Keeping Androctonus sp. in Captivity – July 2013

By Anthony Neubauer

Androctonus is the genus that contains the commonly called Fat Tail Scorpions. As the name suggests, these scorpions have an enlarged tail that allows them to possess more of their already toxic venom. They are recognized as some of the world’s most dangerous scorpions, and this should be kept in mind when choosing housing and while performing cage maintenance. The two most commonly available species in the U.S. hobby are the Yellow Fat Tail, Androctonus australis, and the Black Fat Tail, Androctonus bicolor. The care for each one is nearly identical as they are both naturally found throughout Africa and the Middle East.

Scorpions naturally have a slow metabolism, as they spend much of their time in burrows and under rocks. Because of this, they don’t require too large of an enclosure. However, they love to burrow and rearrange their cage, so one that allows burrowing is preferred. A cage size similar to a 5-10 gallon tank will be plenty large enough. The 12x12x12 glass reptile tanks offered by Exo Terra and Zoo Med make perfect and secure environments for these scorpions, as a lock can be purchased for added security. Since they are a desert dwelling species, a substrate that is dry and does not retain humidity is a must. I personally use a half-and-half mix of Zoo Med ReptiSand and Excavator clay. This allows your scorpions to dig and burrow as they would in the wild. Sand can also be used by itself, though you will want to offer more places to hide, such as flat rocks and wood. As for temperature, 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. This can be achieved by placing a low wattage heat lamp on top, or a heat pad stuck to the side.  No special lighting is required as scorpions are nocturnal. They should be offered one or two appropriately sized crickets or roaches per week. A small water bowl can be offered, or the cage can be sprayed very lightly once or twice a month. They don’t require a lot of water because they get most of it from their food.

All in all, they are an easy-to-keep pet that doesn’t require daily care. If provided with a red nightlight, they can be seen throughout the night digging and rearranging their decor. However, they are a highly venomous animal that should be treated with respect. Their toxicity matched with their defensive personalities makes them a species that should only be kept by the more advanced and responsible hobbyist. Long tongs or hemostats should be purchased for performing maintenance, and under no circumstance should they be handled. If you’ve owned a lot of other scorpions and are ready to take it to the next level, then the Androctonus genus may be a good addition to your collection.

Bark Scorpions (Centruroides)

Bark Scorpions

By Dean Gramcko

Bark scorpions are a unique and fascinating group of scorpions indigenous to the Americas that are ideally suited to captive care in the vivarium. In America, the term Bark scorpion commonly denotes members of the genus Centruroides, a genus of Buthidae with between 70 and 80 species (different authorities disagree on certain species status). The genus Centuroides is an American taxon spanning the United States, Mexico, and Central America with established populations in South America and the West Indies, and smaller introduced populations in Africa.

The species of this genus are non-burrowing and hide among leaf litter, under stones or wood, among dead or living vegetation, or in the folds of plants or tree bark. Many species find their way into human habitations in their native areas. They are light bodied and agile,0 and able to climb vertical surfaces or cling upside down to rough surfaces as they walk.  A number of Centruroides species have very potent venom. Due to their defensive nature and frequent encounters with humans some Centruroides species are responsible for numerous deaths or dangerous envenomations in their native countries. C. exilicauda, C. sculpturatus, C. limpidus, C. noxius, and  C. suffusus all possess venom documented as having caused humans deaths, other species within the genus may possess medically significant venom. Many species within the genus possess venom capable of inflicting strong pain, but are not considered to have particularly toxic venom. Any species of Centruroides must be kept in an escape proof cage. A tight fitting lid is a must for any enclosure, as small gaps between lids and enclosures can provide perfect opportunities for escape. Some keepers apply a band of petrolium jelly around the upper lip of  the cage to help prevent young or small specimens from escaping.

Bark scorpions, like many Buthids, have a relatively short life cycle when compared to many other species. Specimens of C. guanensis may reach maturity in as little as 6 months, (most groups of scorpions take at least 1 to 2 years to mature, some species take much longer). They, as a group, are generally short lived with reported lifespans of between 1 year (C. insulanus) and over 4 years (C. gracilis). Most species within the genus Centuroides do not have established longevity records, but with maturation taking up to 3 or 4 years in C. vittatus, it is not unlikely that some specimens within the genus might live 6 years or more.

Bark scorpions are well suited to life in a vivarium. They are small in size (many measure less than 3” in length) and are one of few types of scorpions that can be housed communally with minimal chances of cannibalism. They are active hunters and as they do not burrow they are an ideal species to observe in the evenings. Most Centruroides species kept in captivity have proven to be prolific, and usually if males and females are housed together under proper conditions for long enough they will produce offspring. Bark scorpions are iteroparous and may give birth to between 1 and 4 clutches after a single mating, 2 probably being about average.

Bark Scorpion Tank

3 commonly available species are:

Centruroides sculpturatus: commonly called the Arizona Bark Scorpion, C. sculpturatus is generally considered to have the most potent venom of any U.S. scorpion, and while deaths are rare, it is the only U.S. scorpion that is well documented as having caused deaths not related to allergic reactions. It was formerly considered to be the same species as C. exilicauda, a Mexican species of bark scorpion now considered to be a separate species.

Centruroides vittatus: commonly called the Texas Bark Scorpion or Striped Bark Scorpion,  this is a distinctively marked species that is frequently available and common in the U.S.

Centruroides gracilis: This scorpion likely hails from Central America originally but has well established populations in Florida in the United States as well as Islands in the Caribbean. It is among the largest bark scorpions with adults measuring from between 4 and 6 inches.

Most species of bark scorpions kept in captivity do well under relatively similar conditions with varying temperature and humidity depending on species. Most specimens will thrive in a terrarium when given stacks of cork bark or stones to hide under. Care should be taken to ensure that cage furnishings will not shift and crush any scorpions. Live plants such as bromeliads or non-spiny succulents can improve the look of the enclosure (any plant used should be identified and researched to ensure it doesn’t present a threat to the scorpion), and provide hiding places for the scorpions. Water should be provided to any species at all times in a dish shallow enough to ensure scorpions do not become trapped and drown. Adding gravel to smooth bottomed dishes can help to guard against drowning. Most bark scorpion do well under similar temperature ranges (75 – 87 Fahrenheit). Most species do not require high humidity levels. Misting the enclosure lightly once weekly or bi-weekly depending on species is recommended.

Baby bark scorpions can be housed either in the larger enclosure with the adults, (though adult scorpions may sometimes cannibalize the young) or separated and raised up in small deli cups. The author prefers individual deli cups as it allows more precise control of temperature and humidity and eliminates any chance of predation from larger cagemates. Juvenile bark  scorpions development is measured most commonly with the term “instar” (referring to the stage of development present between two molts).

A newborn scorpion is termed “1st instar”. Upon completion of it’s 1st molt it is considered “2nd instar”.  The precise number of molts preceding adulthood varies between species and sometimes between genders of the same species. Generally bark scorpions seem to mature at around their 6th or 7th molt which for most Centruroides species occurs within 1 or 2 years (though some species may take much longer).

Their semi-arboreal nature, ability to live communally, and their readiness to reproduce in captivity make this group of scorpions fascinating to keep and an ideal candidate for observation in a vivarium. While the lifespan of individual scorpions are relatively short, these communal scorpions can be set up in large breeding colonies that will bring satisfaction to their keeper for years.

References:

Francke, O.F.  & Jones, S.K., 1982. The Life History of Centruroides Gracilis (Scorpiones, Buthidae). The Journal of Arachnology, Vol. 10, pp. 223 – 239.

Polis, G. & Sissom, W.D., 1990. Life History. In G. Polis (Ed.), Biology of Scorpions (pp. 161 – 223). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Rein, J.O. & Teruel, R., 2012. The Scorpion Files. Retrieved from http://www.ntnu.no/ub/scorpionfiles/c_gracilis.php

Sissom, W. D., 1980. Life Histories of Two North American Scorpions: Centruroides vittatus (Say) (Buthidae) and Vaejovis bilineatus Pockock (Vaejovidae). Masters dissertation. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX.

Stahnke, H.L., 1971. Some Observations of the Genus Centruroides Marx (Buthidae, Scorpionida) and C. Sculpturatus Ewing. Entomological News, Vol. 82, pp. 281 – 307.

Stahnke, H.L. & Calos, M., 1977. A Key to the Species of the Genus Centruroides Marx (Scorpionida: Buthidae). Entomological News, Vol. 88,  pp. 111 -120.

Entomological Etymology – Correction

ENTOMOLOGICAL ETYMOLOGY

CORRECTION
By Kevin Scott

In the last issue of The Reptile Times, the spiders belonging to the genus Poecilotheria were erroneously referred to as ornamental baboon spiders. Baboon spiders belong to Harpactirinae, a subfamily of Theraphosidae(tarantulas) from Africa. This subfamily was first set up by Reginald Pocock in 1897 to include species in the genera Ceratogyrus and Pterinochilus [1].  The accepted common name for the Poecilotheria genus is simply “ornamental spiders,” excluding the word ‘baboon.’ The scientific names used in the last issue were correct as of the date published.correction

NOMENCLATURE

In the world of invertebrates, it is particularly important to use correct nomenclature in order to avoid uncertainty with respect to a species’ identity. Stanley and Marguerite Schultz claim that the nomenclature of tarantulas “can euphemistically be described as confused,” in their book The Tarantula Keeper’s Guide. Much of the confusion stems from misidentification during importation as well as the misuse and misspelling of names. I generally prefer to use the scientific names of spiders to avoid confusion, but even so, there can be some uncertainty in terms of the most common revision of classification.

COMMON DESCRIPTORS

One problem with common names is that they are often descriptive, and could in principle apply to several species. For example, Nhandu coloratovillosum is commonly referred to as the Brazilian black and white tarantula. Acanthoscurria geniculata is also a tarantula from Brazil that has black and white coloration, but the common name for this one is Brazilian giant white knee. Furthermore, although these two species are far from identical in appearance, to someone with little or no knowledge about tarantulas, they can appear similar to one another, especially as spiderlings.FINAL NOTES

In all fields of science, nothing is 100% exact, and taxonomy is good example of this [2]. Scientists often argue about the classification about species and whole genera are taken apart and reassembled based on new information all the time. Advances in genetic analysis allow us to take a closer look at the relationship between life forms, often with surprising results. Because we live in a world where things are constantly changing, where ranges of inhabitance overlap, and where interspecies breeding can occur, the field of taxonomy will probably continue to change indefinitely. In addition, even within a species differences in physiology can be seen. With a conscious effort to use correct nomenclature we can all remove a portion of the error, at least where science and hobby overlap.

[1] For more information on baboon spider taxonomy and descriptions, see www.BaboonSpiders.de

[2] For more information see Robson, G. C. (1928). The Species Problem: an Introduction to the Study of Evolutionary Divergence in Natural Populations. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd.