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Handling an Emperor scorpion

Thursday, March 20, 2008 | 8 comments

The Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator), is well known for being extremely docile, and easy to handle. Together with being huge, and looking tough, the reason why it's used in quite some movies. Don't be surprised to see this species walk in broad daylight in a Mexican desert while watching a movie even though this scorpion species is native to Africa. The specimen in the following photos was bought in a pet shop in Xalapa, and imported from Ghana, Africa.

Pandinus imperator, adult female (gravid), on my hand.
Pandinus imperator, adult female (gravid), on my hand.

If you own an Emperor scorpion, or have plans of buying one, you might have been considering to handle the scorpion yourself. The best advice I can give: do not handle the scorpion. It causes stress, and you might risk hurting the animal, and yourself. While the Emperor scorpion in general is hesitant to sting you it has less of a problem using it's pedipalps (claws) which are quite powerful.

Close-up of the Emperor scorpion on my hand. Notice the powerful pedipalps (claws).
Close-up of the Emperor scorpion on my hand. Notice the powerful pedipalps (claws).

If you really do want to handle the scorpion, do not do this to show off your coolness to your friends or family. While you are looking at their reactions, your attention drawn away, the scorpion might suddenly make a move and hurt you, or itself. It probably won't survive a drop off your hand down onto the floor.

Moreover, in my opinion, a scorpion should never be lifted up by its tail. That's how the above scorpion was handled in the pet shop, and to me it's wrong. It's also a good way to get stung if you do it with your fingers, instead of a pair of tweezers. The only exception to this I can think of - using a pair of tweezers, not fingers - is when a scorpion is in a place it can't be extracted from in any other possible safe way.

Pandinus imperator resting on my hand.
Pandinus imperator resting on my hand.

If you really insist on handling the scorpion, do this as little as possible. In my experience, the easiest way to pick up a scorpion is to put your hand inside the enclosure, and use an artist paint brush with a long stem (25 cm or more), to guide the scorpion on your hand, either having the animal walk forward or backward on it. The paint brush method also gives an insight in the mood of the scorpion. I don't handle a scorpion if it attacks the brush, or runs away from it.

Never lift the scorpion too high away from any surface. Make sure that if the scorpion manages somehow to get off your hand, and onto a surface, that it can't get away too easily, or drop to the floor. Remember, that even though scorpions are sold as pets, they are not in the strict sense. Only keep scorpions if you can restrict yourself to observing and taking care of it.

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