The dashing Tityus Stigmurus
By Cliff Sawit
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim
There are around 1,500 different species of scorpions around the world, each living in different habitats, ranging from scorching deserts to dense woodlands to rolling grasslands to tropical rainforests, and it can be a daunting choice to select a pet from this dizzying variety of arthropod. Out of the jungles of Brazil comes Tityus stigmurus, a species of scorpion from the family Buthidae which has become increasingly popular among local arthropod pet owners. Known in its native Brazil as the Northeastern scorpion, Tityus stigmurus has a very striking appearance—either golden-tan or yellowish-brown in color—with a prominent dark stripe over its mesosoma (the middle part of its body) and yellowish or even orange pedipalps, which are the second set of appendages that are much larger relative to its other appendages, similar to crab pincers.“In terms of appearance,” says scorpion expert John Valentin Chua, “the Tityus stigmurus is quite stunning. It’s a bit like the B. jacksoni,” he says referring to another scorpion species within family Buthidae, “orange-yellowish, with brown, almost baby blue markings.”
Aside from its dashing good looks, another plus for breeders looking to keep their own Tityus stigmurus is that it is a fast-growing species, reaching adulthood in only a year and growing up to 4-1/2 to 6 centimeters, or 1.8-2.4 inches, in length, molting—that is, shedding its old exoskeleton as the scorpion outgrows it—several times along the way to maturity. This makes it a fascinating species for owners who want to witness the spectacle of their scorpion shedding its skin every few months.
Right before it is ready to molt, your pet Tityus stigmurus may go into hiding for a few days and refuse to eat. The actual molting process is very stressful for the scorpion, which literally has to burst out of its old, hard exoskeleton, which is now too small for its body. The newly-emerged molted scorpion will be white and soft-bodied, and will be extremely vulnerable, so if kept in a communal tank, make sure that it isn’t injured. The old discarded husk, meanwhile, will look just like a translucent clone of the original.
“This particular species is nice to house communally,” says John, “say, eight individuals in an XL critter keeper. Do not house them in glass aquariums, because they’re like ninjas, expert climbers,” he warns. Tityus stigmurus keepers should avoid putting too much decoration in their tanks. Some bark or driftwood and a large, shallow water dish should do, to maintain the humidity in the tank and to avoid having to mist too often. “Twice a week should do,” John says. “I would use cocopeat for substrate. Get the kind with charcoal to keep away the mites.”
HOT TO HANDLE
Tityus stigmurus is commonly referred to as a ‘hot scorpion’. This isn’t a reference to its temperature or the climate of its habitat, but rather to the fact that this is a venomous scorpion. “I don’t recommend this species for all newbies,” says John, “but responsible newbies should be able to care for most hot scorps. Just buy a thermometer, feed the scorpion twice a week, and perform maintenance after every meal, meaning take out the uneaten food. And do not get stung. ‘Look but don’t touch’ is a good rule of thumb when caring for hot scorps.”
While Tityus stigmurus is not the most venomous scorpion in the world, rating a 3-4 on the popular 1-5 sting rating used for scorpions, it is still significantly toxic and should be treated with care and respect. So handling your scorpion, as John states, is definitely not recommended, because aside from being stung or pinched by one of its formidable pincers, there is also the danger of losing or injuring your pet, even fatally. Scorpions will walk off the sides of tables without hesitating, and the fall may injure or kill them. If you must pick them up, use a bowl or a ladle to safely pick up the animal.
THAT GUT LOADED FEELING
So what exactly should you feed your pet Tityus stigmurus? While in the wild, they eat whatever small creature they can get their pincers on; in captivity, this species of scorpion mostly feeds on gut-loaded cockroaches and crickets, which are abundant, inexpensive, and also easy prey for the scorpion, because they don’t hide.
So what is gut loading? Gut loading is the process of keeping the prey insects well-fed, so that they pass along additional nutrients to your pet.
As previously mentioned, you should feed your Tityus stigmurus twice a week, and if you have a communal tank, provide enough prey for all individuals, to reduce the possibility of fighting or even cannibalism. The amount of food should be regulated, and age also plays a factor in determining how much food a particular scorpion will eat. Young scorpions have a voracious appetite and will eat continuously, while older males stigmurus sometimes go on fasts that last weeks. Molting scorpions will also stop eating for a time. This is all normal, so new scorpion owners shouldn’t be alarmed.
So how do they reproduce? Probably not the way you think. Male Tityus stigmurus are rare even in the wild, and chances are, if yours was raised in captivity, then it is most probably female!
This is because this species is parthenogenetic, which means they reproduce from unfertilized eggs. That means that each newly hatched Tityus stigmurus is a clone of its mother. Each individual gives birth at 3 months, with the period being as long as 4-5 months. Gestation periods can last a maximum of 9-12 months, although it can be shortened if the temperature is warm enough. Brood size is from 2-16, 8 on average. Resist the temptation to handle the babies! Once again, ‘Look but don’t touch’ is the rule in effect.
SO YOU STILL GOT STUNG, NOW WHAT?
Immediately use an ice pack to cool the affected area, and then go to the hospital. Venom extraction has been tested and proven to be ineffective at mitigating or preventing envenomation, and the suction of the apparatus can cause more tissue trauma. People who are allergic to bee stings may be extra sensitive to the symptoms of a sting by Tityus stigmurus, and may require the advanced care that only hospitals can provide.
This appeared in Animal Scene’s October 2016 issue.