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Emperor scorpions are one of the largest of all scorpions, but not the longest. They grow very fast, and have an average length of 4-8 inches. Their exoskeleton is a dark blue or black, and occasionally dark brown or even greenish. (They show up beautifully under a black-light bulb!) The pincers are granular in texture and have a reddish coloring.
Sensory "hairs" surround the pincers, tail, and telson. The tail, also know as the metasoma, is long and made up of six segments. It ends in a large ball (called the telson) which contains the venom glands. The telson ends in a sharp curve which serves as the stinger. The thorax is made up of four sections, each with a pair of legs on the undersurface. Behind the fourth pair of legs are ventral comb-like structures known as pectines. The pectines are noticeably longer in the males than the females, and are a good way of distinguishing the sexes.
The emperor scorpion is a relative of the spider, and despite its lobster-like appearance, it only has eight legs. Two pedipalpi (pinchers) are located near the front of its body, and are strong enough to draw blood from a human. They are venomous, but rarely sting humans. They are not lethal unless you are also allergic to bee stings. An anaphylactic reaction to scorpion stings can be just as dangerous as to bee stings.
Emperor scorpions, which can live up to eight years, are rather docile and can be handled, although they are not recommended for novices.
Emperor scorpions are found in the hot tropical forests and savannahs of Africa. Like all scorpions, they like to burrow beneath the soil, and can be found under rocks and other debris. They are located in the countries of Togo, Ghana, Chad, Benin, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and the Congo region.
Emperor scorpions feed on almost anything in the wild, including insects, arachnids, mice, and lizards. In captivity they are fed crickets, woodlice, butterworms, and pinkie mice. The young are fed crushed-up pinhead crickets.
Emperor scorpions reach sexual maturity around the age of four, although in captivity it can happen around the age of one. The gestation period is 7-9 months. The young grow in the mother and are born alive, with an average litter of 9-32 young. The young are white at first, but become darker after each molt. The mothers are occasionally cannibalistic, especially if outside food sources are scarce, and have been known to eat a few of their young.
The emperor scorpion's main enemy is man. Over-collection by pet owners has greatly reduced their numbers in Togo and Ghana. They are on the CITES II species list as "threatened."