Page 1 of 4 | © 2005-2010 text by Eric Ythier & Michael Jacobi, photos by Eric Ythier
The following article was published in early 2005 in ARACHNOCULTURE 1(3) and has not been edited or updated for this E-Zine version.
A number of dangerously venomous scorpions of the family Buthidae have been distributed through the pet trade. Although these arachnids should be kept only by highly experienced keepers using locked escape-proof cages, a disturbing number find their way to local pet shops that typically have no idea of the potential danger and liability these scorpions present. As a dealer, the junior author refuses the sale of buthid scorpions at his discretion, which generally means turning away nine of ten inquiries received. There are experienced arachnoculturists who have the safe husbandry skills required to enjoy and study these fascinating scorpions. These keepers have a healthy respect for the scorpions, house them securely, and find them interesting in their own right, not solely because of their venom toxicity.
Twenty of the twenty-eight currently recognized species of Parabuthus are found in southern Africa. The remaining species occur in northeastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The genus contains the largest members of the family Buthidae—a family that is comprised of the most dangerously venomous scorpions. Some Parabuthus species are popularly called "spitting scorpions" because of their ability to flick prevenom with a movement of the tail. This prevenom does not have an identical composition as the primary venom injected by sting (Inceoglu et al., 2003). These scorpions are adapted for a fossorial life in arid regions and the specific substrate upon which they live. Some possess sand combs–comb-like rows of macrosetae on the retrolateral margin of the basitarsi of Leg I and Leg II–that are used to scrape away substrate or debris. The metasoma ['tail'] is used to loosen soil.
Here we focus on the three species that are most prevalent in arachnoculture: Parabuthus mossambicensis and P. transvaalicus from southern Africa, and P. liosoma from eastern and northeastern Africa and the Arabian peninsula.
Distribution: Wide ranging; from Yemen and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East south through northeastern Africa (Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia) as far as Kenya and Tanzania.
Description: Up to 2.8 in [70 mm] in total length. Yellowish to reddish-brown with terminal two metasoma segments dark brown to black.
Habits: Adaptable to arid and semi-arid habitats from desert scrub to savannah and grasslands. Hides beneath rock and debris instead of digging its own burrow.
Remarks: This species does not have the ability to squirt venom.