THE PARABUTHUS LIASOMA

Animal Scene - - FRONT PAGE - Text by CLIFF SAWIT Pho­tos by JEF­FREY C. LIM

The Parabuthus lio­soma, also known as the African Black-tailed Scor­pion or Black-tipped Scor­pion, is well known in hobby cir­cles as one of the most colorful hot scor­pi­ons for bud­ding en­to­mol­o­gists to keep. Ac­cord­ing to John Chua, al­though the Parabuthus lio­soma is not that big (usu­ally reach­ing up to 70mm or 2.8 inches), its strik­ing ap­pear­ance, with its dis­tinc­tive fat black tail and desert col­oration, makes it a must-have in any­one’s col­lec­tion.

Desert mys­tery Many things about the African Black­Tailed Scor­pion add to its mys­tique. Th­ese scor­pi­ons tend to live in dry, arid en­vi­ron­ments with soils that are a mix­ture of sand, clay, and gravel, where their desert col­oration pro­vides them with some cam­ou­flage. They stay away from places that have the amounts of rain­fall re­quired for in­ten­sive agri­cul­ture. As a re­sult, they tend to live in places away from hu­man pop­u­la­tions. Their dis­tinc­tive black-tipped tails also warn ev­ery­one of a painful sting if they risk ap­proach­ing. John ex­plains, “One of the big­gest mis­con­cep­tions about scor­pi­ons in gen­eral is that they will pur­posely hunt you down and make you its meal. This is ob­vi­ously not true, as scor­pi­ons are more of a flight than fight crea­ture. Its venom can still put you in a world of pain that you can’t imag­ine. How­ever, only a few scor­pi­ons can re­ally kill hu­mans with their venom, and P. lio­soma is not one of them.” There are no re­ported deaths from P. lio­soma stings. One re­ported case from Saudi Ara­bia con­cerns a 50-year-old fe­male, who was stung in the toe and im­me­di­ately felt a per­sis­tent pain in her lower ex­trem­i­ties, fol­lowed by hy­poten­sion, anx­i­ety, and ag­i­ta­tion. No anti-venom was used, and her con­di­tion im­proved af­ter three hours, al­though the lo­cal pain from the sting didn’t go away un­til three days later. For­tu­nately, un­like other Parabuthus scor­pi­ons, P. lio­soma ap­pears to have no abil­ity to squirt venom from a dis­tance. Don’t pet the scor­pion! A com­mon and dan­ger­ous mis­con­cep­tion among those out­side the hobby is that “tame” scor­pi­ons do not sting and can eas­ily be han­dled. John says, “The first rule of keep­ing hot scor­pi­ons is: No pet­ting. You can look at them and ad­mire them in­side their en­clo­sures, but no touch­ing or pet­ting is al­lowed. Scor­pi­ons are not like cats and dogs. They can’t show you af­fec­tion. If you try they will run and hide, or give you the stinger.”

It is very im­por­tant for scor­pion own­ers to main­tain a sen­si­ble at­ti­tude to­ward the an­i­mal. Own­ing a scor­pion just so you can show it off to your friends is ex­tremely ir­re­spon­si­ble— and if that’s your rea­son for want­ing one, then it’s a clear sign you shouldn’t have one. As for those who have cho­sen to take the plunge and are look­ing for tips for han­dling their pet, John’s ad­vice is worth re­peat­ing. Keep the scor­pion in­side its hous­ing and ad­mire it from afar. The safest rule is: Never han­dle your scor­pion. Hous­ing and care Car­ing for P. lio­soma is pretty ba­sic, says John. The main re­quire­ments for hous­ing scor­pi­ons, like all in­ver­te­brate pets, is that the en­clo­sure is se­cure, and that it can be main­tained at an ap­pro­pri­ate tem­per­a­ture and hu­mid­ity. A medium or large crit­ter keeper will do for adult and sub-adult spec­i­mens, and scor­plings can be kept in medi­um­sized plas­tic con­tain­ers with holes for air. Place coco peat and coarse sand for sub­strate, and place stones or a false bot­tom hide for pri­vacy. Al­ways watch the hu­mid­ity! Desert scor­pi­ons like P. lio­soma are vul­ner­a­ble to fun­gal in­fec­tions if hous­ing is too hu­mid. Still, John rec­om­mends that busy own­ers leave a wa­ter dish in the en­clo­sure or do in­fre­quent mist­ing. Keep day­time tem­per­a­tures high— ideally 30-35 de­grees Cel­sius—and en­sure a night­time tem­per­a­ture drop of about 25 de­grees, as this is es­sen­tial for the scor­pion’s de­vel­op­ment. This cooldown gives the scor­pion time to rest from the desert sun, and space to feed in a re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment. Epic meal­time All scor­pi­ons are car­ni­vores, and eat a va­ri­ety of in­sects and in­ver­te­brates. John rec­om­mends a diet of crick­ets, roaches, su­per­worms, and meal­worms. Adults and sub-adults can be fed with one adult cricket or worm ev­ery week, or a lo­cust or adult cock­roach once a month. As a treat, you can feed your P. lio­soma a pinkie worm once a month, or even twice a month (if the pinkie worms are avail­able), but no more than that. The sight of a scor­pion eat­ing a pinkie mouse is truly some­thing to be­hold. It is of­ten best to feed your scor­pi­ons at night so that their be­hav­ior matches that of wild scor­pi­ons. If your scor­pion doesn’t eat or leaves left­overs, it could be a sign that it is be­ing kept in im­proper con­di­tions, so pay at­ten­tion to your lit­tle guy’s ap­petite. Vir­gin birth An­other fas­ci­nat­ing thing about P. lio­soma, notes, is that re­cently, some spec­i­mens have ex­hib­ited partheno­gen­e­sis. The word “partheno­gen­e­sis” comes from Greek, means “vir­gin cre­ation,” and refers to a nat­u­ral form of re­pro­duc­tion that oc­curs with­out fer­til­iza­tion—that is, with­out sex. In an­i­mals, this refers to the de­vel­op­ment of an em­bryo from an un­fer­til­ized egg cell. This al­lows the scor­pion to re­pro­duce even with­out a mate, which may prob­a­bly come as a great sur­prise to first-time keep­ers of sin­gle spec­i­mens. John says, “Not all P. lio­soma ex­hibit partheno­genetic qual­i­ties, how­ever. But this makes them unique when com­pared to other Parabuthus species.”

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