Get to know the Madras forest scorpion.

Photos by Jeffery C. Lim

Among the dozens of species of the giant forest scorpion Heterometrus is one that is endemic to the Indian city of Chennai, previously called Madras. The Madras forest scorpion (H. madraspatensis), also known as Madharasapattinam, is a darkish green arachnid with yellow legs often mistaken for the larger H. fulvipes. Growing up to 4.5 to 5 inches, these scorpions can live for as long as 8 years in captivity.

A Safe Scorpion

Madras forest scorpions are safer to care for because their venom is mild, not even comparable to a bee sting and not fatal to humans. They are also more inclined towards flight; their large claws are mostly used for eating and defense while their stingers are rarely used. Due to this, along with their comparative smaller size that makes them a little easier to find among Philippine invertebrate hobbyists, they make great pets.

If you’re new to the hobby, according to our expert John Valentin Chua, it’s advisable to get one at around the 4th to 5th instar (developmental stage between each moult until sexual maturity). They may cost you more as they’re further along development, but it’s worth the price. However, you can also raise one as early as the 2nd instar if you feel you’re ready.

Because they’re small, they can be kept communally as “scorplings” from the 2nd to the 5th instar, after which they can be transferred to a 10-gallon tank in threes. If a female gets pregnant, it’s best to transfer her tank-mates or else make an all-female tank.

Home Humid Home

Humidity is important when raising the Madras forest scorpion, especially since they are quite small. When setting up their living environment, an appropriate substrate should be chosen. The best substrate to provide for them is coco peat with charcoal, which helps keeps mites in check; have enough substrate to allow them to burrow under a log or hide. Create a false bottom as well. A shallow water dish is recommended for drinking as well as humidity.

A thermometer to check for humidity also helps in ensuring the appropriate environment as they can die from either lack of or excessive humidity. This species best survives in a warm and humid environment in the range of 75-90 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level of around 75-80%. You can also opt to keep one side of the tank wet while allowing the other side to dry out periodically.

The Feed Factor

Feeding them twice a week can get them to molt faster at the 2nd instar, then one can switch to once a week at the 4th and 5th instar. Mealworms, nymph roaches, and pinhead crickets are ideal food sources during early development, while sub-adults and adults are best provided with super-worms, adult roaches, and crickets.

Healthy Madras forest scorpions are quite active, curiously moving around in their enclosure, and have healthy appetites. They appear rounded unless they’re about to molt. Despite their healthy appetites, be careful not to overfeed them. Signs of unhealthy scorpions include sluggishness, lack of appetite, and overly bloated abdomens. It’s also best to leave them be and minimize meddling as they tend to get stressed, unlike other species like the Emperor scorpion.

Regardless, despite the minimal time you’ll be spending with your arachnid pets, they’re excellent if you’re a scorpion hobbyist.

Scorpion Surprises

You’d be surprised to learn these about scorpions!

• We’ve all heard and likely believe that all scorpions are venomous. While this is true, of the more than 1,700 known species, less than three dozen have venom strong enough to make a human ill or to kill them.

• There are scorpions everywhere—except Antarctica!

• Certain kinds of scorpions can survive a year without food or water. If there’s a scarcity of resources, they can survive on one insect a year then hibernate by slowing down their metabolism. They get revived from their “frozen” state with the help of the sun.

• Scorpions subsist on a liquid diet: although they prey on other creatures, they actually inject these with their venom that causes the insides to turn liquid – which the scorpion then sucks out.

• Scorpions can survive a nuclear detonation!

The Culture of Scorpions

Scorpions have long fascinated humans. For thousands of years, it has been utilized as symbol in various cultures and religions and has also been used in other ways.

• Perhaps the most famous use of the scorpion in culture is the existence of Scorpio in astrology. It’s the zodiac sign of those born on and between October 23 and November 21.

• The ancient Egyptians believed scorpions were gods that protected royalty.

• Scorpions feature in Muslim folklore, particularly in North Africa and South Asia. Although they are considered representations of evil, they are also seen as protectors against other evil forces. As such, they often appear in Islamic art in the given regions, including in things such as woven carpets.

• Scorpions are considered symbolic of a variety of things, including: death, sex, treachery, protection, isolation, among others.

• Scorpions are considered a delicacy in China. Recipes include scorpions cooked kebab-style on sticks.

This appeared as “Mad for the Madras” in Animal Scene’s May 2016 issue.