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Breeding Emperor Scorpions

Please see Part I and II of this article for information on scorpion natural history and further details on emperor scorpion care.

Emperor ScorpionThe captive reproduction of emperor scorpions is a most interesting endeavor (for hobbyists and, I imagine, the scorpions themselves!).  When properly housed and cared for, emperor scorpions are relatively easy to breed.  This is surprising, given that they are such unique and highly specialized creatures, and is an opportunity that should not be missed.  Many prominent invertebrate specialists started out with this species…keeping them is a wonderful way of becoming involved in invertebrate husbandry, and will almost certainly “hook” you for good.

Distinguishing the Sexes

In captivity, as within certain parts of the natural range, mating may occur during any month.  Adult females are longer and stouter than males, but this is not a reliable means of distinguishing the sexes.

There are some slight differences in the shape of the genital openings.  View the scorpions from below, in a clear plastic box, when attempting to sex in this manner – do not restrain them via hand or tongs.  Photos of the undersides of male and female emperor scorpions are posted at http://www.pandinusimperator.nl/EN/biology_EN.htm.

Courtship and Mating

Reproduction is most likely to occur if your scorpions are housed in a large terrarium that provides ample burrowing opportunities.  All species studied thus far perform a “mating dance”, with the pair locking claws and moving about.  It is theorized that this helps to clear a patch of ground for the deposition of the males’ sperm packet.  I imagine, but have not been able to determine for sure, that the specific dance “moves” also aid in species’ recognition among these nearly blind creatures (this is the case in “dancing” scorpion relatives, such as jumping spiders).

The male deposits a sperm packet on the ground and pulls the female over it (it is tempting here to draw analogies to salamander reproduction).  Hooks along the edges of the sperm packet latch onto the female’s genital opening, and the eggs are then fertilized internally.

Gestation and Birth

Gestation is highly variable, ranging from 7-10 months on average but sometimes exceeding 1 year.  It is likely that stress, temperature and other factors play a role in determining the length of the gestation period.

Females continue to feed while gravid, and may swell noticeably…when viewed from above, the carapace segments appear widely spaced, and seem ready to split apart (heavily-fed scorpions of either sex, however, may also appear gravid).

The young (sometimes called “scorplings”), 8-30 in number, are born alive and measure about 5/8 of an inch in length.  They are white in color and remain on the female’s back until their first moult, at which time they darken and begin to venture off on their own.  Once this occurs, they will readily accept ½ inch crickets, small waxworms, newly molted mealworms, wild-caught insects and canned silkworms.

Maternal Care of the Young

Female emperor scorpions feed their young with finely-shredded insects – this really is something to see.  By all means, try to do so by viewing yours at night with the aid of an incandescent “nocturnal” bulbThe degree of care they provide to their young is extraordinary, and is far greater than one might expect from such supposedly “primitive” creatures.  Even among those scorpions that exhibit social behavior, emperors stand out as being very advanced in this regard.

Caring for the Mother and Her Brood

Once the female has given birth, all other scorpions should be removed from the terrarium, as she will become highly aggressive and defensive.  Do not relocate the mother…this inevitably stresses her and may cause her to consume her young.

Females with young react aggressively to any disturbance, even occasionally grabbing and eating scorplings that become dislodged from their backs.  This is not an uncommon occurrence – do not remove the remaining young unless she begins eating them regularly, as the overall survival rate is improved when clutches are reared with their mother.  I have raised several clutches to adulthood with the mother present – the key lies in disturbing her as little as possible and in providing a deep, secure burrow.

I usually raise the terrarium’s temperature to 85-90 F when rearing young emperor scorpions – this may not be essential, but I have found it to work well.

Sexual maturity in the wild is reportedly reached in 4-7 years, but captives may breed when only 12-14 months of age.  Emperor scorpions under my care have reproduced at age 3 and 4 years.

The Woodland Park Zoo provides interesting information on emperor and other scorpions in nature and captivity at:



  1. avatar

    I am one of those people who bought a “male” scorpion at the local aquarium store, and now “he” has given birth. Things are going just ok. Babies climbing down off her back TODAY! She has not fed since birth, there is a very inactive cricket in there now. I tried feeding her a meal worm, it burrowed to the bottom of the cage when she dropped it. I thought I saw the cricket in her hand yesterday, so I slowly backed out of the room. But either she never had it or she let it go…. I moved 2 babies successfully who had come down, they are in a new cage, one looks strong, the other not so much. I keep dumping pinheads in, but they are not feeding. Will try bigger 1/4 inch crickets next. My question is, when there are 3 babies on the ground with her, like right now, how do I get them safely out of there??? She is very aggressive and I am just a newbie. I am afraid she will eat one of them when I go to scoop them up. I am thinking about putting a flat something in there to block her off, like a wall, but she is not in a good position for that that now. My husband held her off with a spoon, while he scooped the other 2 out. How much time do you think I have to get these 3 out safely??

    • avatar

      Hi Rebecca,

      Congrats; they vary greatly in their reactions; I’ve raised many young right in with females, but others grab and eat the youngsters, even when they seem otherwise calm. Often best to remove, but perhaps wait until all are off her back. If you try moving her now, i.e. by backing her into a plastic container or blocking off from those on the ground, she may dislodge others and they could be killed. Sorry there are no definite guidelines as to timing, etc. Please let me know if you need more info, best, Frank

  2. avatar

    Wow what an amazing web site you have here. Thank you so much for your time, effort and expertise.

    I had 2 emperor scorpions until the bigger of the two ate the other one yesterday! Needless to say I was devastated.

    They have lived together for over a year now and one, Kublai, was always bigger than the other, Genghis. Usually they shed about the same time as one another but this time I noticed that Genghis was displaying shedding behavior while Kublai wasn’t. Genghis was very sluggish, not eating and hanging out by the water bowl and his/her skin was all wrinkly and looking like it was going to shed soon. Unfortunately I had no idea they were cannibalistic so thought nothing of separating them.

    Over the last couple of weeks Kublai has been extra hungry while Genghis wasn’t eating but no big deal since he/she was getting ready to shed. But Kublai ate 4 meal worms during one feeding, 2 in the mouth and 2 in the claws at once! Then not even a week later Kublai ate all 4 of the crickets I put in the tank!

    Then two days went by when I woke up one morning SHOCKED that Kublai was eating Genghis. Also, over the last few weeks Kublai has displayed different behavior which I would describe as he/she is trying to burrow. I’ve never had too deep of substrate, just a log, leaves and moss for them to hide. But since reading this I put in extra substrate just in case he/she is trying to burrow for some reason. Also, they have never demonstrated this behavior and their climate and habitat has not changed at all.

    So just wondering if there is something going on that you might have any idea about. I know it may be a long shot but just quite curious. Thanks so much!

    • avatar

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Females with developing young often go through periods when they eat a greaat deal, then slow down; they also may become aggressive to others, even though they live communally in the wild. Molting animals are sometimes attacked if the exoskeleton does not harden quickly (dry conditions can cause delayed molts)…the animal remains soft and defenseless, and others can sense this. Please keep me posted, and let me know if you need more info., best, Frank

  3. avatar

    I was wondering, will a male protect the female after pregnancy has happened? I have a male and female that I bought together, they have been housing mates since before I bought them. I would guess they are at the age to be mature and ready for breeding. Our female has been burrowing and hiding, with our male guarding her. He is quite aggressive and tries to strike with anyone trying to clean or feed them.

    • avatar

      Hello Jamie,

      Thanks for the interesting observation. They live communaly in the wild, so it is likely that defensive behavior would be useful. Certainly pheromones released by gravid females could spark this behavior; I’ve not read that this has been documented, but field studies are limited. It would be very useful to record what you observe. Please keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  4. avatar

    Dear Frank,

    I’ve just begun uncovering the world of scorpion keeping, I’ve kept reptile for 12 years, I’ve bred geckos and I’ve spent most of this year entering the world of Tarantulas. Everything I’ve kept has different rules of course, but things like caresheets do nothing in comparison to the words of someone who actually knows what they are doing. I have mainly questions about breeding and keeping emperors together. I currently have three that are usually covered in their mass of foliage, and they seem to get along without any problems whatsoever. They came from the same place/breeder, and “knew” eachother previously. I have two females and a male. I go back to that breeder to purchase more this weekend, but I was wondering how placing multiple males in the same large tank would work? I was hoping for two colonies of five, but have the feeling I will have to change my mind. Can two males and three females live together? I have several tanks prepared, but was hoping to add another two scorps to the tank I currently have. Thoughts?

    • avatar

      Hello Kirstie,

      Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated.

      Multiple males live together in the wild, and I’ve had success in large zoo exhibits…but always with animals that were purchased from a group already living together. It would be risky to add another male (or female) to your established group. The rules change in captivity…females that would normally get along with others after breeding sometimes become aggressive, etc.

      Enjoy, and let me know if you need anything, Frank

  5. avatar

    Hi Frank, I have another question. Is it possible for emperor scorpions to become gravid before 4 years of age? I am still seeing odd behaviors in our male and female. She looks as though she wants to molt, but yet nothing has happened. When we purchased them, they had been house together in the same enclosure for who knows how long. She is constantly burrowed with him still hovering around or above her. Her telson is still white, and I have heard she isn’t mature enough to be able to breed. I have had them for a month now, I would think if she was getting ready to molt, she would have by now. Can you help me out on this one????

    Jamie Shamblin

    • avatar

      Hi Jamie,

      Captives sometimes breed when only 1 year of age, and commonly do so by age 3-4; sexual maturity isn’t likely achieved until age 4-7 in the wild, depending on locale. Be sure to keep humidity up, in case she is preparing to molt, as this will ease the process,

      Pl keep me posted, enjoy, Frank

  6. avatar

    Hello, i have 2 Asian rain forest scorpions and was talking to a friend about them when he asked if it was possible for example, one like mine to breed with another species of scorpion such as an emperor scorpion? Not saying I’m going to but it did raise my curiosity.

    • avatar

      Hello Josh,

      We have much to learn about scorpion taxonomy, but those 2 species do not appear closely related, and would not likely be able to interbreed. Also, scorpions have been on earth longer than almost any 0other creature…species isolated from one another have had a very long time to evolve different breeding strategies, etc. Best, Frank

  7. avatar

    Ok thank you for the quick response. Also, i attempted to introduce one about a week and a half ago but they don’t seem to want to get along, is there any strategies i can take to keep them in the same cage without wanting to kill each other? They have lived in there since but usually one cowers away after they have conflict but i worry it ill get worse as time passes. And one more question, one of them is looking a little wrinkled on the white part. should i be worried about that? if so, what can i do to better care for it?

    • avatar

      Hi Josh,

      I wouldn’t try to keep them together; even if they do not fight, the stress caused by living with a dominant animal will weaken the immune system of the other, which will lead to sickness and or death. Also, when one sheds the other will likely kill it.

      As a general rule, it’s best not to house related animals from different habitats/parts of the world together; micro-organisms, parasites, bacteria that might be relatively harmless to one could cause serious health problems or death to another; similar to when tourists become ill from drinking the tap water in foreign countries, because they have no immunities to local bacteria.

      No real way to diagnose any problem from what you describe, re wrinkling, unfortunately,

      Enjoy, let me know if you need anything , frank

  8. avatar

    forgot to add, there is three different burrows and holes they can hide in so shelter is no issue along with crickets and space they seem to only have conflict when they come out at night then they seem to go back to their own business

  9. avatar

    Thank you again for the wonderful advice! i don’t think i was to specific on that though. They are both the same species of scorpion which i purchased from my local petsmart, the first one about a month and a half ago. and the other a week and a half ago. The emperor scorpion question was out of curiosity. Sorry for so many questions but i guess everybody has to start somewhere. most sites i have looked at aren’t very specific about the information i want. I do have to say your blog here has a lot of useful information and keep up the good work Frank!

    • avatar

      Thanks for the kind words, please write in anytime.

      Emperors are social in the wild, but not all will get along in captivity; it can take awhile to find a compatible pair or group. The stress scenario still applies, but you can try adding extra cork bark, plants, rocks etc to the terrarium, to break the space up and allow them to avoid one another when they are on the surface. Keep a close watch on them, they may adjust to each other over time, but no accurate way to predict, best, Frank

  10. avatar

    hey its me again.. so far and so good with the scorpions. i got a new one yesterday. also one drowned a week ago even with a sponge and the extra precautions. they all seem to be getting along real well to now. i found that after rearranging the cage a few times that they started to get along better. and i also had a couple questions for you. ill have to explain a few things first. so i want to go to college for some sort of degree. but i would like to study scorpions and tarantulas for a living. would you by chance have any thoughts or ideas what type of work position i could go for, that i can study just these creatures? anything helps. please and thank you!

    • avatar

      Hello Josh,

      I apologize for the long delay…a glitch in the notification system caused me to miss your comment.

      Arachnologists may go into field research, museum work, bio-medical studies (medicine from venom, etc) and related fields….I’m not familiar with all the options. …a small field but growing;

      A friend who is an arachnologist suggests that you join or keep tabs on the Am Arachnological Society.; their website has info on graduate studies, ongoing research, grants for students, meetings, etc. My friend mainly supports himself by teaching at a college (a common route, as research work is sporadic, usually), and uses his summers for field work, writing books and articles, etc. As for college…basic biology, zoology will provide a good basis…you can specialize once you reach graduate school. For serious work..research, etc; you’ll need a pHD. Zoo work and similar is possible earlier on, but best to go as far as you can with your education, as all related fields are extremely competitive.

      I’m not sure where we left off in our earlier emails, but if if you;ve not seen it, this article may be of use. It focuses on general zoology careers..the principles are applicable to the study of scorpions and spiders.

      My notification system is back on track now, so please keep me posted, best, Frank

  11. avatar

    well i believe i was the last josh to post as those are my comments.. ha ha. no need for apologies with the delays i assumed you would get back to me. thanks for the advice! i just find it a hobby to arrange the cage and observe what they do. so i thought i could make use of it and try to turn it into a career!

    • avatar

      Hello Josh…nothing like turning a hobby into a career; it was a long haul for me, but well worth it as I’ve rarely felt as if I’ve been “working” in the true sense of the word for many years now. I enjoy setting up terrariums…was able to turn that into zoo and museum work as a keeper and later as a freelance consultant; great fun; But stay practical…animal care jobs are interesting, rewarding, but salaries are generally poor; education is the way to go if you plabn on earning a decent living at it; let me know if you need info as time goes on, best, Frank

  12. avatar

    Hi Frank, I have a emperor scorpion , she bore about 20-30 baby scorpions none of the baby died luckily . I have moved the babies to a smaller aquarium they seems to be fine but they pile up together and are very inactive are they alright?

    • avatar


      Congrats! They move very little at first, and will not feed until after their first molt, at which time the color will darken a bit. Be sure to keep humidity up, as they desiccate easily, and give them plenty of places to hide…pl keep me posted, let me know if you need more info, enjoy, Frank

  13. avatar

    Hi Frank, me again . I took your advise and place a lump of wood in the aquarium and surprisingly the scorpions started to separate and go for the wood for cover they still don’t move much but when I moise them they move around actively happy to see them healthy :) as for the food for them … I brought some maggets ( they looks like but I am or sure ) the size of the food is larger then them for now I am not sure if they will eat the food I provide or is there another solution?

  14. avatar

    Hey Frank , now my mummy scorpion still looks like she is pregnant after giving birth to 30 of the babies is there any chances for a scorpion to give birth twice ? Before even mating the second time?

    • avatar



      Yes..they can store sperm, and a single mating can produce several litters; we don’t have complete studies, but I’ve observed storage ou at least 1 year…amazing little creatures! No real info on period between births…seems to vary a great deal. please keep me posted, best, Frank

  15. avatar

    That’s impressive … Awesome little creatures

  16. avatar

    Frank, very good job in writing this blog. In the last couple of years we have started breeding Emperor Scorpions and have good luck with them. This blog was very interesting and also was somewhat helpful. Great work, thank you.


  17. avatar

    Hello Frank! me josh again imy scorpions have successfully bred. they no longer fight and 2 of the 3 adults are on one end of the cage. the smaller babies are about an inch long.. should i take them out at this time and feed them the smaller crickets in a separate terrarium? and i am currently enrolled into Mesa State University now to go for a biology degree at the moment and i hope to succeed with that as well! they are asian forest scorpions. just a reminder! ha

    • avatar

      Hello Josh,

      Congrats; I’d say remove them; since there are appx., some have likely been picked off by adults; they do not do as well in groups as Emperors.

      Very glad to ehar about school…great step for anything, but esp. if you plan a career with animals or in bio. let me know if you need any career type info in future and pl keep me posted. Good luck, do well, Frank

  18. avatar

    also i do not have a exact count on the babies. i believe there is about 6 or so.. i have been gone away from my home for 3 weeks and my father took care of them in the mean time. so i do not know how long they have been living for either. any advice would help thank you

  19. avatar

    i took them out.. there is 16-17 of them! did not expect it at all they were burrowed a little bit deeper.. momma keeps looking for them though i think. what would you suggest i feed them? i’ve been getting small crickets and pulling their legs off but was not sure if there was an easier food source?

  20. avatar

    i will keep you posted about it as i go along with college. i hope to get a job with a zoo. but also perhaps a job traveling to try and find new species and study the behavior of different species of scorpions.
    thank you

    • avatar

      Sounds good; larger zoos have research positions etc, but rarely focus on inverts. Museum work might be an option…well financed institutions such as the AMNH would be best…lots of competition though. Should be options if you look into the medicinal side of it as well…venoms very complex, interest growing. You often need to focus on something that arouses wider interest (and hence gets you a salary!), and then focus on your main interests as part of that work. A good friend is an arachnologist, spider guy but he may have ideas…he teaches, which is not at all his preference, but has time and funding in summer to do more interesting work, good luck, let me know if you need anything, Frank

  21. avatar

    Hi frank , about the baby scorpion thy are about 3 months ? Or so ? Can I place them back with their mother , will they be eaten? ( they have skin now ) :) they look okay to be place with their mother . Thank you :) Ka soon

    • avatar

      Hi Ka soon,

      Glad to hear they have done well. It’s difficult to predict what will happen if you re-introduce; captivity changes their behavior, so it’s not possible to compare to what goes on in the wild. Be sure she’s well fed, and try 1-2 first; watch after dark also. Hope all goes well, please let me know, Frank

  22. avatar

    Hi ,Frank, I have an emporer scorpion I’ve had for two years.its obviously yielded babies,only two and they weren’t on her back just kicked in the coconut fiber flooring how do I take care of this baby I now have it separated due to fear of the mother tring to kill it any advice is appreciated

  23. avatar

    Also , the mother is the only one I’ve had for 2 years so can they be hermanpherdite

    • avatar

      Hi Andy,

      Emperor scorpions can store sperm for quite some time…at least 1 year; I’ve not seen reports of 2 years, but could be possible..fact that only 2 youngsters were born would support this. Some scorpions reproduce asexually….emperor scorpions do not seem able to do so, however. I have not checked recently, however, but will do so in the near future. Best, frank

  24. avatar

    Thnx for the response,frank

  25. avatar

    Hello! We have an emperor scorpion who has had 7 babies, and we think she is still giving birth. We noticed that one baby has gotten a long ways away from the mother. It is no longer on her back or in the burrow with her. It is actually near the other side of the tank. Should we leave it alone or try and put it back with the mother?

    Also, any advice you can give on caring for the babies would be much appreciated!

  26. avatar

    Hello first time poster. I just became very interested in scorpions! I have been doing a lot of research on scorpions and seen that the venom can be used for cancer research. Is that any type of scorpion or is it specific breeds that they are using? As a first time scorpion pet owner what suggestions would you have for my first scorpion and can they climb glass terrariums?

    • avatar


      Scorpions can be very interesting pets to keep. If you can find one for sale, I recommend starting out with an emperor scorpion. They are becoming harder to find recently due to recent export restrictions, that should begin to change as more keepers begin captive breeding them. Otherwise, Asian forest Scorpions are a good alternative. They are almost identical to Emperors in appearance, but they are much feistier and more likely to sting. Luckily (provided that you are not allergic) their venom isn’t very strong. Many people compare it to that of a hornet sting. The specific scorpion that is being used used in cancer medication research is Rhopalurus junceus, commonly known as the Cuban Blue Scorpion. Although scorpions cannot climb glass, I have occasionally seen very small specimens climb the silicon which connects the panes of glass of an aquarium together.

      I hope this helps!


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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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