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Giant Whip Scorpions Will Spray An Odorous And Irritating Acid Directly At Anything That Disturbs Them, And They Often Wander Into Homes During Monsoon Season

Mastigoproctus giganteus is a bizarre-looking arthropod species that inhabits a variety of ecological conditions in the southernmost US states, especially Arizona where this species is most prevalent. M. giganteus is an arachnid species that many people mistake for a scorpion due to its similar looking lobster-like body, which includes sizable pincers and a thick tail that is missing a stinger. M. giganteus has been given several common names since it was first documented in North America back in 1835. People living in the southwest US often refer to this species as a “whip scorpion,” a “vinegaroon,” or a “grampus,” but entomologists prefer the “giant whip scorpion,” as M. giganteus is noticeably larger than its several close relatives that also inhabit the desert southwest.

Entomologists and other scientists have long claimed that the giant whip scorpion is the only species of its kind within North America. However, an extensive field study carried out two years ago revealed that North America is home to at least seven almost identical looking whip scorpion species that were long assumed to be one single species. Although this discovery came as a surprise to the scientific community, many past researchers found the complete lack of diversity among North American whip scorpions to be highly dubious. The study’s authors are convinced that multiple whip scorpion species have yet to be discovered in the southwest. According to the study’s coauthor, Lorenzo Prendini, it is entirely possible for undiscovered whip scorpion species to be prevalent in residential yards in southern Arizona.

Whip scorpions are, in fact, abundant in both residential and undisturbed habitats, but since they are strictly nocturnal arachnids that spend the daylight hours well concealed within deep ground burrows, they are not easy to find. However, it is not uncommon for one or a few whip scorpions to wander into homes where their intimidating appearance typically earns the arachnids a hasty death sentence. Many homeowners in the southwest insist that their homes have become heavily infested with whip scorpions, but according to the famed biologist and Tucson resident Justin O. Schmidt, these residents were likely mistaking similar looking Solpugid arachnids for whip scorpions. The director of Gray Hawk Nature Center, Sandy Anderson, has long urged Arizona residents to avoid killing whip scorpions when they are encountered indoors because the arachnids prey on just about every arthropod pest in existence including tarantulas, ants, black widows, bark scorpions, cockroaches, termites, and even small rodents and lizards. Unlike true scorpions, whip scorpions do not inflict venomous stings, but they have been known to inflict painful but medically harmless pinches on skin. Worst of all, the giant whip scorpion defends itself by accurately squirting odorous and irritating acetic acid onto their enemies. At least one medical case study describing a human skin injury resulting from whip scorpion spray has been published.

Have you ever encountered a whip scorpion on your property?

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