Tailless whip scorpions, also known as amblypygids, have a unique and intimidating appearance.
Their flat bodies, long whip-like legs, and powerful, spiny pedipalps can make them look quite fearsome. But are these creatures as dangerous as they appear?
In reality, tailless whip scorpions are not as dangerous as one might think.
Unlike true scorpions, they don’t possess venom glands or a stinger, which means they don’t pose a threat to humans through stinging.
However, their pedipalps can still give a harmless but surprising pinch if they feel threatened.
Overall, tailless whip scorpions are more fascinating than dangerous, and their fearsome appearance is merely a case of looks being deceiving.
What Are Tailless Whip Scorpions
- Four pairs of legs
- Two main body parts: the cephalothorax and the abdomen
Some examples of arachnids include spiders, scorpions, and mites.
Tailless whip scorpions have unique characteristics that set them apart from other arachnids:
- Flat body
- Ten legs; the first pair are long, thin, and whip-like
- Pedipalps (front arms) with spines and pincers, adapted for sensory and predatory use
Size and Species
There are over 150 species of tailless whip scorpions, spread across five large genera.
Sizes vary by species; for example, those found in the El Yunque National Forest can measure between 19 to 25 inches (48 to 63 cm).
Here’s a comparison of tailless whip scorpions to other arachnids in terms of size and appearance:
|Feature||Tailless Whip Scorpion||Spider||Scorpion|
|Number of legs||10||8||8|
|Size range||19-25 inches (48-63 cm)||Varies||Varies|
Habitat and Distribution
Tailless whip scorpions inhabit a variety of ecosystems, including:
- Tropical regions
- Subtropical areas
- Caves which serve as shelter
These creatures prefer environments that offer high humidity, warmth, and a sufficient food supply.
The geographical range of tailless whip scorpions spans across different continents:
- South America: A significant number are found in countries such as Brazil and Ecuador.
- Africa: They are also prevalent in some African nations.
- Asia: Whip scorpions can be found in countries like India and Indonesia.
To summarize, tailless whip scorpions can be found in tropical and subtropical regions of South America, Africa, and Asia.
They typically inhabit caves, where the conditions are optimal for their survival.
Behavior and Lifestyle
Tailless whip scorpions are primarily nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active during nighttime.
Having poor eyesight, they rely on their long first legs (antenniform legs) to navigate and sense their environments.
Diet and Feeding Habits
These fascinating arachnids primarily feed on:
- Small spiders
- Other large insects
Using their powerful pincers (pedipalps), they catch their prey effortlessly. Despite their intimidating appearance, they are harmless to humans and non-venomous.
Mating and Reproduction
Tailless whip scorpions have a unique courtship behavior involving:
- Tapping and stroking using their antenniform legs
- Male depositing a spermatophore
- Female picking up the spermatophore with her genital opening
Their mating process can last several hours, and females carry fertilized eggs internally until they molt, releasing the offspring.
These timid creatures use their intimidating appearance and pedipalps as defensive mechanisms.
In addition, some species like the vinegaroon can emit an acetic acid mixture when threatened, giving an unpleasant odor.
However, they are not dangerous and generally avoid confrontation.
Comparison Table: Tailless Whip Scorpion vs. Cave Spider
|Feature||Tailless Whip Scorpion||Cave Spider|
|Harmful to Humans||No||No|
|Other Names||Vinegaroon, whip spider||–|
In conclusion, tailless whip scorpions are shy, nocturnal, and fascinating arachnids with unique behaviors and characteristics.
Despite their intimidating appearance, they pose no threat to humans and are an interesting subject for enthusiasts and researchers alike.
Tailless Whip Scorpions as Pets
Caring for Tailless Whip Scorpions
Tailless whip scorpions are unique pets that require a specific environment and diet. Creating a suitable enclosure for them involves incorporating a few crucial elements:
- Substrate: A mix of coconut fiber and soil provides a good foundation for their habitat.
- Hiding spots: Tailless whip scorpions need dark places to hide, so adding cork bark or caves is essential.
- Climbing surfaces: These creatures enjoy climbing, so incorporating branches or mesh for them to grip onto is necessary.
Remember to gut-load the insects for added nutrition. Offer them food 2-3 times a week, depending on their size and age.
Is It Safe to Keep Them as Pets?
While tailless whip scorpions might seem intimidating, they pose little threat to humans.
Here are some key differences between tailless whip scorpions and true scorpions:
|Feature||Tailless Whip Scorpion||True Scorpion|
|Appearance||Flat body, long, whip-like legs||Bulky body, fat tail with stinger|
|Venom||No venom||Venomous (some species more than others)|
|Aggressiveness||Less aggressive||Varies by species, some are aggressive|
|Suitable as a pet for beginners||Yes||Depends on species, some are not suitable for beginners|
In conclusion, tailless whip scorpions are fascinating creatures that can make intriguing pets for responsible owners.
As long as you provide proper care and a suitable habitat, they can safely share your home.
Notable Species of Tailless Whip Scorpions
- Commonly found in Tanzania and Kenya
- Often kept as a pet due to its impressive appearance
Damon Diadema is a well-known species of tailless whip scorpions, native to Tanzania and Kenya.
They are quite popular as pets, thanks to their fascinating and intimidating appearance.
- Found in East Africa
- Known for their fast movement
Euphrynichus Amanica is a species of tailless whip scorpions that can be found in East Africa. This particular species is known for its quick movement and ability to escape predators.
- Native to Mexico
- Unique protrusions from their body
Acanthophrynus Coronatus is a unique tailless whip scorpion species that is found in Mexico.
They are known for the distinctive protrusions extending from their bodies, making them easy to identify.
- Found in Central America
- Known for their ability to defend themselves
Phrynus Marginemaculatus is a species of tailless whip scorpions native to Central America.
They are known for their effectiveness in terms of self-defense, which is essential for their survival in the wild.
- Rare species
- Found in Africa and Asia
The Paracharon is a rare species of tailless whip scorpion that can be found in select regions of Africa and Asia.
Due to their rarity, not much is known about this particular species.
- Large family of whip scorpions
- Found in various parts of the world
Charontidae is a large family of tailless whip scorpions that can be found in different corners of the world.
This family includes various species with diverse appearances and characteristics.
- Another extensive family of whip scorpions
- Found around the globe
Phrynidae is another extensive family of tailless whip scorpions, similarly found in various parts of the world.
Just like the Charontidae, this family contains numerous species with unique features and characteristics.
|Species||Geographic Location||Unique Characteristics|
|Damon Diadema||Tanzania and Kenya||Popular as pets|
|Euphrynichus Amanica||East Africa||Fast movement|
|Acanthophrynus Coronatus||Mexico||Protrusions from body|
|Phrynus Marginemaculatus||Central America||Effective self-defense|
|Paracharon||Africa and Asia||Rare species|
|Charontidae||Various locations||Large family of species|
|Phrynidae||Various locations||Another extensive family|
Are Tailless Whip Scorpions Dangerous? Myths and Misconceptions
Venom and Stinging Capabilities
Contrary to popular belief, tailless whip scorpions are not venomous. They do not have venom glands or venomous fangs, and they do not possess a stinger.
Instead, these fascinating creatures rely on their spiny and powerful pedipalps (pincer-bearing front arms) for capturing their prey and for self-defense1.
Here are some key attributes of tailless whip scorpions:
- No venom glands
- No venomous fangs
- No stinger
- Spiny and powerful pedipalps
Confusion with Vinegaroons and Other Arachnids
While they all belong to the same class – Arachnida – their characteristics and behaviors differ significantly. Let’s compare tailless whip scorpions and vinegaroons through a comparison table:
|Feature||Tailless Whip Scorpion||Vinegaroon|
|Sting||None||Capable of spraying|
|Color||Varies, often brown or red||Dark brown or black|
|Courtship||Gentle and animated3||Not well-documented|
In conclusion, it’s essential to understand the differences and characteristics of these unique arachnids to dispel the myths and misconceptions.
Tailless Whip Scorpions are not at all dangerous to humans, despite the many myths surrounding them.
Knowing their features will help in appreciating their distinct behaviors and avoiding unnecessary fear or harm.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Hoax or Not??? Tailless Whipscorpion allegedly found in Michigan
Subject: What is This Thing?
October 4, 2014 8:47 am
Found in Michigan, autumn weather.
We would like additional information. Did you find this creature? Was the photograph taken by you? If the photograph was not taken by you, from where did it come?
We are inquiring because we believe this image is part of a hoax, though it is not entirely impossible that a Tailless Whipscorpion in the order Amblypygi might have been found in Michigan since global travel is now quite routine and this Tailless Whipscorpion might have stowed away in a suitcase.
According to BugGuide, Tailless Whipscorpions have only been reported from Arizona, Texas and Florida in North America, though we imagine they might also be found in other southern states. Tailless Whipscorpions are found throughout Central and South America and they are also found in warm, Old World countries.
It’s a hoax. My neighbor said they found it, but I found the exact same image online associate with a “cave spider”.
Thanks for the confirmation that you have been “Hoaxed” by your neighbor.
Letter 2 – HOAX: Tailless Whipscorpion wrongly reported from Maryland
Ed. Note: We get annoyed when people submit images pilfered from the internet, claiming to be the authors of those images. Eric Eaton provided the following explanation:
This is a still from a video I have seen circulating recently on Facebook (but of course cannot find right now). Yes, it is definitely a tailless whip scorpion (amblypygid), probably a species that lives in caves given the ultra-long appendages.
Also definitely NOT from Maryland.
Subject: What’s this bug
February 7, 2016 11:54 am
I recently saw this bug and I was wondering what it was!
Please provide us additional information on exactly where and when this Arachnid was sighted. The image was obviously taken indoors, but we are having a difficult time believing it is native to Maryland.
There is not much detail in your image, and we cannot even say for certain to which order it belongs as it seems to have traits of both Harvestmen in the order Opiliones and Tailless Whipscorpions in the order Amblypygi.
Tailless Whipscorpions are only reported from Arizona, Texas and Florida, and this individual does not look like any native species depicted on BugGuide. While Harvestmen are found throughout North America, we have never seen any images on BugGuide that look like this individual.
It is difficult to tell from your image if the appendages that appear to end in claws are the first pair, known as pedipalps, but that is what we surmise. So, we know it is an Arachnid, and we do not believe it is native. Are you able to provide any additional images from different angles? We have contacted Eric Eaton to get his opinion.
A Reader Provides a Link to the Video
Subject: The pincered still shot – here’s the video
February 7, 2016 4:43 pm
Thanks for sending the link Cat. It is much easier to tell this is a Tailless Whipscorpion in the video clip.
My pleasure. And the self interest was that I was curious too.
I hope it wasn’t harmed. I hate to see creatures tormented for fun.
Eric Eaton provides additional information
One of my Facebook friends has this to say about the amblypygid:
“Stolen video, it’s a Whipscorpion … not a “whip spider”. Sheesh, I guess it gets more clicks if they call it a spider. Awesome creature (Euphrynichus amanica). Credit: Adrian Kozakiewicz / Insecthaus”
Laura Lee Paxson
Hope that helps, I’m glad to have the final answer myself.
Thanks to the inclusion of a name, Euphrynichus amanica, we found this information on Panarthropoda: “Euphrynichus bacillifer can be found in middle and southern Africa where, in contrast to its sister species Euphrynichus amanica, it is widespread. Populations of this species occur in Kenia, Tansania (on the island Zanzibar), Mozambique, Madagascar, Zambia, Angola, Zimbabwe and Malawi.
On the boarders between Kenia and Tanzania close to the coast the second species of the genus, Euphrynichus amanica, appears, too. Sympatric ways of life of those two spocies have been observed in this area, meaning the two share the same habitat. The animals occur in bigger caves, under bark and in cracks in more humid areas.”
Letter 3 – Cancle or Tailless Whipscorpion
HI FROM PARADISE !!
HELLO THERE— MY NAME IS JUAN CARLOS, I LIVE IN PUERTO VALLARTA JAL, MEXICO I JUST LOVE YOUR PAGE (AND OFF COURSE INSECTS)
I AM SENDING YOU SOME PICTURES OFF A TAILLESS WHIPSCORPION THAT IS MY HAND THANKS (AS YOU CAN SEE MY LANGUAGE IS SPANISH)
Juan Carlos Lemus
Hi Juan Carlos,
We got another letter once that reported the Spanish name for a Tailless Whipscorpion is a Cancle. Thanks for the verification. Your photo is great and will surely creep out some of our readers.
We can’t imagine that your tourist bureau advertises with photos of the Tailless Whipscorpion, but we are sure eager to visit your paradise.
Letter 4 – Cancle or Tailless Whipscorpion from Mexico
What is this insect?
Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 4:04 PM
We had just put some towels that were drying into our beach bag, when we noticed a long black thread-like thing inside the bag. Upon further review we saw some sort of insect, with long black legs, a brown body like a HUGE grasshopper or beetle, with pincers like a crab.
We convinced it to leave the bag, but it was not aggressive in any way. it scared the hell out of my wife who now wonders if there are more, is it dangerous, did it lay eggs???
Jerry & Nora
Hi Jerry and Nora,
This is a harmless Tailless Whipscorpion, and it is an Arachnid, not an insect. Tailless Whipscorpions are shy, nocturnal predators, any your specimen was likely just hiding from the sun and heat inside your bag.
In Mexico, there are many superstitions about the Tailless Whipscorpion, but the rumors that it is dangerous and venomous are not true. We have had one reader report that the Tailless Whipscorpion is known locally in Mexico as a Cancle, but we cannot verify that in our web research. We doubt that it laid eggs.
Letter 5 – Cannibalism among Tailless Whipscorpions in Belize
Subject: Bug battle?
Location: Toledo District, Belize
August 15, 2014 7:59 pm
Thanks so much for your speedy answer about the stinging caterpillar. I took this photo in the dark last night and don’t know what it is, but it looks like one is eating the other.
We don’t get so many submissions from Belize, but there are many similar species living in Costa Rica, a country that because of eco-tourism tends to have much documentation on the fauna of the country online and many folks sending their unknown creatures to us for identification.
Thus we have prior submissions of Tailless Whipscorpions from Costa Rica as well as other parts of the world, and we always advise folks to let them live as they lack venom and are harmless to humans. They are effective nocturnal predators that will help to control the Cockroach populations.
That said, this is the first image we have of the predatory behavior of a Tailless Whipscorpion, and it is phenomenal that it also depicts cannibalism.
Thanks again, Daniel, for a very speedy and useful response. To assure you, we don’t kill many bugs (mosquitoes and other flies actually biting us are really about it). We aren’t afraid of insects although we don’t know nearly as much as we’d like about them.
We remove scorpions with the help of long scissors used as tongs; just toss the scorpions outdoors and we all go along with our lives.
Got to say I’m pleased I inadvertently captured a scene you hadn’t observed with the tailless whipscorpions. Glad I took the shot; I have a couple more if you’re interested.
Thanks again to you and your dedicated crew. You’re a tremendous resource (and I admit a guilty pleasure reading the responses to the Nasty Reader Awards).
Yours in Belize,
We would love a few other views of this cannibalistic drama. We actually get a bit of a thrill writing responses to our Nasty Readers and we are happy to hear you are enjoying them.
I could tell you enjoyed responding to your Nasty Readers, and it seems a number of your Non-Nasty Readers also enjoy weighing in. Any chance some/all of you were English majors once upon a time?
I will send along the photos I took of the insect drama; there are only three. If I can’t get them to attach here, I’ll send them separately.
Yours in Belize,
While we cannot speak for our readership and their educational backgrounds, Daniel only majored in Art with concentrations in photography and cinema, however he loves to turn a good word and thoroughly enjoys the playfulness of the English language.
We did receive your additional images, and we are thankful, however they are not too different from the original image. We had hoped for more of a progression in the action.
Letter 6 – Exterminated Harmless Tailless Whipscorpion in Trinidad
Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 8:54 AM
Cleaning out my back storeroom, I came across this insect. I got so scared, I emptied half a tin of insecticide on it before it died. It has six long legs, two large mandibles at front and two very long antennae. It’s black with brown spots/stripes and its body is about 1-1.5 inches in length.
Trinidad, West Indies
Tailless Whipscorpions are fierce looking, but they are totally harmless unless you are a small Arthropod or other creature that becomes prey to this shy nocturnal hunter.
We haven’t posted an image to our Unnecessary Carnage page, so we will be posting your letter and image.
Letter 7 – How to care for a Whipscorpion
Subject: I dont know if my whip scorpion is safe
Location: pine island florida
September 4, 2013 10:22 pm
I have a whip scorpion and I was thinking of putting it together with my emperor scorpion and I didn’t know if they would attack each other
Signature: Jack Carlson
Dear Jack Carlson,
Putting two predatory species together in the same habitat sounds like a very bad idea to us.
Letter 8 – Kenyan Tailless Whipscorpion
Please identify for us
Could you identify this bug for us. We found this one (dead) during our holyday on the coast of Kenya near Mombassa. The body itself is about 5 cm long.
Although it looks quite specific, we were not able to find another picture with a name of it It would be very nice if you give this one a name so we are not puzzeld anymore If it is not your area, could you give a place were we could look for it? Thanks,
Rob & Annita
Hi Rob and Annita,
This is a Tailless Whipscorpion, a harmless relative of true scorpions. They are shy nocturnal hunters found in warm climates.
Letter 9 – Mexican Tailless Whipscorpion
tailless whipscorpian from Chacala, Mexico
I visited Chacala Mexico (in the state of Najarit). The week that I was there, a strange creature would reappear in the bathroom every night. She freaked me out, but was too larget for me to kill without a seriously guilty conscious.
I just left her alone everynight, keeping an eye on her while I used the bathroom, and got out of there as quickly as I could. I assumed she was simply a giant spider, until someone suggested she may be a scorpian.
Once I got home, a friend tracked down your website and we were able to conclude this bizarre creature was a tailless whipscorpian, and thankfully not harmful!
I thought you might be interested in this photo of her. Thanks for providing this info! One more question: are these common, and in what parts of the world?
According to our Audubon Guide, there are about 60 species worldwide and three in North America. They are found in warm climates. Being nocturnal, they are often overlooked.
Letter 10 – Mexican Tailless Whipscorpion
I believe this to be an arachnid Amblypygi but have not been able to find one on the web that is this large or colourful. It was discovered in a kitchen sink on Mexico’s Pacific coast just north of Manzanillo.
Contrary to what I’ve read on the web, our Mexican friends attributed paralyzing bites to this insect. Can you give me a bit more information? Also, in trying to identify this insect I’ve noticed whip-scorpion and whip-spider being used – are they they same insect.
We have never seen a Tailless Whipscorpion quite like your beauty. When we were in Mexico for a solar eclipse, the locals warned us to stay indoors during totality since scorpions would fall from the sky. There are many unfounded superstitions about many creatures.
We have only ever heard that Tailless Whipscorpions possess no venom, hence are harmless. Thank you for the wonderful image. Our Audubon Guide says there are 60 species worldwide and three in North America. Mexico has so many insects, spiders and related Arthropods that this could well be an undescribed species.
Letter 11 – Scorpions, Whipscorpions and Vinegaroons
We live in the hills in Los Angeles, and were recently visited by – what we discovered on your site to be – wind scorpions or sun spiders. However, last week we discovered a NEW and more FRIGHTEINING scorpion in a bedroom, and yet another today on our back patio. Would this be a WIND scorpion?
It has a tail with a little stinger on it, as well as little claws on its front legs. It’s really creepy looking. Also, is it poisonous and does its sting contain venom? Or would it just simply “sting.” I’ve attached a photo for your viewing pleasure! Any help you could give us would be greatly appreciate. Thanks!
It appears to be a Striped Tailed Scorpion, Paruroctonus silvestrii, which has venom like all scorpions, and will sting readily, but will do no lasting harm.
There are four conspicuous dark brown lines on the underside of the tail, which is unfortunately not visible in your photo.
Letter 12 – Scorpions, Whipscorpions and Vinegaroons
We live in an older house – it was empty several years so we have all kinds of bugs which we try to keep out of the house! Our worse invader is the scorpian after my husband was stung. But we also have a horrible time keeping the katydids out of the house.
They come out at night and get on us – after the scorpian sting scares you to death. We kill probably 10 a night – between the 3 bedrooms. Even though they have been harmless I do not want them in the house – can you tell me how to get rid of them? Thanks!
Are you sure they are katydids? which are green and look like grasshoppers.
I’m suspecting you have crickets, a common prey of scorpions. Bugs get into the house. Perhaps you should have a contractor find out where all the points of entry are and seal up the foundation.
Letter 13 – Scorpions, Whipscorpions and Vinegaroons
I have heard of these vinegar runes that when they bite you everything tastes like vinegar for a month do they exist?
Vinegaroons, or whip scorpions, are venomless arachnids that release an acetic acid substance when molested. This is the same type of acid as vinegar, hence the name. They do not bite, so please quit spreading this silly vicious rumor about a harmless, though somewhat frightening looking relative of spiders and scorpions.
I’ve got another one for you!
I had been sitting diligently at my computer, waiting for the last few seconds of an ebay auction in order to snipe the competition, when I caught this creature making his way into a closet.
The room was dark, and against my beige carpet, I actually thought it was a silverfish (it’s legs and tail blended in). Had I known, I wouldn’t’ve stepped on it, wearing only socks!
When the little bastard zipped across the carpet, I knew it was time for the bug glass. This is the sixth scorpion I’ve caught in 3 summers, and the smallest, so far. I’d say the dark part of the body is about 3/4 of an inch long.
Do you have any idea how much of a zinger these things wield? Sooner or later one of them is going to get me!
Directly from the pages of Hogue:
“None of our indigenous scorpions is considered dangerous, although any may inflict a wound that is temporarily painful. However, there is a potentially lethal species (Dentruroides exilicauda) in southern Arizona and portions of the neighboring states.
In Arizona, during a twenty year period, C. exilicauda has been responsible for the majority of the deaths due to venomous creatures, many more than rattlesnakes and all other types put together. The species has turned up in recent years in parts of Orange County, it has been particularly common in Irvine, where it poses a health hazard.
The stings of our scorpions usually cause only a local reaction similar to that of a bee sting, consisting of pain and a burning sensation, with swelling that lasts from a few minutes to over an hour. First-aid treatment involves immersing the affected area in ice water or applying an ice pack. If symptoms persist, a physician should be consulted.”