The Malaysian Forest Scorpion is hardy and attractive black scorpion, but is also aggressive!
The Malaysian Forest Scorpion Heterometrus spinifer is hardy, quiet, and easy to care for. At a glance these large, shiny black scorpions are often mistaken for the commonly kept Emperor Scorpion Pandinus imperator. It is also impressive to look at. But unlike the Emperor Scorpion it is not handleable. It is a much more aggressive species than the more docile Emperor.
This black scorpion is also referred to as the Asian Forest Scorpion. Consequently, it is often confused with its cousin, the true Asian Forest Scorpion Heterometrus longimanus. But the Malaysian Forest Scorpion can be distinguished by size, it is significantly larger.
The Malaysian Forest Scorpion is quite defensive and will readily sting when it feels cornered or in danger. It is similar to the Emperor Scorpion only in looks and not in behavior. They are very aggressive and unlike the Emperor Scorpion, this species is not as likely to settle down in captivity. It can be distinguished from the Emperor in that it is slightly more elongated and its pedipalps and claws are larger and more elongated.
For more information on keeping scorpions, see:
Keeping Arachnids and Other Arthropods as Pets
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Arthropoda
- Class: Arachnida
- Order: Scorpiones
- Family: Scorpionidae
- Genus: Heterometrus
- Species: spinifer
The Malaysian Forest Scorpion Heterometrus spinifer was first described by Ehrenberg in 1828.The Heterometrus genus was originally placed as a subgenus in the genus Buthus. Later it was recognized as its own genus by F. Karsch in 1879, and its genus status has been recently reaffirmed by F. Kovank in 2004. Malaysian Forest Scorpions are found in a wide range over southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, and most imports arrive from Thailand.
The Malaysian Forest Scorpion is also referred to as the Asian Forest Scorpion. Consequently it is often confused with its cousin, the true Asian Forest Scorpion Heterometrus longimanus. But the Malaysian Forest Scorpion is distinguished by size, it is significantly larger. Other common names it is known by are Giant Forest Scorpion and Giant Blue Scorpion.
The Malaysian Forest Scorpion is a large, black scorpion species very similar in appearance to the Emperor Scorpion. It has a shiny, black granulated exoskeleton. The average size of a mature adult is about 6″ (16 cm). They reach sexual maturity at about 4 years in the wild, (though in captivity it can be closer to 1 year) and have an average life span of about 7 to 8 years.
Food and Feeding
This scorpion feeds on large insects such as crickets, locusts and even small mice. Feed large scorpions a diverse diet consisting of adult crickets, grasshoppers, Tenebrio larvae, and only occasional feedings (once or twice a month) of mice. This variety more closely mirrors the diet of this scorpion nature and will keep them healthy.
The Malaysian Forest Scorpion does well under humid conditions. They can be kept in a 2 1/2 to 15-gallon terrarium depending on the number of scorpions. A substrate of damp sand and peat moss with a top layer of cypress mulch, about 3″ deep. Also provide a shallow, wide water dish. A sheet of cork bark or similar shelter should be added to the Malaysian Forest Scorpion’s enclosure.
Temperature and humidity requirements:
This species like it warm and humid. Keep the enclosure maintained at about at 75° – 90 °F with the humidity level at 75 to 80%
A 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.
Typically scorpions are loners, but like the Emperor Scorpions, this scorpion is a bit of an exception. Adults 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.
Use paintbrushes, deli cups, foam-covered tweezers, and coated rubber gloves to move this scorpion as it can potentially give a painful sting. Scorpions are best considered display animals rather than “hands-on” pets.
Scorpion stings are common and involve quite a bit more pain than was expected by victims. Redness, pain, and swelling are reported which in many cases lasted for several days. Several species of Heterometrus have even been known to cause such extreme consequences as paralysis and breathing difficulties.
Females are often bulkier and have thinner pincers than the males. These differences, however, can be subtle. The pectines on the underside of scorpions can be inspected to give the you an idea of their 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.
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.
Malaysian Forest Scorpions are found in large numbers in nature and are thus imported in large numbers. These black scorpions are commonly available as wild-caught specimens from a lot of invertebrate and reptile dealers. Unfortunately to date they have only been produced in captivity a few times.
- 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
- J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson, Spiders, Scorpions, Centipedes, and Mites,.Pergamon Press 1968
- Hugh L Keegan, Scorpions of medical importance,.University Press of Mississippi 1980