Scorpions are members
of the arthropod class Arachnida which also includes spiders,
daddy-long-legs, and mites.
Like other arachnids, scorpions have 2 body segments (cephalothorax
and abdomen), no antennae, 4 pairs of legs, and fang-like mouthparts
called "chelicerae." Although the pincers of a
scorpion resemble legs, they are "pedipalps," which are
actually mouthparts. All arachnids have pedipalps, but on
most arachnids the pedipalps resemble antennae. Scorpions
are equipped with a venomous stinger located on the end of the abdomen.
Most scorpions have 6 to 12 tiny eyes.
Body length up to 2" for Kentucky scorpions
Scorpions go through
incomplete metamorphosis: young scorpions look like smaller versions
of adult scorpions, and they shed their skins as they grow. Unlike
most arachnids, scorpions give birth to live young, and the mother
will often carry her offspring on her back until the young scorpions
are able to hunt on their own.
Nymphs of a Southern
Devil Scorpion (B. Newton, 2004)
Shown below is a short clip of immature Kentucky scoprions riding on their mother's back.
Like spiders, scorpions
are predators that feed on smaller animals, especially insects and
other invertebrates. They use their venomous stingers and
pincers to capture their prey. Although they appear formidable,
small scorpions like the ones found in Kentucky are not well equipped
to defend themselves from larger animals, and are often eaten by
lizards, birds, spiders, and other scorpions.
they are able to sting, the scorpions that live in Kentucky rarely
interact with people, and are not important pests. They are
sometimes found in buildings, however, and can be startling to homeowners.
Read more about scorpions in homes in our Scorpion
FAMILY: Vaejovidae | GENUS and SPECIES: Vejovis
The Southern Devil Scorpion, Vejovis carolinianus,
(also called the Plain Eastern Stripeless Scorpion and the Southern Stripeless Scorpion) is the only kind of scorpion known to live in Kentucky. It
is about 2" long when fully grown, and is fairly common in
wooded areas in the southeastern United States. They are often
seen in rocky areas around Kentucky's lakes and ponds. These
scorpions usually hunt at night and hide during the day under rocks,
logs, and loose bark.
Although the southern
devil scorpion is not very dangerous, no scorpion should be picked
up with bare hands. Like spiders, scorpions should be "herded"
into a container when captured. A trick for finding scorpions:
when illuminated with ultraviolet light (a "black light")
a scorpion will "glow in the dark." Because of this,
many scorpion hunters work at night with hand-held ultraviolet lights.
As with other arachnids, scorpions should be preserved in
Southern Devil Scorpions
can also be kept as pets: a small aquarium with soil, rocks, and
wood on the bottom makes a good habitat. Keep the aquarium
humid, but not so moist that mold grows. Kentucky scorpions
will eat just about any living creature small enough for them to
subdue with their pincers - tiny crickets, worms, and similar creatures
are good prey.
Most scorpions are
not very dangerous to people, but there are a few species in the
western United States that can be deadly.
Read more about scorpions
from around the world at the "Scorpion
Files," a website from the University of Trondheim, in
- LEGENDS - FOLKLORE
Small scorpions (like
the southern devil scorpion) found in the Southeastern United States
are sometimes called "stinging lizards." Strangely,
the broad-headed skink, a common lizard found in the Southeastern
U.S., is often called a "scorpion." Coincidence?
Original document: 25 May 2004
Last updated: 27 Jan 2012
Photos courtesy R.
Bessin and B. Newton, University of Kentucky
The Kentucky Critter
Files are maintained by Blake Newton, Department of Entomology, University