Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

African Emperor Scorpion

(Pandinus imperator)

Habitat and Distribution:  Found in leaf litter, stream banks, and termite mounds in tropical rainforests of West Africa.

Size:  Up to 8 inches long; up to 1 ounce

Wild Diet: Insects (especially termites), other scorpions, and occasionally small vertebrates

Predators:  Birds, bats, large spiders, small mammals, lizards, centipedes, parasitic wasps, other scorpions, and humans

Lifespan: Unknown in the wild; 5-8 years in zoos

Reproduction: African emperor scorpions are sexually mature at about 3years and conduct elaborate courtship rituals. After a 9-18 month gestation (depending on temperature and food availability), an average of 12 “scorplings” are born live--meaning that the species is viviparous. The mother scorpion provides food, protection, and a ride on her back until the scorplings are large enough to fend for themselves.

Behavior: African emperor scorpions are nocturnal and social, gathering in colonial burrows in groups of up to 15 individuals. To feed, juveniles grip prey with pincers and then strike with the stinger, but adults tend to use only their pincers. Their venom is mild (to a human it is less painful than a bee sting). When prey has been secured, the scorpion secretes digestive enzymes to pre-digest its food before consuming the liquefied parts.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

The biggest threats to African emperor scorpions are habitat loss and the pet industry. They may be threatened with extinction if trading is not controlled.

Did you know?

  • Offspring are born white and become darker with each molt. Adults are usually glossy black but may be dark brown or green; their stingers and claws can have a reddish color.
  • Like some other arthropods, the female may consume the male after mating.
  • Their eyesight is very poor and other senses highly developed. They use adaptations like body hairs and pectines (comb-like sensory structures) to gather information about their surroundings.
  • Scorpions are not insects. They are arachnids, a large group of animals including spiders, ticks, and mites.
  • They are the largest type of scorpion, out of 1,752 scorpion species!
  • African emperor scorpions glow under a blacklight. Some speculate that this fluorescence attracts insect prey.