Scorpions

Scorpions belong to the arachnid group (invertebrates with four pairs of legs and two body parts) along with such animals as spiders, ticks and mites. They are distinguished from other arachnids because they possess a large pair of pincers and a tail with a venomous sting on the tip. They are a very primitive group that has existed with the same basic body plan for some 450 million years.

Scorpion, Urodacus sp.

Scorpion, Urodacus sp.
Photographer: Alan Henderson / Source: Minibeast Wildlife

Some of the interesting biological features of scorpions include:

  • nocturnal activity, external digestion of their food (generally other invertebrates)
  • a mating dance during which the male deposits a packet of sperm on the ground and guides the female over it to be picked up
  • birth of live young that spend their early life on the back of the mother
  • relatively slow rates of development (scorpions can live for quite a long time) and
  • low metabolic rates.

This latter factor is one of the reasons why scorpions have survived for such a long time – they spend most of their lives resting under rocks, pieces of wood, or in burrows and expend very little energy. This results is the need for only occasional meals.

World-wide there are 1500 known species of scorpions. Australia has about 80 species (although many have yet to be named scientifically), and Victoria has nine known species. They are widely distributed. Many people are under the impression that scorpions are desert creatures, but although there are many more species in the drier parts of Australia, scorpions are found in quite cool and wet regions of Australia.

Scorpions are often feared because of the sting on their tail and the potential lethal nature of the venom. Several thousand people die each year from scorpion stings, but these deaths are from the stings of about 25 species that inhabit northern Africa, the Middle East, India, Mexico and parts of South America. None of these potentially lethal species occur in Australia. The Australian species can inflict a painful sting that results in swelling and pain for several hours, but there have not been any confirmed deaths of people from stings from Australian scorpions. Medical advice should be sought if you are stung by a scorpion.

A Scorpion sting (SEM)

A Scorpion sting (SEM)
Photographer: Dr Ken Walker / Source: Museum Victoria

Further Reading

Walker, K. L., Yen, A. L. and Milledge, G. A. 2003. Spiders and Scorpions commonly found in Victoria. Royal Society of Victoria: Melbourne.

Comments (37)

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Jay 21 March, 2009 10:24
we seem o have many scorpions in the house find three or four a week in bedroom and ensuite. All live ones are sent outside. But as the house is only ten years old at a loss to know just where they are hanging out not that many nooks and crannies!
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vanessa 12 April, 2009 19:22
we have them around our house as well. we found one in the kitchen the other night - my husband is from sydney and just can't understand why there are scorpions and earwigs down here. They live under leaf litter, and we have a bit of that around our house - so Jim's mowing is getting rid of that for me this week
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jerry 21 April, 2009 23:30
I found a little scorpion in the house tonight; about 20 mm long head to tail.dark brown. he now lives on in my jar of arachidnea,swimming in methanol together with two redbacks, a funnel; web and a few other critters. in 10 years here nevwer have seen a scorpion in the neighbourhood. What gives?
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Discovery Centre 24 April, 2009 07:56
Hi Jerry, Thank you for your comment. Scorpions can be reasonably common in towns and the suburbs of Melbourne. However, due to their generally small size and nocturnal habits they are not often seen by people. The link below is to an information sheet on one of the 3 species of scorpion found in Melbourne. http://museumvictoria.com.au/DiscoveryCentre/Infosheets/Southern-or-Wood-Scorpion/
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Barry Murphy 26 April, 2009 09:25
What is the typical lifespan of a Victorian species of scorpion? The information above suggests that they live for "quite a long time". How long is that?
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Discovery Centre 30 April, 2009 10:28
Hi Barry, Many thanks for your question. The lifespan of a scorpion varies widely between species. While some species are believed to live for up to 25 years, it is thought that most species in Australia have a lifespan ranging from 2 - 10 years.
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David P 4 May, 2009 01:37
I was surprised today to find a scorpion on the tile floor in my toilet..... it is approx 40mm from tail to pincers and is very similar to the photo of the wood scorpion except it has light brown bumps on the black back. I tried taking a photo but couldnt get a clear one. I am very surprised to find this in the toilet, ive seen some outside very small though, a quarter of the size of this one, and one was squashed against a piece of cement sheet which was used to make the ceiling in our garage but never come accross a live one this big. how did it get inside and why did it come in?
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Discovery Centre 7 May, 2009 11:28
Hi David, Thank you for your comments. The scorpion is likely to have wandered inside looking for food or it is possible (depending on the species of scorpion) that it may have been brought inside under the bark of firewood. Scorpions have no interest in people and do not seek us out but obviously avoid stepping on one with bare feet as I would imagine a scorpion sting is pretty painful. Having said that I cannot remember anyone contacting the Museum to report having been stung.
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Maddie 14 May, 2009 20:20
I have been doing a research project on Scorpions and I would just like to thank you for the useful information on this website. Thanks!
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Wendy Blaxland 3 February, 2010 13:23
My daughter was stung by a small marbled scorpion (identified from Internet photos) on a toe this morning in our kitchen. Makes me a little nervous since we all walk around the house in bare feet...Yes, she said it hurt too!
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Eva 7 February, 2010 06:06
I was also bitten by the tiniest of scorpions around 4:30AM, and wait for it, IN MY BED!!!!whilst I was sleeping. I was woken by a feeling of something crawling on my skin and in one quick movement brushed it off and turned on the light, and there it was on the floor and the bite on my upper thigh was stinging. I live in Central Victoria, and before this, about one month ago I saw a scorpion on my bedroom floor. I seem to be inundated with: spiders, largish ants, slaters, earwigs and now scorpions all in my bedroom, which is on a concrete slab then underlay and carpet. I am getting freaked out now with a large spider found on the top of my bed, ants, earwigs and now a scorpian ON and IN my bed, with me in it! I would not normally use poisons but I will now seek out Pestcontrollers to help eradicate these creepy crawlies from my bedroom. I also managed to get one very good macro photo of this scorpion.
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Isobel 20 May, 2010 18:24
Hi. I'm doing a school science project and i need to know how scorpions excrete. if you could tell me that would be really helpful. Please help! Thanks
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Discovery Centre 29 May, 2010 14:59

Hi Isobel, scorpions excrete through the anus, generally in the form of nitrogenous waste.  A simple internet search should provide you with many online resources.

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Lisa 15 September, 2010 12:19
Great website. I found a scorpian on my loungeroom floor in west Pennant Hills Sydney. We had recently got a delivery of firewood for the house upstairs. It may have come from that. Did not think we had any in Australia. Obviously wrong about that.
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John Pickett 25 November, 2010 20:51
Found a very small insect with pincers on my (wait for it) blow up santa on my roof. It had the basic stucture of a scorpion but it would have been lucky to have been maybe 5mm in length. Could this have been a baby scorpion? It did not look like anything else. I did encounter a 3 or 4cm Scorpion very recently in Thailand at my Thai families farm so if the one I have seen tonight is in fact one in baby stage I would have seen 2 different species of Scorpions in less than a week.
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Discovery Centre 2 December, 2010 13:45

Hi John,

 It is possibly a baby scorpion, or a species that is quite small even as adults. The other likely animal it could be is pseudo scorpion. Pseudo scorpions are small and do not have the ‘tail’ of normal scorpions but they do have the two obvious pincers at the front of their bodies.

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josie t 9 February, 2011 17:43
hi im doing reserach on scorpians for a school project can you tell me about them please and is it true that depending on the smaller they are the more venomous they are?
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Discovery Centre 12 February, 2011 16:05

Hi Josie, the information written above may be able to help you, as well as the links in the top right hand corner. In addition here are a few interesting sites on scorpions that you may be able to use for your school project, click here, here and here. We have forwarded your enquiry regarding venom and pincer size to our Live Exhibits Department, and will post an answer as soon as we hear from them.

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Discovery Centre 16 February, 2011 11:43

Hi Josie, the size of the scorpion is not the only indicator of the amount of venom it contains. A great little trick to know is to look at its pincers (claws) and compare them to the size of the tail (sting). If it has really big claws and a small sting it is indicating that it uses power rather than venom to subdue its prey and tends to be less potent a venom. If you look up a Rainforest Scorpion and a Spider Hunting Scorpion on the internet and look at photos you will be able to work out which one relies on venom and which normally just uses power.

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mick 19 February, 2011 02:21
Hello, A little scorpion stung my girlfriend the other night. We have just got new carpet, and I was wondering if it is possible to have come with the carpet from overseas?
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Discovery Centre 21 February, 2011 12:37
Hi Mick, I guess it could be possible depending on where the carpet came from, how long it was in transit, if the scorpion had food and water etc. It is probably more likely that the scorpion has wandered inside from the garden. Scorpions can be found throughout Victoria and into Melbourne. Australian species of scorpion are not considered highly dangerous. The Australian Museum suggest a cold pack for the pain of a sting and to seek medical attention if the pain persists. For peace of mind your girlfriend may want to check in with a doctor just as a precaution.   
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Georgene 2 March, 2011 01:04
My question is what breeds of scorpions live in north central Victoria (Echuca/Cohuna area) so I can research this type, as I have seen 5 since we've lived here in only 2 months. Have been told by locals they have never encountered them. I have 3 kids and just want to research, know about the redbacks in our shed, but not a lot about this bug. My 1 y/o was stung yday inside our house. It was underneath a toy tent kept inside which i moved to vacuum (now no longer up!). I didn't see it until it had bitten him but was approx 350mm from head to sting. He is ok after a visit to hospital. I also thought the smaller the more venomous but now know better.
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Karen Rogers 14 March, 2011 16:22
I was bitten yesterday in my pointer finger of my right hand by a scorpion while camping at a caravan park at Halls Gap. It was quite painful for about 3 hours; my friends applied some anaesthetic cream, and a compression bandage to my arm. Took a panadol as well. It didn't throb but hurt constantly. 24 hours later no after effects. I had tried to pick it up off the guy rope and it fell to the ground, we then were able to catch it. It was about 1cm long, black. I will never again go to brush off any insect from the guy rope when camping! lesson learned.
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donna 27 March, 2011 11:23
lately l have been finding smallish size scorpions around my back yard(Launceston Tasmania)Should I be concerned as I have 2 small maltese/shituzes that are in the yard alot.Is it likely they would die from a sting or just become ill.Thankyou
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Simon Blane 9 April, 2011 18:35
Regarding your reply to Josie 16/02/2011 12.37 "Hi Josie, the size of the scorpion is not the only indicator of the amount of venom it contains. A great little trick to know is to look at its pincers (claws) and compare them to the size of the tail (sting). If it has really big claws and a small sting it is indicating that it uses power rather than venom to subdue its prey and tends to be less potent a venom. If you look up a Rainforest Scorpion and a Spider Hunting Scorpion on the internet and look at photos you will be able to work out which one relies on venom and which normally just uses power." I have my doubts re: the above advice given to Josie, even as a rough "rule of thumb". I understand there are far to many exceptions to for this size relationship between venom strength or potency and pincer size, tail size. I also understand, size of pincers is likely to be indicative of the method the scorpion employs to hunt its food. Scorpions with small pincers, tend to be active hunters foraging over distance to locate prey. Where as species with large pincers tend to be ambush predators, who seldom venture far from there burrows or nests. Its a matter of energetics, large pincers being heavy, would put any Scorpion needing to travel distance while hunting at a disadvantage to those possessing lighter and smaller pincers. Large pincers are also easy for predators of Scorpions to spot when they are out in the open. Can I draw your attention to the following webpage; which explains why the pincer size, tail size, venom strength relationship is a bit of a myth, much better. See: "Why Do The Most Dangerous Scorpions Have Tiny Hands?" at http://www.thedailylink.com/thespiralburrow/features/venom.html I'd be interested in your feedback. regards Simon
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kez 7 July, 2011 16:30
hi i was just wondering is the scorpian in a food cycle and if it is then waht is the food cycle.(ps.please answer this quistion)
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collis 9 August, 2011 20:33
hi, i found a black rock scorpian under a bit of a log in bendigo! what a spinout, didnt think australia had them!what an interesting creature! great site, and have learnt lots from it! had him or her for bout three months and hes doubled in size and seems very healthy n happy! how can i work out hes or her sex? much appreciated!
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Mel 5 January, 2012 23:49
We have just moved to Bendigo. My husband found a scorpion inside and also another in a box in the shed. We have a 4 year old grandson and I would like to get rid of these as I dont want him bitten. What do I have to do to eradicate them. Thanks Mel
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Discovery Centre 6 January, 2012 11:12

Hello Mel,

The museum does not provide eradication advice perhaps you can contact your environmental officer at your local council for further advice.

Alexander 5 January, 2013 02:23
I was on holidays,came home to find a very small scorpian on the floor. I have never seen a live scorpian before, It was about five mills long, and very pale
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Discovery Centre 5 January, 2013 11:20
Hi Alexander, we would need to see either a specimen or good quality image to try and undertake an identification. Scorpions in Victoria can be relatively common in places but due to their small size, nocturnal habits and dark colours often go unnoticed by people.
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David C 26 February, 2013 05:42
Hi i currently have 4 scorpions as pets a Isometroides Vescus, Urodacus elongatusescus, Urodacus Yaschenkoi and a Lychas Spinatus Pallidus and was just wondering if i can feed any of them meal worms from the pet shop, atm im only feeding them pinhead crickets but i would like to give them a bit of variety.
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Liz 19 May, 2013 08:57
Hi, my husband found a little yellow scorpion on our porch 2 days ago and we've set up a home for it in a tank. We live in SA surrounded by desert and I wanted to know the same as David C. Can we feed it mealworms or moths I catch around our porch light? We are currently feeding it pin head crickets.
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Discovery Centre 20 May, 2013 11:32
Hello Liz -

Scorpions will take moving prey of any size up to and including their own size, but generally cope best with prey about one third of their body size or less. They naturally feed on ground-dwelling invertebrates such as crickets and beetle larvae (mealworms), so moths may be difficult for them to catch but other than that there is no reason not to feed moths to scorpions.

Lyn H 2 July, 2013 22:28
Tonight I saw a scorpion on the floor while I was watching TV. I freaked out as I have never seen one in our home over the 21 years we have lived here.
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Peter 11 May, 2014 21:18
I wonder if our baiting for rats and mice is increasing our scorpion population?
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Discovery Centre 14 May, 2014 16:19

Hi Peter, thanks for your query - our Live Exhibits department have suggested the following:

The predators of scorpions include birds, small mammals, reptiles and invertebrates such as centipedes and other scorpions. In some areas rodents can have a significant impact, so a sudden reduction in rats and mice may lead to an increase in scorpions, although the connection may be tenuous. Scorpion numbers are affected by many factors and due to their slow metabolism, population responses tend to be slow. But the presence or absence of rodents could certainly be a factor.

Hope this helps