Desert Hairy Scorpion Care

Hadrurus arizonensis/spadix

Hadrurus spadix

Hadrurus spadix by Furryscaly

Desert hairy scorpions (Hadrurus arizonensis or Hadrurus spadix) make great beginners scorpions for those who want something a little different from the emperor scorpion which is normally regarded as the best beginners species. It has a number of common names (as scorpions often do) including the giant desert hairy scorpion, giant hairy scorpion, and the Arizona Desert hairy scorpion. As such you are usually better off using scientific names only; this is something that is true for all scorpions.

Originating from throughout the Southwest America through the Sonora and Mojave deserts. In Mexico, the species' range flanks the Sea of Cortez in Sonora and Baja California Norte. In the United States, it is found in the western two thirds of Arizona, the Colorado Desert and Mojave Desert regions of southern California, southern Nevada, and extreme southwestern Utah. As you can see, the desert hairy scorpion is a highly successful species with an expansive range.

As I already mentioned, these are often regarded as the second beginners choice for a pet scorpion behind the emperor scorpion. Personally however I feel desert hairy scorpions make better pets due to the fact emperor scorpions can be a little boring. Emperor scorpions spend the vast (95%+) amount of time hidden away, very rarely sting their food and are generally very skittish. This is in contrast to the desert hairy scorpion which is a bold active species which spends a reasonable proportion of its time out of the extensive burrow system it builds, patrolling its territory. Desert hairy scorpions are also more aggressive and mae frequent use if their stingers in order to subdue prey (and keepers fingers should they get too close) – stinging prey is something which new scorpion keepers are rather keen on witnessing.

In short, desert hairy scorpions are great for beginners and I favour them over emperor scorpions due to their increased activity, attitude and general nature. Where an emperor scorpion would run away at the first sight if you, a desert hairy scorpion in contrast may well stand its ground, willingly displaying its stinger as a defence mechanism.

Important note: The two species Hadrurus arizonensis and Hadrurus spadix are sold interchangably as desert hairy scorpions. Whilst they require identical care, you can learn how to identify the two species of Hadrurus here: How to identifiy Hadrurus arizonensis and Hadrurus spadix

Desert Hairy Scorpion housing

Desert hairy scorpions are very easy to house. They can be surprisingly good escape artists so it is recommended you use an enclosure which opens from the top rather than the side – converted aquariums or the kind of plastic tanks you can buy from a pet shop are ideal.

Size wise, these are active scorpions which like to burrow, so they need a rather large enclosure compared to their other scorpion friends. A single adult can be kept in something which is 18x12x12in (Length x Width x Height). A quick note about communality in this species –they are generally labelled by hobbyists as “semi communal” – to my mind this means none communal. They tolerate each other but will also fight. You may take the risk and house them communally if you wish but it is playing with fire as it only takes one none communal individual to kill its roommate(s).

If you opt to house two specimens together a 36x12x12in vivarium should be considered an absolute minimum. As should a vigilant eye.

As previously mentioned desert hairy scorpions are burrowers – in the wild the have been found with burrows which go down multiple meters and may have several chambers to them. In the wild they probably use their burrows to carefully regulate their temperature and humidity requirements (hence the depth of the burrow and multiple chambers so the scorpion can move around to thermo and hydro-regulate).

With this in mind you must provide deep substrate – atleast 8-6inches within which you will find your desert hairy scorpion builds a fairly extensive burrow and do what keepers commonly refer to as “a lot of landscaping” (ie the scorpion will make some major adjustments to the architecture in its vivarium).

Being a desert species the substrate should be sand/scrub based. It should also be able to hold its own structure and allow for burrowing. With this in mind there are a few substrate options available for desert hairy scorpions. Firstly, and the one I use for simplicity, is a 70-30 split between childrens play sand (or bird sand works fine too) and coconut fibre. The latter is bought in bricks from pet shops or on occasion gardening centres. You soak these in water and they expand producing loads of substrate. You should mix your sand and coco fibre together so it is damp and then compact solidly in the vivarium. You will then need to leave this to dry before introducing your desert hairy scorpion; be warned this can take a long time so you are advised to do this at least a week before acquiring your scorpion. Using things like heat mats and heat lamps directed on the vivarium will speed things up. The result will be well compacted, dry substrate which has enough structural integrity to support the burrow systems created by your desert hairy scorpion.

Alternative substrate options include a mixture of sand and clay, this is something I don’t personally use (I find the previously mentioned substrate mix works fine) so I can offer little advice on beyond the fact it is a popular option which is probably worthy of a little research.

Decor wise desert hairy scorpions do not require much. A simple hide made from rock, cork bark or slate will be appreciated – initially they will hide under it but it will soon become the base for where they build their extensive burrow. In addition to this you can provide rocks,  fake plants or anything you like really in order to make the vivarium aesthetically pleasing for you. Personally I find a sheep or similar skull looks fantastic in this kind of set up (easily bought off ebay or found and cleaned yourself if you are feeling adventurous). Having a skull in your desert hairy set up also makes for some fantastic photo opportunities when it goes exploring through the skull.

Avoid using real plants in the vivarium as they raise the humidity and necessitate the addition of water to the vivarium. Moisture is a real killer in these species, something we will come to later. You should also avoid using a water bowl for the same reasons. Some keepers like to introduce a water bowl in to the enclosure for 1 week of every month in case their scorpion does require a drink – however I would advise against leaving a water bowl in there long term due to the moisture problems mentioned. Personally I lightly mist one corner of the enclosure once a month allowing the scorpion to drink the water droplets should it desire. The heat of the enclosure means the moisture soon dissipates.

Hadrurus spadix

Hadrurus spadix by Furryscaly

Feeding Desert Hairy Scorpions

Desert hairy scorpions are aggressive feeders and are capable of taking down prey their own size if need be. Naturally you shouldn’t do this as it puts your scorpion at risk of damage (large cockroaches have large mandibles...). Feed your desert hairy scorpion a mixed diet of crickets, locusts, cockroaches and whatever else. Generally, if it moves your scorpion will have a crack at eating it which means you can be rather adventurous with what you offer (for instance if a large moth is unlucky enough to find its way in to your house, it could be even unluckier and find itself sharing an enclosure with a desert hairy scorpion on a very temporary basis).

The mainstay of my own desert hairy scorpion diet is cockroaches, Blaptica dubia roaches to be specific, however lobster roaches or Cuban burrowing cockroaches are also perfectly great live food. I try to make sure the food is no larger than about half of the size of the scorpion (excluding the tail) however I often go much smaller.

Depending upon the size of the food item, you should feed your scorpion once every 1-2 weeks, if you are feeding larger food items you may wish to feed less often. You should be able to work out how often your desert hairy scorpion needs feeding. If you see it regularly patrolling for food and feeding with great aggression, then it is probably time to increase the frequency of feeding slightly. If your scorpion is gaining weight quickly then do the opposite.

Desert Hairy Temperature and Humidity

As you would imagine from their locality, desert hairy scorpions like it rather warm. You should aim to provide a warm spot which is approximately 30-34c, the cool end can simply be room temperature and your scorpion will regulate its own temperatures.

There are a couple of heating options. You can either use a light bulb/heat bulb/ceramic bulb in the top of the vivarium, this will raise the ambient air temperature and is the preferred method. Alternatively you can stick a heat mat to one side of the vivarium to warm the ground temperature. It is important that you never put the heat mat underneath the vivarium for scorpions as they often burrow to escape the heat meaning they end up burrowing further toward the heat source.

Always make sure you are using the appropriate thermostat with your heating equipment, a heat source without a thermostat is simply dangerous.

Humidity wise, humidity is the enemy for this species. You should avoid it at all costs. This means having a lot of ventilation in your vivarium (I like to have a completely mesh based lid for maximum ventilation).  If you do get humidity build up your scorpion can become at risk of mycosis (a fungal infection that desert species such as the desert hairy scorpion are particularly susceptible to). That is about all you need to know about humidity, avoid it and you shouldn’t have problems.

Handling Desert Hairy Scorpions

Desert hairy scorpions are aggressive. Do not handle them. They are a look but don’t touch pet; if you want something you can handle get a guinea pig.

If for one reason or another you need to move your desert hairy scorpion from one enclosure to another use tweezers to encourage it to walk in to a seperate tub (an empty cricket tub or tupperware container works fine) using a long pair of tweezers). Place a lid on this tub again using the tweezers and then transfer to its new home.

Never put your fingers near enough to your scorpion to get stung, and you never need to worry about getting stung. Its common sense.

Breeding Desert Hairy Scorpions

Again this is something I advise against, youngsters are notoriously difficult (read: impossible) to raise in captivity, I can think of two breeders who have successfully managed to get baby desert hairy scorpions through to maturity and it is no easy task.

For similar reasons I suggest you only ever buy adult desert hairy scorpions (which sadly means they will be wild caught so you will have to make your own mind up regarding your position on taking animals from the wild for the pet trade).

If you do decide to breed them, or end up with a WC female which has given birth I suggest popping over to arachnoboards and asking for advice there – I have little experience raising the young myself.

Hadrurus arizonensis

Hadrurus arizonensis by lilspikey

Desert Hairy scorpion venom

Desert hairy scorpions do not have potent venom (ie, it won’t kill you) but being stung by one is very painful and has been likened to that of a bad hornet sting. You can expect localized pain, throbbing and swelling.

You should always remember that you may be allergic to the venom in which case it can be fatal. With this in mind you should never put yourself in a situation where your desert hairy scorpion can sting you. Always work with them using tweezers and exercise common sense.

All scorpion venom can be fatal if it causes an allergic reaction, always use your common sense and never put yourself in danger.

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