What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Scorpion like bug in New Mexico
Attached is a photo of a rather large and intimidating “bug”. It has claws like a scorpion, but not the curved tail with the stinger. Instead it has that long thin wiry tail. The tail actually looks like a long piece of wire of stiff hair. Can you tell us what it is? Is it poisonous or harmful to humans? Does it eat other insects? Thanks.
Monte and Mary Kern

Hi Monte and Mary,
This is a harmless Whipscorpion, Mastigoproctus giganteus, also called a Giant Vinegaroon or Grampus. Legend has it that the bite of a Vinegaroon will cause the person to taste vinegar for weeks. Though this is untrue, BugGuide notes that “Although its tail in unable to sting, this creature can spray an acidic mist from a scent gland at the base of the tail when disturbed. The spray is 85% concentrated acetic acid/vinegar, hence the common name “Vinegaroon.” The heavy pinching mouthparts (modified pedipalps) can also inflict a painful bite. Although very unlikely to attack humans, it can certainly defend itself if provoked.” The Vinegaroon is a nocturnal predator with poor eyesight. It feeds on insects, other arthropods, and also, probably, small vertebrates like lizards.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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9 Responses to Giant Vinegaroon

  1. kodiyaps says:


    While camping at Caballo Lake State Park near Hatch, NM my family and I came across the biggest and scariest insect that we have ever seen! It was dead (thank heavens) and looked to have floated up onto the shore of the lake. We examined it for a long time and could hardly wait to get back home so that we could find out what it was. Thanks to you and your wonderful blog we have the answer! Our crazy critter was a Whipscorpion. Although I get chills just thinking about it, I am grateful for the discovery because it makes the occasional house roach a bit less disturbing knowing that there are much more intimidating insects, like this one, out in the desert!

    Thanks again for the work that goes into publishing your blog. We’ll be back!

    The Yap Family
    Las Cruces, NM

  2. gilberto says:

    this things are all over my backyard

  3. Debbie says:

    Years ago in New Orleans, a bug crawled into our hous. It was large and looked almost like rubber. The reason that I knew that it was not a toy was that it was still moving. It was about 4 inches long and reminded me of a vinegaroon (I am from New Mexico) but it had no whip tail. It had large pincers and was a dull grey. I gave it to the exterminator and he said he had never seen anything like it and could not identify it. Have you got any ideas?

  4. S. Nuzum says:

    I have seen a few here in Nevada, but they are light brown in color and shine, almost look wet. I have been told they are the larva of the owl moth, is that true?

  5. Teddy says:

    I’m from Washington State and was stationed at Holloman AFB New Mexico when I was in the Air Force. I found one in my lower kitchen cabinet when I was putting dishes away one evening…Scared me to death, didn’t know what it was… My husband swept it out of the cabinet and killed it with a broom… The house smelled of vinegar brine for several days!

  6. Sandra says:

    15 years ago saw one in my kitchen just walking around taking its time. My daughter, 16. yrs old, felt sorry for it. Put it in a jar, took it to her high school science teacher, who identified it. They took it outside & released it. Yucca Valley, CA, 35 miles north of Palm Springs.

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