Unlike True Scorpions, Giant Whip Scorpions Are Not Dangerous, But You Wouldn’t Think So By Looking At One
Like insects, millipedes, centipedes and crustaceans, arachnids belong to the phylum Arthropoda, which is the largest phylum in the animal kingdom. It is well known that spiders are arachnids, but many people are surprised to learn that scorpions, mites, and ticks are also members of the arachnid group. Despite common belief, the arachnids commonly referred to as “daddy-long legs” or “harvestman” are not spiders in the order Araneae; instead, these long-legged creatures belong to the order Opiliones, which is made up of only 6,500 species worldwide. Smaller and less well known arachnid orders include whip-scorpions (Thelyphonida), tailless whip-scorpions (Amblypygi), wind-scorpions or camel-spiders (Solifugae), and false-scorpions (Pseudoscorpiones). Species belonging to these smaller arachnid orders are either rare, or entirely absent from most regions of the US, except for the southwest desert region. While most of these rare desert-dwelling arachnids are not considered dangerous to humans, they are, nevertheless, large, bizarre looking, and tremendously unsettling when spotted indoors.
The only whip scorpion species found in the US, Mastigoproctus giganteus giganteus, is an alien-looking creature that resembles a scorpion/spider hybrid, and if this description of their appearance does not sound unsettling enough, it should be known that this species often grows in excess of 2 inches. The common name for M. giganteus giganteus is “giant whip scorpion,” but in Arizona, this species is often referred to as a “vinegaroon,” or “grampus.” Giant whip scorpions possess two pairs of pincers called “pedilaps,” and if a specimen is mishandled or provoked, it will not hesitate to inflict a painful pinch to human skin. During the day, giant whip scorpions remain hidden within ground burrows, under logs, boards, rotting wood, rocks, and other natural dark places. Giant whip scorpions emerge at night to hunt other arthropods, and they spray a concentrated liquid from their tail that contains 85 percent acetic acid, which smells strongly of vinegar. This defensive spray has been known to burn and blister skin, as well as irritate eyes. The giant whip scorpion is often found on residential properties, and while they prefer to remain outdoors, their poor eyesight and nightly habit of hunting at fast speeds may see them enter homes inadvertently in pursuit of prey.
Have you ever encountered a giant whip scorpion?