The Parabuthus villosus is the largest of its kind, and is also known as the “black hairy thick-tailed scorpion.”

Text by Charlene Bobis
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim

What fascinates me most about (the oranje moprph)? For me, it would be its colors and its size, reaching up to 7 inches; it’s like a toy, specially at its 5th instar,” says John Chua, keeper and breeder who has won awards in several competitions, when asked about what attracted him to the creature known as the Orange Morph Desert Type Scorpion.

He’s not the only one who thinks it doesn’t look real. “I had a friend who saw it; he asked me if It was real,” John laughs—and once you look at its photos, you might agree.

The oranje morph has granulated carinae (ridges on chitinous surfaces) on the first and second metasomal (hind region of the body) segments. “They scrape their aculeus (sharp process, like a sting) over these carinae and this produces a rasping, clicking sound. This is a defensive behavior; it distracts predators. Plus, they can spray venom from the tip of their stingers; however, they only do this in the wild and (when they find themselves) in a life or death situation. That’s fascinating for me,” John explains.

The oranje morph desert type scorpion resembles the Parabuthus transvaalicus, with the difference being that the latter is more nocturnal, less hairy, and is found in Eastern regions of Southern Africa.

Habits and Appearance

This parabuthid compensates for its smooth and weak pincers with its thick, strong tails with keels.The creature known as the Oranje Morph Desert Type Scorpion normally feeds on beetles, lizards, and mice, but “…in captivity, we usually feed them superworms, roaches, and crickets.”Ideally, they should be fed these as live prey twice every three weeks. They are diurnial; John explains that they tend to be more active during the day, hunting during the cooler hours of dawn and dusk.

They have also been noted by experts to hunt even during the hottest part of the day. Generally, though, they prefer to hide during the day in shelters that range from “…rocks, bark…any place they can hide from the heat.” Their preferred habitat in the wild is dry and rocky, particularly in areas of the Namib and Kalahari deserts where sand dunes meet rocky hills—hence its name. In captivity, a broken pot will do as the creature’s hiding place. “(You can put) fake plants there, even a cactus, since this kind of scorpion is the desert type.” As for substrate, he advises that its keepers use sand mixed with cocopeat.Other keepers report that reptile sand also makes for a good home for these scorpions.

Whichever substrate you use, be sure to mist their enclosure—which should be well-ventilated—once a week. Younger Oranje Morphs will need a corner of the enclosure that is constantly damp. They seem to prefer temperatures between 29 to 30 degrees Celsius, and can burrow in their enclosures.John says, “What I learned about caring for these creatures is that nature’s design is amazing. Here’s a creature that has been surviving for 430 million years and (is still thriving) in modern times. Its basic care is simpler than that of a cat, dog, rabbit, etc.”

Not for Everyone

John cautions owners of extreme pets like the Oranje Morph that “safety first” should be foremost when dealing with these creatures. Do not expect them to be like “regular” pets, as such an attitude can only lead to disaster. Never forget, “…all scorpions have venom. It may be cute and hairy like a toy but you can’t pet them; they won’t greet you when you come home from work or purr; you can’t put them in your lap. Its main purpose is for display only.” In other words, caring for these creatures takes a level of commitment in which one does not expect the typical rewards of pet ownership; should you want such a response from a pet, you are better off not even considering scorpions in general in the first place.

Any practical advice for Oranje Morph keepers? “Don’t get stung; don’t mess with them when you’re drunk or depressed; and don’t use them as a weapon to inflict pain either!”

This appeared in Animal Scene’s July 2015 issue.