John Bokma MexIT
freelance Perl programmer

Alice holding a scorpion on her hand

Sunday, June 20, 2010 | 1 comment

In the afternoon I carefully lifted a juvenile emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator, born over a year ago) out of its enclosure and carefully put the small animal on Alice's outstretched hand. She has held other animals before, however never a scorpion, but was OK with having it on her hand. She knows that a scorpion can sting and pinch, but also she has learned to trust me that if (and only if) I say its OK to hold an animal nothing will happen.

Alice holding a juvenile Pandinus imperator (Emperor scorpion).
Alice holding a juvenile Pandinus imperator (Emperor scorpion). (large)

Shortly after I had put the scorpion back in its enclosure with his siblings I told Esme that Alice has been holding her first scorpion and if she could help me out so I could take a photo of Alice holding another one.

So I carefully lifted another, little larger, scorpion out of the enclosure, and carefully put it on Alice's hand. Alice was quite relaxed with the juvenile Emperor walking on her hand, but when it started to climb up her arm she got a little afraid, so I transferred the young one to my hand and moved it back to its enclosure.

Isn't holding a scorpion dangerous!?

In case you are wondering if this is dangerous; first this species is known to be very docile, especially when bred in captivity like the ones Alice handled. It's the major reason why when you see a scorpion in a movie it is most likely this species, Pandinus imperator, whether they run in broad daylight in an American desert, or crawl out of every opening in buildings or caves in the Middle East, killing people. That in reality this species doesn't live in buildings nor caves and certainly doesn't walk around in a desert in broad daylight doesn't bother film makers too much; it's Hollywood, after all.

Second, this species prefers to use the powerful claws it has over its stinger. While it's often considered a rule of the thumb that large claws imply weak venom and vice versa, there are exceptions to this rule. But the sting of Pandinus imperator is no exception and is weak, comparable to that of a bee. Note that this doesn't make holding this scorpion safe; one can be allergic to its sting, like one can be allergic to the sting of a bee or wasp.

So in short: this was a supervised handling of a very low risk scorpion. And the risk was most likely comparable to a Alice paying a visit to a beekeeper, or even playing in a garden with flowers.

Should you handle a scorpion?

While I do handle my scorpions now and then, even the ones which have a more painful sting (but still not medical signifcant) I don't recommend in general to handle scorpions. Especially not when it might scare people who are near. Even if you don't drop the scorpion, getting pinched or stung might result in a sudden move and hurt other people and/or the scorpion. On top of that, lifting a scorpion out of its enclosure is stressful for the animal.


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