Giant vinegaroons, also known as whip scorpions, are fascinating arachnids found in various habitats, such as desert areas, grasslands, and pine forests. Although they have a menacing appearance, they are non-poisonous and play a significant role in controlling insect populations. These nocturnal creatures have relatively poor vision, relying primarily on sensing vibrations to locate and capture prey.
One distinguishing feature of vinegaroons is their ability to spray a mist from scent glands at the base of their abdomen. This mist contains acetic acid, which gives off a vinegar-like smell and can cause a mild, temporary burning sensation if it comes into contact with a potential predator’s skin or eyes. While vinegaroons may appear intimidating, they pose no significant threat to humans and are more likely to scurry away than engage in any harmful confrontation.
In terms of appearance, vinegaroons possess a dark color and a long, thin “tail” called a whip, which is used for sensing and navigation. Their front legs have evolved into specialized sensory structures, allowing them to effectively detect their surroundings and potential prey. Understanding these unique creatures can help foster an appreciation for their ecological role and the amazing diversity of life on Earth.
What Is a Giant Vinegaroon?
The Giant Vinegaroon, also known as the whip scorpion, belongs to the Mastigoproctus giganteus species. It is part of the Uropygi order within the Arthropods phylum and falls under the Thelyphonida family.
- Mouthparts: Vinegaroons exhibit heavy mouthparts (pedipalps) that are shaped into pincers for capturing prey.
- Legs: Their first pair of legs are long and thin, serving as antennae for sensing their surroundings. The other three pairs are used for walking.
- Size: Giant Vinegaroons can grow up to 85mm in length, making them comparatively larger than most other arachnids.
Distribution and Habitat
Giant Vinegaroons are predominantly found in the southwestern United States, parts of Mexico, and southern Florida. They prefer dry, dark environments such as caves, burrows, and under rocks or fallen logs.
Relation to Other Arachnids
|Bites or stings
|No bites, but can spray acetic acid as defense
|Many can bite or sting
|First pair used as antennae; rest for walking
|All legs typically used for walking
|Up to 85mm; larger than most other arachnids
|Order Uropygi, family Thelyphonida
|Other arachnid orders and families
In contrast with other arachnids, Giant Vinegaroons do not bite or sting but instead, they can spray acetic acid to deter potential threats. As highlighted in the comparison table above, their taxonomy and physical attributes also differentiate them from the other arachnid species.
Behavior and Lifestyle
Giant Vinegaroons have a mostly nocturnal lifestyle, meaning they are active during the night. Their poor vision makes them rely on sensing vibrations to locate their prey1.
Diet and Predation
- Giant Vinegaroons primarily feast on:
- Other small arthropods1
They are effective predators found in various environments, from desert areas to grassland, scrublands, and pine forests1.
Mating and Reproduction
Giant Vinegaroons exhibit a unique mating process that typically involves:
- A courtship dance
- Transfer of sperm to the female1
The female Vinegaroon is known to carry her offspring on her back for a short period after they hatch1.
Giant Vinegaroons have two main self-defense mechanisms:
- Pinching: With their strong, chelicerae, they can deliver a painful pinch1.
- Spraying: Possessing scent glands near the base of their abdomen, they can spray a mist containing acetic acid1.
- This acid has a strong vinegar-like smell, which is useful in deterring predators1.
Comparison of Giant Vinegaroon Habitats
|Grasslands, scrublands, pine forests
|Desert areas, grasslands, mountain areas
|Desert areas, grassland, scrublands
- A ventilated tank of at least 10 gallons
- Substrate with a mix of coco fiber, sphagnum moss, and sand
- Hiding spots like pieces of bark or small caves
Giant vinegaroons need a ventilated tank of at least 10 gallons for proper space and movement. The enclosure should have a substrate mix of coco fiber, sphagnum moss, and sand to mimic their natural habitat. Provide hiding spots like pieces of bark or small caves to help your pet feel secure.
Food and Water
- Feed on insects like crickets and mealworms
- Provide a shallow water dish
For food, provide your vinegaroon with insects like crickets and mealworms. Additionally, it’s essential to offer a shallow water dish for your pet to drink from.
Humidity and Temperature
Giant vinegaroons need a specific set of temperature and humidity conditions to thrive. During the daytime, temperatures should range between 75-85°F with humidity levels at 60-70%. At night, the temperature should lower to 65-75°F and humidity at 50-60%.
Handling and Safety Tips
- Avoid handling your vinegaroon often
- Be cautious of their pinch and spraying abilities
Although giant vinegaroons are not poisonous, it’s best to avoid handling them frequently. They can pinch and are capable of spraying a mist from their scent glands at the base of their tails when threatened.
Additional Features and Facts
Vision and Sensory Abilities
Vinegaroons, also known as whip scorpions, have poor vision. They possess small eyes that are not well-developed for detailed sight. However, they rely on sensing vibrations1 to locate their prey. Some features of Giant Vinegaroons include:
- Six legs for walking
- Front pair of legs act as additional sensory organs
- Long, whip-like tail for sensing their surroundings
Like other arthropods, Vinegaroons undergo a molting process to grow. During this process:
- They shed their exoskeleton
- A new, soft exoskeleton forms underneath
- The new exoskeleton then hardens
Threats and Conservation
Giant Vinegaroons are native to North America, particularly in the Southwestern United States2. They usually inhabit areas such as:
- Pine forests
According to the Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, there is not much evidence to suggest that these creatures are under significant threats. However, it’s still essential to conserve their natural habitats to ensure their survival.
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 – Vinegarone
Thought you might enjoy these pictures of a whiptail scorpion. They are fascinating and nasty looking bugs. And yes, they will shoot vinegar smelling stuff at you, I got it all over my hand while taking these pictures. Love your site!
Thank you for providing us with a first hand account of the reason the Whipscorpion is also known as a Vinegarone. Now if only we can determine the reason for the other common name: Grampus.
Letter 2 – Giant Vinegaroon
Subject: Stephen King bug
Location: Albuquerque, NM
July 9, 2013 7:37 am
I was watering plants in my backyard (Albuquerque, NM) this morning (6:45 AM, July 9, 2013), and was startled to see this really scary looking insect sitting on my patio. I’ve never seen anything like it before. I was thinking it was a bug I saw flying from a Vitex bush, but looking at the pictures I took, this one doesn’t seem to have wings. It was about 3 inches long, plus it had a really long antenna looking tail, which was at least 2 inches long.
Thanks for your help.
Considering you thought this Giant Vinegaroon or Whipscorpion, Mastigoproctus giganteus, was scary, you have taken amazingly wonderful photographs, and from so many angles. Giant Vinegaroons lack venom and they are considered harmless, but it is possible they might bite if carelessly handled. They can also spray a weak solution of acetic acid, hence the common name Vinegaroon. They are formidable predators and they will help rid your area of cockroaches and other undesirable arthropods.
According to BugGuide: “The vinegaroon is nocturnal and has poor vision. The whiplike tail is used as a sensory organ, as is the first pair of legs, which is not used for walking. 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.”
Thanks for the quick response. I’ve lived in NM for over 30 years and have heard of Vinegaroons, but have never seen one. Wow, what an impressive bug. I have many lizards in my yard so that’s probably the attraction. As far as the photos go, two words: zoom lens!
Thanks for your help. Your website is great!
Letter 3 – Vinegaroon from Indonesia
Mystery Bug with Pincers and Long Stinger
February 4, 2010
We’ve found bugs with boxing-glove pincers which unroll into giant jaws. See attached photos. We’re in a house in Jakarta, Java, Indonesia. Have found two of them so far. We’ll keep the lights on until you tell it’s safe. Can you help identify it?
Brits and Red Socks abroad.
Jakarta, Java, Indonesia.
Hi Brits and Red Socks abroad,
This is a harmless Whipscorpion in the order Thelyphonida. They are also called Vinegaroons because they release a weak acetic acid when threatened, and it smells like vinegar. Since they have no venom, Whipscorpions are perfectly harmless, despite resembling scorpions. You may read more about Whipscorpions on Wikipedia, and we also found an Indonesian website called Greater White with good photos. The drawing on Wikipedia resembles your specimen, and it is from the genus Thelyphonus. There are several Indonesian members of that genus. The jaws you describe are actually modified legs known as pedipalps. We are thankful for your awesome images that document the two positions of the pedipalps. Since Vinegaroons are harmless, and they are nocturnal hunters, it is safe to turn out the lights when you sleep. The foraging Vinegaroons will help keep the population of cockroaches and spiders to a minimum.
Thank you very much for this awesome answer. “Whipscorpion” is such a great name!
The photos I sent to you were very low resolution. If you would like better quality ones for the records, I’d be happy to whisk them over to you this weekend.
Very best wishes to you and the bug team. And thanks for inspiring a sudden fascination for bugs from my housemates and I.
Letter 4 – Vinegaroon
Another Front Yard Rescue
July 5, 2012
Location: Sierra Vista, AZ
Monsoon blew this little (heh!) guy onto the side of our porch. My guess is that his tail was broken off in the storm, but I can’t say for sure.
Whip-tail scorpions are absolutely harmless to humans and pets, and only feed on other insects or arachnids. Although many people find them scary looking (and they can get pretty darn big), they are beneficial to the environment.
This little critter was very well behaved, and was released into a space beneath my workshop.
Thank you for sending this arachnid rescue photo, and for your kind gesture to a lower beast, we are tagging you with the Bug Humanitarian Award. We needed to look up your name in our search engine to get a location and we see that your other submissions are from Fort Gordon, Georgia. Is that still correct? Please use our standard submission form in the future to ensure that you fill in all necessary fields to facilitate our posting of your submissions. Thank you for sharing with our readership that Giant Whipscorpions or Vinegaroons are harmless since their frightening appearance terrifies many people.
My apologies for not using the standard submission form. After my reply, I will save the link for future reference.
I took this photo at my home in Sierra Vista, AZ. 85635. Today (7/5/12).
Thank you very much for the Bug Humanitarian Award. Not sure what it is, but I’m happy to be a recipient.
Sierra Vista, AZ
P.S.- Same beauty, front shot.
Letter 5 – Giant Vinegaroon in Dominican Republic
Location: Dominican Republic
October 19, 2010 2:54 am
My friend found this bug in his place in the Dominican Republic. It is about 10 cm (3 inches) long. Any idea what it is?
This shy, nocturnal predator is a Tailless Whipscorpion, sometimes called a Giant Vinegaroon because it releases a mild acetic acid that smells like vinegar. Despite the appearance, the Giant Vinegaroon will not harm people or pets unless the pets are Cockroaches.
Letter 6 – Vinegaroon
Subject: For the past 3 years this has left me puzzled
Location: New Mexico
November 14, 2012 10:27 pm
I encountered this critter in a bathroom in Rosewell New Mexico of all places several summers Ago. It was about the size of my hand from my finger tip to the heel of my palm, and was big enough to make an audible noise as it scurried over the tile floor; which sounded like a clacking noise as if its legs were finger nails. Naturally my first reaction was to scream, then run and find my camera. One of the pictures is a bit blurry but the other two are decently clear. Thanks for any help you can provide.
This magnificent Arachnid is a Vinegaroon, also known as a Grampus or Giant Whipscorpion. Vinegaroons do not have venom, but they are capable of releasing a dilute acetic acid which smells like vinegar, hence the name Vinegaroon.
Letter 7 – Vinegaroon
Whip Tail Scorpion Vinagaroon
July 13, 2010
After a particulary stormy night in El Paso, I came home feeling like a zombie after a midnight shift, stepped out of my truck and discovered the ugliest, biggest, nastiest bug I have ever seen. That woke me up. It was making it’s way towards my open garage so I bumped it with my boot to redirect it and it got into a defensive/offensive stance that spooked me pretty bad. I just had to take a picture of it. My wife said it was a vinageroon and likes to eat scorpions. She said it was harmless and I should let it stay in the front yard to kill the scorpions. She didn’t see how big this thing was! It was a full 6 inches from whip to front legs, 4 inches just the body alone. As you can see from the photo, I made it quite mad.
I’m not one to kill anything on purpose, so I scooped it up with a shovel and deposited over our back wall into the desert. If you have never seen one in person, let me tell you, that is not an insect, spider, or arachnid. It is more like a lobster!
El Paso, Texas
Thanks for writing to us about your personal account of a harrowing encounter with a harmless Vinegaroon. Your wife is a wise person. Your photo is a nice documentation of the defensive pose this formidable hunter.
Letter 8 – Giant Vinegaroon
Subject: Unknown Black Bug
Location: Lonboat Key, Florida
May 17, 2014 6:13 pm
Do you know what this is? I found on my doorstep in Longboat Key, Florida. My neighbor said she found one in the past at a home on Anna Maria Island, Florida.
Signature: R. Banach
Dear R. Banach,
This is a Giant Vinegaroon or Tailed Whipscorpion. Though they are distantly related to Scorpions, Vinegaroons do not have any venom, so they are not considered harmful to humans. That said, a large specimen has strong mandibles that might allow a Vinegaroon to bite a person, but that can be avoided by careful handling of the Arachnid. The common name Vinegaroon originates with the Tailed Whipscorpion’s ability to discharge a weak concentration of acetic acid which smells like vinegar.
Letter 9 – Giant Vinegaroon from Haiti
October 31, 2010 8:55 pm
Hi, i would like to identify this bug by curiosity. I know this picture was taken in haitia, between 2-3 inch long without the abdomen antena. Well i cant wait to know more about this one 🙂 thank you
Signature: Xavier Fleurant
This fierce looking but harmless creature is a Giant Vinegaroon, a name we prefer to the name Whipscorpion because that conjures up the impression that it is a venomous creature, which it is not. Giant Vinegaroons are shy, nocturnal hunters that feast on Cockroaches and other undesirable creatures that they encounter on their nightly hunts. The common name Vinegaroon refers to the creature’s habit of expelling a weak solution of acetic acid when threatened which smells like vinegar, another form of acetic acid.
Letter 10 – Giant Vinegaroon in Sausalito, CA?
In 1980, I lived in Sausalito, California. One night as I watched theevening news a fairly large creature crawled across my kitchen floor. It was dark, jointed, I believe it had what appeared to be pinchers, and I swear it hissed at me when I swept it out onto the deck. The Giant Vinegaroon looks very much like what I remember. My question is are they found in the San Francisco Bay Area?
24 years is a long time to wait for an answer. The Vinegaroon or Giant Whip Scorpion, Mastigoproctus giganteus, is listed as ranging in the South and SouthWest. I would say it is entirely possible that one could have been in Sausalito, especially since they are often kept as pets and pets escape. This is one of the ways that natural ranges are extended to include new locations with hospitable climates. I have gotten reports of tarantulas and scorpions hissing, and it is possible that the Vinegaroon can also stridulate, defined as the rubbing together of body parts which produces a hissing type sound. Hope that answers your questions.
Thanks for the answer. I have searched insect books over those 24 years without much luck. I saw many tarantulas in Southern California, but the scorpions I saw were all small. I remember this being 3-4 inches, of course time and my horror might have added to its length.
Our sources state that the Giant Vinegaroon can reach five inches in length, so yours was a small one.
Letter 11 – Giant Vinegaroon: Smashed, Poisoned and Fed to Ants
August 11, 2009
I found this bug crawling on my porch. It was so disgusting looking that I had to smash it. After I took the photo, I grabbed a can of poison and drenched it then I threw its mangled body in a raging ant colony I disturbed.
Can you please identify it?
The facetiousness of your signature is anything but amusing to us. This is a Whipscorpion or Giant Vinegaroon, Mastigoproctus giganteus. According to BugGuide: “The vinegaroon is nocturnal and has poor vision. The whiplike tail is used as a sensory organ, as is the first pair of legs, which is not used for walking. 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.” Sadly, this poor individual didn’t stand a chance against the arsenal you threw at it. In our opinion, this is a textbook example of what we consider to be Unnecessary Carnage. We are puzzled by the stated location in your email as the Giant Vinegaroon is a southern Arachnid.
A Reader Comments
Vinegaroon, and my big spider
August 14, 2009
I suspect that “buglover101” was messing with you, with the description of torturing the vinegaroon and throwing it to enraged ants. Especially since you noted that the vinegaroon is a southern arachnid. Anyway, any chance you could help with the big striped spider I sent you last Sunday? I think the pictures are great (you can really see her brown eyes) but I can’t identify her. Thank you for the wonderful website, even if you don’t get to my spider!
The thought had crossed our mind that buglover101 was yanking our chain since this does seem to be a bit of an overreaction, but the photo is still a smashed Giant Vinegaroon. The smashing alone would warrant Unnecessary Carnage and the postmortem corpse defiling is truly over the top. It reminds us of the defiling of Hector’s corpse in the Iliad, an act perpetrated to raise the hackles of the Trojans. Perhaps we are just too gullible, but we tend to believe what people write to us.
Since your letter brought up a relevant point that we wanted to post, we went through hundreds of recent emails to track your name and located your previous unread query. The spider is a Wolf Spider.
Letter 12 – Search for Vinegaroon with good eyesight
Subject: Vinegaroon with better eyesight
Location: Doesn’t matter
January 10, 2016 10:42 am
I got a question for a very unusual reason. I’m currently writting a book were bugs of different kinds have a very large role.
Funny thing is that in this book the bugs will be both the heroes and the villains so it’s definitivly not about exterminating bugs.
Nothing like Starship Troopers or anything like that where bugs are massacred.
I’m looking for a type of vinegaroon with better eyesight. It doesn’t have to be fantastic, but it must be able to locate prey outside the range of it’s feeler antenna’s.
The size of the vinegaroon does not matter much. A picture and further information about this particular species of vinegaroon is very much appriciated.
Had to put some kind of picture in there so i just threw in whatever was closest to hand.
Yup. I’m seriously trying to become a writter which has been my ambition for more than half my life.
Signature: Regards Spleen the wannabe author
Since you did not supply an image, we delved into our archives for an especially nice image of a Giant Vinegaroon taken by Susan in New Mexico. Our suspicions proved correct when we read this BugGuide statement: “The vinegaroon is nocturnal and has poor vision. The whiplike tail is used as a sensory organ, as is the first pair of legs, which is not used for walking. 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.” Tailless Whipscorpions in the order Amblypygi are also nocturnal hunters, and we presume also with poor eyesight. We cannot provide you with any information on Vinegaroons with good eyesight, so you should probably find a better protagonist for your book. We would suggest a Wolf Spider, and if you really want it to be fierce, make it a female Wolf Spider defending her brood.
Letter 13 – Vinegaroon from Mexico
What a hell is this!!
Hello! Im Arturo Christhian from Monterrey, Mexico. Last day there was a big rain, and in the next day we discover this bug in our house! What is it! We never seen something like that before J Love your website! Greetings!
Hi There Arturo,
This is the first letter we are answering since returning to the office. This is a Vinegaroon, a non-poisonous relative of the scorpions. It is harmless unless you are a small arthropod. Vinegaroons are Whipscorpions in the family Thelyphonidae, and we believe this specimen is in the genus Mastigoproctus.
Letter 14 – Vinegaroon with Brood
Subject: a pretty alright vinegaroon
Location: she’s a pet, so anywhere, but California native.
September 13, 2015 1:02 pm
Yo! Just submitting some pictures of vinegaroons, since they’re so cool and I didn’t see many pictures of them doing much but standing in the defensive posture. Here’s my girlie eating, carrying babies, and posing.
Signature: Vinegaroon Salad
Dear Vinegaroon Salad,
Thanks for sending in your images of your pet Vinegaroon and her brood.