eating, overfeeding can cause an overly swollen stomach as well as the loss of appetite, and even death. The stomach can be slightly swollen from regular eating, and this is not a problem.
Another problem can be an infestation of Mites. Uneaten food can attract mites, which are very dangerous and stressful to scorpions. Be sure to remove old food.
Availability: These scorpions are commonly available from invertebrate dealers, reptile dealers, and most pet stores.
Emperor Scorpions are imported into the U.S. by the thousands each year. Captive breedings have also occurred but keepers have a difficult time keeping scorpions alive. They require humid conditions, a deep mulch substrate (which makes humidity difficult to monitor), and should not be overfed.
- Animal-World Resources: Reptiles, Amphibians, and Land Invertebrates
- Russ Gurley, Tarantulas and Scorpions in Captivity, Living Art Pub, Serpent's Tale NHBD , 2005
- Philip Brownell, Gary Polis, Scorpion Biology and Research,.Oxford University Press, USA 2001
- Philippe de Vosjoli, Arachnomannia, General Care and Maintenance of Tarantulas & Scorpion, Advanced Vivarium Systems, 1991
- V. Hull-Williams, "How to Keep Scorpions", Fitzgerald Publishing, London, UK.
- Gary A. Polis, Biology of Scorpions, Stanford University Press 1990
- Hugh L Keegan, Scorpions of medical importance,.University Press of Mississippi 1980.
- J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson, Spiders, Scorpions, Centipedes, and Mites,.Pergamon Press 1968