Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whipscorpion
Giant Tailless Whip Scorpion, African Whip SpiderFamily: PhrynichidaeDamon variegatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy Russ Gurley
The Whip Scorpions are amazing, but appetizing and good enough to eat?... eww!
Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whip Scorpions are intriguing but weird looking creatures. Tailless whipscorpions have enjoyed an increase in interest over the last year or two with their recent appearance on a number of TV programs. Notably after their notorious appearance on TV's Fear Factor, they became a much sought after pet by invertebrate keepers.
Tailless whipscorpions are commonly called whip scorpions or whip spiders, derived from the whip-like movements of their very long front legs. They are not true spiders however, as they don't produce any silk or venom, and they are totally harmless to humans.
The Giant Tailless Whip scorpions are one of the largest of the tailless whipscorpions, and are great for the experienced keeper's collection. Due to having a gentle disposition they are also good for the beginner. Though they are harmless, these bizarre-looking creatures are fast, agile, and somewhat delicate. They can pinch with their claws but rarely do, choosing to run away instead.
For more Information on keeping Whip Scorpions, see:
Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets
Habitat: Distribution/BackgroundThe Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whipscorpion Damon variegatus was described by C. L. Koch in 1850. These whipscorpions are are native to Africa, found in Kenya and Tanzania. They are often found living communally in large numbers under flat stones, near ponds, and in rock-strewn cattle pastures. Other common names they are known by are Giant Tailless Whipscorpion, African Whip Spider, Tailless Whip Scorpion, and Whip Spider.
Description The Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whipscorpions are one of the largest of the tailless whipscorpions. They can reach up to 8" across with extended legs. They have a flattened carapace and abdomen and eight long legs, two that are elongated and act as feelers as they explore at night.
HousingThe enclosure for tailless whipscorpions is quite different than that for the terrestrial whipscorpions. Use a large enclosure that is vertically oriented. A ten-gallon tall terrarium works well for a single specimen and a 29-gallon will comfortably house a pair or small group of whips. Add a 1 to 2" layer of ½ damp sand and ½ coconut / peat moss. A layer of cypress mulch, dried leaves, or clean decorative bark can be added on top. The addition of live plants will add some extra hiding places and help add humidity to the enclosure.
Cage decorations in the form of large pieces of slate on their sides or tall slabs of cork bark add to the interest of the enclosure. They also provide the perfect hiding spots during the day. Of course care must be taken that these structures are very secure and cannot shift, killing your pets. Lighter weight pieces of cork bark or tree bark work well.
Temperature and humidity requirements:
The ideal conditions for the Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whipscorpions are a temperature range of 75° to 85° F and a humidity level of 65 to 75%. A weekly spraying of the enclosure is ideal to provide the necessary moisture.
Cage CareA good habit to get into is cleaning up any uneaten prey items the day after feeding your whip 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 whipscorpions are vulnerable until their exoskeletons hardens.
Behavior They can be keep in small groups of one male and two or three females. They are generally fine communally, but be aware that cannibalism can happen when one member molts and is in a weakened condition. It's a good idea to increase feeding if multiple individuals are to be kept in the same container.
Handling These guys are quite creepy, even for seasoned invert keepers. The Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whipscorpions are harmless but fast. They will scurry quickly away and have a habit of falling to the ground when being held carelessly. They can pinch with their claws, but rarely do, choosing to run away instead.
Reproduction Male Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whip scorpions have longer, spikier pedipalps. Females get a bit larger and their pedipalps are smaller, stockier, and are often held tightly against the body.
Diseases: Ailments/TreatmentsWhip 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.
If they appear very fat, especially with dark green or bluish tints, they are likely approaching a molt and food should be withheld.
Availability Unfortunately the Tanzanian Giant Tailless Whipscorpions are not yet common in the pet trade.
They are being imported from Africa in ever-increasing numbers and interested hobbyists are searching (in vain) for more species to add to their collections. Damon has proven to be quite prolific in captivity and the babies thrive and grow quickly when kept properly. Hopefully, this species will be an important part of the future of our hobby.
- Animal-World Resources: Reptiles, Amphibians, and Land Invertebrates
- Samuel D. Marshall, Tarantulas and Other Arachnids, Barron's Educational Series; 2nd edition 2001.
- J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson, Spiders, Scorpions, Centipedes, and Mites, Pergamon Press 1968