When choosing a pet scorpion, the first thing to decide is which species would suit you best. Then consider the gender differences. Some scorpions prefer to fight or sting when they feel threatened, while others run for shelter. How aggressive a scorpion will be depends mainly on species. But, as with other arachnids, such as tarantulas, gender also has a role in determining a scorpion’s personality and behavior.
With a few notable exceptions, most scorpions aren’t actually that dangerous: The worst most can do to a healthy adult who doesn't have allergy issues is about the same as a wasp sting -- a painful lump that will last a couple of days. When selecting a scorpion, take both potency of venom and likelihood of attacking into consideration. About 2,000 species of scorpions exist, but only a few regularly appear in the pet trade. Among the most peaceful, and least venomous, of these is the widely available emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator). Scorpions from the genera Hadrurus and Bothriurus, on the other hand, tend to be fairly aggressive and do not make suitable pets for beginners or any household with children.
Emperor scorpions and others have complex courtship rituals, with the males engaging in a range of behaviors before they get down to business. This doesn’t always guarantee a happily-ever-after -- female scorpions sometimes eat their mates, although this is most likely when resources are scarce, not when food is ample. Later, the female will give birth to live young, which she carries on her back for a while. A scorpion with lots of little scorpions on her back back is definitely a female -- approach with caution.
In a trait far from unique to scorpions, the females tend to be more defensive than males, especially when they are carrying young. If you have a female scorpion complete with brood of any species, including the normally quiet emperor scorpion, take extra care when feeding and cleaning the tank. She might normally hide or do nothing when you carry out these chores, but with babies to protect, she’s more likely to sting. If you do not usually wear tough gloves when caring for your pet, this would be a good time to start.
The visible gender differences between male and female scorpions are often extremely subtle. For example, the most reliable way to sex an emperor scorpion is to examine the pectines -- feathery appendages -- on the underside of the scorpion. Those of females are much broader and set further apart. The older the scorpion, the clearer the difference becomes. It can be difficult for anybody, but especially a novice, to determine the gender of a young scorpion.
Hemera Technologies/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.