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Keeping Vinegarones (Whip-Scorpions)

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 17 Feb 2016 | comments*Discuss
 
Vinegarones Scorpions Whip-scorpions

Whip-scorpions are interesting, but little-known, creatures – looking very much like their relatives the true scorpions, but without their venom – defending themselves with a spray of acetic acid (vinegar) from their rears – hence the name of “vinegarone.” Their alternative name, whip-scorpions, comes from their long slender tail – although just to confuse things, in some kinds – such as the aptly named tailless whip scorpion (Daemon variegatus) – this characteristic feature is missing!

Another unusual feature of these animals is the way their first pair of legs have become much longer and thinner than the other three-pairs, allowing them to use them as “feelers” in much the same way as insect species use their antennae.

Although they are not often seen as pets, vinegarones are growing in popularity; most of the ones commonly offered for sale are species of Mastigoproctus but others kinds are also gradually becoming available.

Housing Vinegarones

Vinegarones are nocturnal and surprisingly active, so they need reasonably spacious accommodation to be at their best. All of the 100 or so of the world’s whip-scorpion species come from the tropics or sub-tropics, so your tank will need to have some additional heating, with heat mats being the usual choice. As always it’s important that the mat doesn’t cover all of the floor area, to give the animal a chance to cool down a bit if it begins to get too hot.

Although vinegarones tend to hide during the day, the tank will benefit from lighting, so that the animals can experience a natural day/night cycle. If you want to be able to watch your pets going about their business at night, you might like to try experimenting with black-lights – or even just red light bulbs – which don’t seem to bother them.

Add a good, deep layer of flooring material – the likes of sphagnum moss or shredded cork-bark – to allow them to burrow, a few hiding places and a small, shallow water bowl to complete the set up.

Food And Feeding

Active hunters, vinegarones will eat almost anything they can over-power, which can sometimes include their own kind, so it’s generally thought advisable to keep them separately. In the wild, prey animals include most small insects and other arthropods, along with worms and the occasional slug – so the standard fare of crickets and mealworms is a good standby in captivity, though they’ll benefit from a few wild-caught offerings from your garden too.

Since unlike their relatives, the spiders and scorpions, vinegarones lack poison, prey is ambushed, grabbed in the animals impressive-looking pedipalps (pincer-like mouth-parts) and then crushed.

Handling Vinegarones

The general opinion on handling vinegarones seems to be that they are fairly docile, but rather easily spooked – so you should only handle them if you feel confident to do so. If they do become distressed, their first defence seems to be to try to flee – and their second to use the vinegar spray that gives them their name. If you do try to handle your whip-scorpions, be gentle, not least because they can also use their pedipalps to deliver a sharp and painful pinch – especially if the animal in question happens to be the five-inch (12.5cm) long Mastigoproctus giganteus!

Possibly one of the strangest creatures you’re ever likely to encounter, the vinegarone makes a good pet and while its looks may not be to everyone’s taste, if a whip-scorpion appeals, you’ll be hard pushed to find a more interesting or unusual animal to keep.

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Are there any books about whip scorpions or rhinestones I can get so I can see how one is keptand find out how much it costs to set up and buy one. Since they were used in Harry potter I've been fascinated. I don't like spiders they freak me but these I just love.
Andy - 17-Feb-16 @ 5:39 AM
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