This arachnid is one of the largest species of scorpion in the world, with adults averaging up to 8 inches in length. Its segmented body is divided into: the head section covered with a uniform dorsal plate containing a large pair of eyes medially and a few smaller lateral eyes; the thorax which has four segments each with a pair of walking legs; and the abdomen of six segments which taper to a single sharp spine at the end with a small opening supplied by two venom glands. The chelericerae (pincerlike claws) are similar to those of a lobster.
GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
Tropical rainforests of West Africa.
In the wild they feed primarily on termites. In captivity they will feed on crickets, cockroaches and mealworms.
LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Nocturnal and solitary. They live in crevices under rocks or burrows which have been dug with the first or first two pairs of legs. They are timid and reclusive, only venturing out of their burrow to hunt. In the"courtship dance" the male grasps the female's claws, leads her to a suitable place where he deposits his spermatophore, and then maneuvers her over it so she can take up the spermatophore with her cloaca. Like all scorpions, the female gives birth to live young. Gestation can last 9 to 18 months, depending on temperature and food resources, until an average of 12 young are born. Their mother defends them and kills prey for them. The "scorplings" ride on her back and as they molt and grow, they begin to venture off to hunt, returning only when frightened. Eventually they become independent and go off on their own. Life span in captivity is 5-8 years, probably less in the wild.
Venom is only used in hunting when the prey is relatively large or struggles too violently; usually prey is killed by tearing and crushing with their powerful claws. When frightened the scorpion will run, but if cornered it will threat posture, which consists of holding the claws up and open and arching the tail and stinger over its back. It will use the stinger in defense. The emperor's venom is mild and is less painful than a bee sting to a human. However a pinch with its claws is quite painful.
Because of its large size and its docility, the Emperor Scorpion has been used in movies such as "The Mummy" and "The Scorpion King". In their native land, emperors are used for food by some natives. They are also captured for the pet trade, or killed for use in the tourist industry, tribal rituals, and homeopathic remedies both in and outside of Africa. There are around 650 species of scorpions in the world. Although the United States has about 40 species of scorpions, only two have venom which can be fatal. (A problem is that many scorpions have a habit of living in human dwellings, crawling into beds, furniture and shoes.) Even so, in the United States and Mexico it is estimated that more people are killed by scorpions than by snakes.
STATUS IN WILD:
This scorpion's size, life span and low toxicity make it the most popular scorpion in the pet trade and thus over collecting in the wild has caused it to be listed on CITES as threatened with extinction.