Like many other kinds of scorpions, Arizona bark scorpions (Centruroides sculpturatus and Centruroides exilicauda) have become more and more well-liked as exotic pets in recent years. These scorpions can be a fascinating addition to any collection of arachnids due to their distinctive appearance and intriguing activity.
However, it is crucial to comprehend the dangers and obligations of ownership before deciding to keep an Arizona bark scorpion as a pet. They are highly venomous, so these animals can be really dangerous to humans.
In this article, I will examine the biology, habitat, behavior, and care needs of the Arizona bark scorpion in this article, as well as any possible risks involved with keeping one as a pet.
Quick Notes about Arizona Bark Scorpion
|Name||Arizona bark scorpion|
|Scientific Name||Centruroides sculpturatus and Centruroides exilicauda|
|Tank size (minimum)||10 gallon (~40 liters)|
|Average size||2 – 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm)|
|Optimal Temperature||75 – 85°F (24 – 30°C)|
|Water type||Freshwater bowl|
|Moisture||30 – 40 %|
|Life span||up to 7years|
|Color Form||Yellow to light brown or tan body|
Taxonomy of Arizona Bark Scorpion
Scorpions of the family Buthidae comprise approximately 529 species, divided into 73 genera, from which only five are dangerous to humans, but are worldwide spread. One of them, the genus Centruroides, is found in Mexico and Central America as well as the southern United States.
In 1928, Ewing, Henry E. described Centruroides sculpturatus.
In 1980, Stanley C. Williams considered Centruroides sculpturatus as a junior synonym and representative of a northern population of Centruroides exilicauda because there were no significant differences in morphology.
In 2004, Norma A. Valdez-Cruz (based largely on the chemical makeup of venom) concluded that C. exilicauda and C. sculpturatus are in fact two distinct species of scorpions.
Note: In addition, the distribution of these two species may overlap, but they do not fully coincide. Centruroides exilicauda is found exclusively in the Baja California Peninsula.
|Despite being recognized as two separate species, Centruroides sculpturatus and Centruroides exilicauda scorpions still share the same common name – Arizona bark scorpion.|
Etymology Centruroides Sculpturatus
The genus name “Centruroides” comes from the Greek words “Kentron”, meaning “Stinger or sharp point’ and ‘Oura’, meaning ‘Tail’, which refers to the scorpion’s distinctive stinger tail.
The word ‘Sculpturatus’ has Greek-Latin roots, ‘Sculptura’ meaning ‘Sculpture or carving’, and refers to the intricate patterns and textures on the scorpion’s exoskeleton.
Basically, the scientific name Centruroides sculpturatus can be translated as “sculptured stinger tail.”
Note: As for Centruroides exilicauda, the specific name ‘Exilicauda’ means ‘Slender tail’.
Distribution of Arizona Bark Scorpion
Centruroides sculpturatus is widely distributed in the United States (Arizona, California (southeastern border), Nevada (southern border), New Mexico (western border), and Utah) and along the border with the Mexican state of Sonora.
Centruroides exilicauda is endemic to the Baja California Peninsula, which extends from the southern border of California in the United States to the northern border of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. Within this range, the distribution of Centruroides exilicauda is limited to the western side of the peninsula and extends as far north as the vicinity of Ensenada.
Habitat of Arizona Bark Scorpion
In nature, Arizona bark scorpions dwell in various arid and semiarid regions but prefer moist and cool riparian habitats.
They can be found in a range of habitats, from desert scrublands to rocky canyons, mountain foothills, and riparian habitats.
These scorpions are known to take shelter in crevices, fallen vegetation, under rocks, and in other protected areas.
Unfortunately, Arizona bark scorpions have also been known to seek shelter in human dwellings as well.
Description of Arizona Bark Scorpion
The Arizona bark scorpions are relatively small species of scorpions. Full grown adults typically measure between 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm) in length.
It has a slender, elongated body with eight legs and two large pincers or claws at the front. The body is divided into two main segments: the cephalothorax (head and thorax) and the abdomen, which ends in a curved tail with a stinger.
- Sternum. The sternum of the prosoma is distinctly narrowed anteriorly, shaped like an isosceles triangle;
- Color. The base color of the body is pale to golden-yellow or tan body with or without one pair of dusky to dark longitudinal stripes on the mesosomal dorsum. The interocular region with or without dusky triangular marking; space between ventromedian keels of metasoma generally with more or less distinct dusky pigmentation.
- Pectine teeth. Pectine teeth 18-26 in females, 19-31 in males; pectine basal plate of female lacking deep pit, sometimes with broad shallow depression.
- Metasoma. Metasoma with keels is distinctly developed and crenular; each segment longer than wide.
- Tergites. The tergites are sparsely hirsute and are densely covered with fine to moderately large granules.
- Telson. Telson with elongate, well-curved aculeus; subaculear tubercule absent or reduced in most mature individuals, more developed in juveniles.
- Pedipalps. The pedipalp fingers are long and slender with numerous supernumerary granules flanking primary-row denticles along both sides. The pedipalp tarsus is moderately covered with short, somewhat stubby bristles.
Interesting fact: Arizona bark scorpions have specialized sensory organs on their legs and body that allows them to detect vibrations and movements in their environment, which they use to locate prey and avoid predators.
If you need a more detailed and scientific description of Centruroides sculpturatus, you can read about it in this study here and about Centruroides exilicauda here.
Lifespan of Arizona Bark Scorpions
At present, there is a lack of scientific data regarding the maximum lifespan of both Centruroides sculpturatus and Centruroides exilicauda in the wild.
However, in captivity, they can live up to 5-7 years or more under optimal conditions.
Typical Behavior of Arizona Bark Scorpions
Nocturnal: Arizona bark scorpions are primarily nocturnal and are most active at night. During the day, they usually seek shelter in cool, dark places such as under rocks, in or around trees, on the underside of bark, in small cracks and crevices, or in man-made structures like homes and buildings.
Note: Layers of wax on its exoskeleton make it resistant to water loss.
Non-burrowers: Arizona bark scorpions do not burrow. Although apparently equipped morphologically like other scorpions they seem to have lost the ability to burrow.
Climbers: These scorpions have an amazing ability to climb on almost any object with a sufficiently rough surface. Additionally, they can squeeze into very narrow crevices. For example, if you can fit a small key into a gap (about 1/16 of an inch or 1.5 mm), it is likely that these scorpions can also fit through it.
Interesting fact: Arizona bark scorpions even molt on a vertical surface. They also exhibit negative geotaxis, a behavior in which they prefer to be upside down, which can lead to people being stung unknowingly when the scorpions are hidden underneath an object.
Solitary but social: Although Arizona bark scorpions are solitary creatures, adults can be often found in groups, especially during the winter season. For example, Centruroides sculpturatus is known to live, move, and hibernate in groups of up to 40 individuals (in a big pile). No aggression issues or fighting.
Interesting fact: This species appears to discriminate between conspecifics and heterospecifics and avoid preying upon conspecifics. Behaviors of adults toward juvenile conspecifics are similar to interactions between adults, whereas hetero specifics were often captured and eaten.
Semi-aggressive: These scorpions generally try to avoid contact whenever possible. They do not attack unless you pose an immediate threat to them (for example, grabbing their tail or pinning them down).
In such situations, Arizona bark scorpions sting in self-defense and exhibit heightened aggression, often attempting to sting their target multiple times. So, always check your shoes before putting them on, or walking barefoot in scorpion-infested areas.
Active and ambush predators: In the wild, active search by scorpions is considered rare and active search in vegetation has rarely been observed, but these species were observed to be active foragers and ambush predators as well.
Arizona bark scorpions are very fast animals, especially males, and can easily target, chase and grab prey using their pedipalps.
Not shy: In the enclosure, they can be often seen wandering around. This is normal behavior for them. They are not shy species compared to many scorpion species. Nonetheless, they have all got their own personalities.
- Communal: Yes
- Activity: Medium
- Peaceful: Semi-aggressive
- Venomous: Yes (very)
Venom of Arizona Bark Scorpions
Arizona bark scorpions are the most venomous scorpions in North America. It is estimated that some 2, 500 persons annually are stung by scorpions in Arizona. The good news though is that there have only been 2 deaths since 1968.
|As mentioned earlier, the term “Arizona bark scorpions” refers to two species: Centruroides sculpturatus and Centruroides exilicauda. However, studies have demonstrated that the venom of Centruroides sculpturatus is more potent and more dangerous to humans, especially, children and the elderly.|
The clinical manifestations can differ based on the person’s age, general health condition, and the amount of venom injected. Generally, symptoms can last up to 24-72 hours and may include:
- neuromuscular agitation (100 %);
- opsoclonus (97 %);
- hypersalivation (81 %);
- tachycardia (82 %);
- hypertension (49 %);
- vomiting (38 %);
- fever (28 %);
- respiratory distress (33 %); and
- hypoxia (18 %).
Envenomation often results in an immediate sharp burning pain followed by numbness. Wounds can produce some regional lymph node swelling, ecchymosis, paresthesia, and lymphangitis.
|DO NOT allow children to touch Arizona bark scorpions!|
According to the study, envenomation by these scorpions can be life-threatening. While adults appear to be stung more often than children, children are more likely to develop a severe illness requiring intensive supportive care.
Basic first aid measures can be used to help mediate Arizona bark scorpion stings:
- Clean sting site with soap and water
- Apply a cool compress (cool cloth)
- Take acetaminophen (paracetamol) or ibuprofen for local pain and swelling
Arizona poison control centers suggest immediate medical attention if severe symptoms occur, particularly in young children.
Diet of Arizona Bark Scorpions
In nature, Arizona bark scorpions are known to feed on several species of invertebrates (e.g., spiders, cockroaches, crickets, centipedes, small sulfugids, and other scorpion species as well as any other insects they find).
These scorpions do not have strong and powerful pincers and relies mostly on its venom for hunting. It was observed that Arizona bark scorpions can kill the prey item nearly twice its length. However, if the prey is small or non-struggling, it can be subdued and consumed without envenomation.
- They have poor eyesight but hunt at night using tiny hairs on their body to sense vibrations and movement.
- Unlike many other scorpion species, they have been observed exhibiting both active and ambush foraging behaviors.
In the terrarium, the acceptable food items include:
- dubia roaches,
- red runner roaches,
- worms, etc.
How Often to Feed Arizona Bark Scorpions?
Adults can be fed once a week. Young scorpions should be fed at an interval of 3–4 days.
Do not worry, if your scorpions do not eat. Actually, they may not even eat every month! Thus, try again in a week.
Some Feeding Tips
- Time. Arizona bark scorpions are nocturnal animals. Therefore, it is highly recommended to feed them at night (at least in the evening). Therefore, by doing so, you will replicate the conditions and environment under which they eat naturally.
- Prey size. It is absolutely important that prey be smaller than the scorpions to ensure that they can grab it easily with their claws. For example, if you give a cricket, it should be approximately 1/3 of the body mass of the scorpion.
- Prey activity. Do not give them prey that will burrow, jump or fly around their enclosure. For example, remove the wings, chop the forelimbs, break the legs, or squash the head so that they wiggle and are easily accessible to the scorpions.
- Check the hiding spots. Keep in mind that scorpions often drag and store food in their hiding spots for later consumption. Check them from time to time to prevent any mold, mites, or bacterial contaminations. If it is not eaten in 2 days, remove it.
- Refuses to eat. Do not leave the live food in the enclosure. If your scorpion does not want to eat you need to remove it the next day.
|Important: Large prey may harm the scorpion. In captivity, you should never give them prey that can fight back aggressively.|
Keeping and Housing Arizona Bark Scorpions
Arizona bark scorpions require specific environmental conditions to thrive, including a warm and dry habitat with appropriate hiding places and substrate. Depending on your location, maintaining these conditions and thus keeping them as pets, can be either very easy or difficult.
To begin with, selecting an enclosure that can maintain adequate levels of heat and humidity is crucial for housing scorpions. There are 3 main choices available to achieve this.
First of all, you will need to choose an enclosure that provides the appropriate levels of heat and humidity for these scorpions. There are several options here.
1. Plastic container (Recommended)
|Cheap.||Plastic is not the most ecological material, especially in hot temperatures.|
|Good for ventilation.||Not aesthetically pleasing|
Note: Even if there are no holes in the container, we can easily do those ourselves. Drill a few small holes on two opposite sides of the walls (closer to the base and closer to the upper edge).
2. Terrarium (Second best option)
|It is made of ecological materials.||Some models have problems with ventilation|
|Looks very nice||High cost and weight|
3. Aquarium (so-so)
|It is made of ecological material (glass)||There can be problems with the ventilation|
|Very easy to buy||Fragile|
Due to their small size, these scorpions can be kept in a tank as small as 3 gallons (12 liters), but only if the setup allows for the necessary temperature and humidity to be created and maintained. Otherwise, a larger tank will be required to accommodate heat mats and other equipment needed to create the appropriate environment.
Additionally, Arizona bark scorpions need a vertical climbing space 2-3 times taller than they are long for molting.
|IMPORTANT: It Is CRUCIAL to ensure that the tank has a secure lid to prevent the scorpions from escaping! Arizona bark scorpions are ETREMELY GOOD AT CLIMBING, they can easily squeeze themselves through tiny cracks and crevices.|
Arizona bark scorpions prefer temperatures between 75 – 95°F (24 – 35°C). However, they will also survive freezing temperatures without issue. During the winter, when temperatures significantly drop, these scorpions gather together and enter a state of dormancy, or hibernation.
To keep a temperature steady, heat sources like heat lamps or heating pads can be used.
- Keep the heat lamp only on one side, not the middle.
- The best (safest) option will be to put the heater to the side of the tank. If you use an under the tank heater, it can overheat your substrate and burn or kill molting scorpion there.
Although Arizona bark scorpions can tolerate very low humidity levels (<15), they still prefer a humidity level between 30 and 40%.
Note: This is one of the reasons why these scorpions are often found near swimming pools, hiding in damp towels or clothing.
At the same time, you need to keep in mind that high humidity may cause fungal infections (mycosis – black patches). This is also one of the main reasons why people fail to keep these scorpions, especially little scorplings, in captivity.
Although Arizona bark scorpions primarily obtain their hydration from prey items, it is still recommended to provide a water source for them.
There is no need for anything large. Even a small plastic bottle cap will be enough. Fill it 1-2 times a month and let it evaporate dry.
Note: Water dish does not cause mycosis, only high humidity does.
No special requirement.
Arizona bark scorpions don’t burrow, so they don’t need special substrate. Basically, you can use anything (sand, soil, gravel, clay, etc.).
No special requirements.
Arizona bark scorpions are nocturnal. Thus, ambient light will be enough.
|UV lighting warning: Like other scorpions, they give off an amazing fluorescent bluish-green appearance under UV light (‘Blacklight’). Therefore, people often use this kind of lighting.
This is wrong.
It has also been reported that UV lighting is not completely safe for scorpions.
If scorpions were kept under a constant UV source, fluorescence disappears in about 2 weeks. Fluorescence reappears if the scorpion is removed from UV. This fact suggests that the substance responsible for fluorescence is UV sensitive and breaks into components that are not fluorescent. Secondly, this suggests that there is a constant production of the substance in the cuticle as a secretion (it may be a metabolic product of some physiological process) property of the cuticle.
It can cause damage to the outer layers of their exoskeleton (eventually, causing molting problems).
UV light can be used only for short periods of time or as an option to make the environment safe in the house while there is a scorpion living. It can help in locating the scorpion if it escapes its cage.
Decorations and Hiding places:
All decorations used in the terrarium with Arizona bark scorpions should serve one purpose – to provide as much hiding space as possible.
Considering that these species love to crawl into various cracks and crevices, and the fact that they prefer to molt on almost vertical surfaces, the need for decorations and hiding places is particularly important.
Examples of Tank Equipment
Handling Desert Hairy Scorpion
Arizona bark scorpions is a venomous species. They are not pets you can play with!
It’s also crucial to ensure that children do not provoke the scorpions since it’s unethical, and such actions have consequences.
It’s not advisable to take them out just because you want to. The scorpions do not benefit from being handled, and they easily get stressed. Therefore, it’s best to handle them as little as possible.
However, if you must take them out, it’s preferable to use rubber gloves and follow these steps:
- Put your hand in front of the scorpion.
- Nudge it from any side using a brush or pen.
- The scorpion will turn around to face the “threat.”
- Nudge and slightly push it until it backs up onto your hand.
- Avoid pressing it down since scorpions dislike it.
Remember that scorpions are not harmless pets and should be treated with caution and respect.
Breeding Arizona Bark Scorpions
Although Arizona bark scorpions are sexually dimorphic, their small size makes it challenging to differentiate between males and females. Nonetheless, there are a few physical characteristics that can help.
- Body shape. Males tend to be more slender build. Females, on the other hand, tend to have a larger, bulkier build.
- Tails. Males have longer tails in relation to the body. They can reach the prey without curling. Females have shorter tails and have to curl their bodies to reach the target.
- Pincers. Males have also longer pincers in relation to the body than females.
- Pectine teeth. Females have smaller and fewer pectine teeth (18-26). Males have larger and more pronounced pectine teeth (19-31). The pectine basal plate of a female does not have deep pit, sometimes with broad shallow depression.
Note: While this cannot be attributed to physical differences, observations show that male Arizona bark scorpions are faster and more agile compared to females.
Mating can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
- the male places a spermatophore on the ground or another hard surface during mating.
- he uses its claws to guide the female over a spermatophore during mating;
- the female usually follows the leading male in a classical promenade (mating dance) until a suitable spot is found for spermatophore deposition;
- then, the male assists the female in positioning her genital aperture over the spermatophore;
- after that, the pair separates.
If you need a more detailed and scientific description, you can read about it in this study here.
Interesting fact: In one of the experiments, the females reproduced offspring without mating. It is not known whether the females had mated again in the wild while carrying the offspring or if the same sperm from a previous mating was used for both litters.
Females have gestation periods of up to 9 months and produce fairly small broods (10–20 nymphs).
Note: It is highly recommended to separate the male and the female as a mother scorpion becomes highly defensive.
Arizona bark scorpions are viviparous, and exhibit maternal care by carrying offspring on their backs.
Offspring disperse following their first cycles of ecdysis (molting) which can be up to 3 weeks after birth.
Interesting fact: Maternal care significantly reduces predatory efficiency in these scorpions suggesting that reproductive costs extend for at least 4 weeks after the end of the maternal care period.
Arizona Bark Scorpions and Suitable Tankmates
It is absolutely not recommended to keep Arizona bark scorpions with other scorpion species. They will fight eventually.
However, keeping them with conspecifics can be safe. Of course, provided that they are roughly the same size, there are plenty of hiding places in their terrarium, and they are not hungry. Juveniles though appear to be slightly more cannibalistic.
How do you get rid of Arizona bark scorpions?
What if you are not interested in keeping these scorpions as pets and instead want to get rid of them?
Well, getting rid of Arizona bark scorpions can be a challenging task, they are very hard, fast, and sneaky animals. Nonetheless, here are some steps you can take:
- Seal your home: Since bark scorpions can easily enter homes through cracks and gaps, seal any openings in your home to keep them out.
- Use smooth physical barriers. Arizona bark scorpions are great climbers but they cannot climb smooth surfaces.
- Keep your home clean. These scorpions like to hide in dark, moist, and cool areas.
- Use UV light: Scorpions have a hard exoskeleton that contains certain fluorescent chemicals that glow under UV light. This glow can make it easier to spot scorpions in the dark.
- Hire a professional: If you are not comfortable dealing with scorpions or if you have a severe infestation, it may be best to hire a professional pest control company to handle the problem.
While some people may find scorpions to be fascinating pets, it is important to consider the potential risks and challenges that come with keeping them, especially with Arizona bark scorpions.
These scorpions have very potent venom that can cause serious harm to humans.
Therefore, despite their hardy nature, novice keepers, people with young children, or anyone who owns pets should avoid keeping these scorpions.
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