Scorpions are widely spread across the world but are rarely kept as pets. That’s a pity as they are a wonderful type of exotic pet that’s pretty fun to look after, similar to tarantulas and other small arachnids. If you are contemplating getting a scorpion from the pet store, however, you may be wondering what do scorpions eat? So, let’s answer that here.
Table of Contents
Where do scorpions live?
Various species of scorpions can be found on virtually every continent other than Antarctica. Depending on their habitat they can vary greatly in size, appearance, and characteristics, of course. There’s a world of difference between the Emperor scorpion which can grow up to 7 inches (18 cm) and the Bark scorpion (2.5 inches or 6 cm), for example.
In Northern America, scorpions can mostly be seen in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, i.e. in parts of Mexico and certain southern states of the US such as Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, and a few others. In general, venomous scorpions in the US are believed to at least occasionally be seen as far north as Nebraska and as far east as Tennesse.
What do scorpions eat in the wild?
Scorpions are natural predators in the wild and their specific skill set allows them to hunt all manner of prey as long as it is in or somewhere around their weight class.
Depending on the size of the scorpion and the prey, these arachnids can hunt and kill anything from spiders and other arachnids to various insects and other anthropods such as crickets, centipedes, moths, ticks, beetles, termites, wasps, grasshoppers, as well as snails, mealworms, and so on.
Larger species can even hunt small lizards, mice, shrews and other rodents and mammals, small snakes, and more. Essentially, if a scorpion can safely sting an animal and its venom is potent enough to down it, the scorpion can eat that.
As for tiny scorpions, Even if only a few inches long, they can easily enjoy small insects as well as small invertebrates such as crickets or cockroaches and most worms.
What do scorpions eat as a pet?
Pet scorpions you look after in a tank would ideally eat more or less the same live prey they’d eat if they were running around freely in the desert. The “live” part is important as you want your pet scorpion to actually hunt and kill its prey – very few scorpions will even sniff at a pre-killed meal.
This detail puts a lot of people off looking after a pet scorpion as it essentially means that you have to look after not only the scorpion but also its live prey. The whole process really isn’t all that complicated, however, as most scorpion species only need to eat 2 or 3 times a week.
Additionally, the feeding process is quite simple – you just drop a single live “item” of prey into your pet’s tank and you let the two of them sort it out. If the scorpion is hungry, it will eventually locate, attack, kill, and eat its prey. If it isn’t hungry, it will just ignore the prey as it would in the wild. In that case, it’s advisable to remove the prey if it hasn’t been killed and eaten in 24 hours and try again the next day and/or with a different type of prey.
The exact things you should feed your scorpion do depend a bit on its species but the size is really mostly what matters here – the prey should be large enough for the scorpion to easily and safely grasp with both its pincers but not too large to harm your pet. So, the most common items you should use include stuff such as mealworms, crickets, Dubia roaches, waxworms, hornworms, and superworms, including other large but safe insects.
Just drop your choice for the day in your pet’s large tank and enjoy the sight of the hunt.
Another important part of the process you should keep in mind, however, is “gut-loading” the prey. This essentially means feeding the insects and worms you give your scorpion and feeding them well too. This is crucial because you want your pet to consume prey that’s literally stuffed with all the nutrients, minerals, and vitamins the scorpion needs. If you give your pet malnourished prey you will soon have a malnourished pet.
How to gut-load insects for scorpions?
This is another part of the process that can sound complicated but is pretty simple – just put some pieces of potatoes, lettuce, taters, apples, oranges, or whatever your scorpion’s prey is supposed to eat in the prey’s container. Add some water in a small bowl and on the food and that’s all – whenever you choose to take an insect to give your scorpion, it will be “gut-loaded”, i.e. well-fed.
If you don’t want to bother with all that, an alternative is to just not keep your scorpion’s prey at home. After all, your pet only needs to eat two or three times a week. This means that you can just visit your pet store two or three times a week on your way back home, pick up a single cricket or mealworm from it in a plastic bag, and toss it in your scorpion’s cage.
Pet stores keep their prey items fed so this solves your problem. The only possible hiccup here is that you might not have such a pet store nearby. Additionally, you can also just not use a pet store’s services at all and just pick up insects and worms you find out in the wild – these are almost guaranteed to be well-fed most of the time.
How do scorpions hunt in the wild?
Virtually every scorpion hunts by either chasing the prey down their burrows or ambushing it in the open. Then, the scorpion tries to grasp the prey with its pedipalps, i.e its front pincers. After that, it just uses its stinger to inject potent venom that quickly spreads through the prey’s insides and either paralyzes it or kills it outright.
How do scorpions eat?
There is a common idea that spiders don’t “eat” their food but instead just drink its insides after they’ve been liquefied by the spider’s venom. Do scorpions eat in the same way?
No, neither scorpions nor spiders eat that way, this is a myth. There is a grain of truth for both species that can be related to that myth, however – both spiders and scorpions have a hard time digesting “hard food”. So, both species have a workaround. In the case of spiders, they spit some of their stomach digestive fluid directly on top of a part of the paralyzed and webbed-up victim and then eat the pre-digested part. Then, they repeat the process for the rest of the prey’s body.
Scorpions utilize a similar method. First, they use their chelicerae or “fangs” to rip solid parts of the envenomed prey. They don’t swallow, however. Instead, they hold the solid chunks in a pre-oral cavity and then egest digestive fluids from their gut into the solid food that’s in said cavity. After that fluid has liquefied the scorpion’s bite, both the fluid and the liquefied bite get swallowed. Then, the scorpion simply takes another bite.
Essentially, the process is very similar to what spiders do, only a bit more “neat” – the scorpion does all the digestion internally whereas the spider does the first part of it externally.
How long can scorpions go without food?
One of the many amazing features of scorpions is that they have the ability to slow down their metabolism on command. The exact extent of this ability can vary a bit between the different species of scorpions but in all cases, a healthy adult scorpion can live without food for multiple weeks as long as it’s been well-fed before that and it has access to clean water. For quite a few species of scorpions, this “fasting” period can last as long as 12 months!
For you, as a pet owner, this is fantastic news as it means that you don’t need to have anyone over to feed your scorpion when you’re on a vacation. Just give your pet a nice gut-loaded meal and make sure there’s clean water in the tank, and you can leave your pet for a week, two, or more.
Obviously, this shouldn’t be done regularly – you can’t always feed your scorpion once a year. However, one or two pauses of a couple of weeks a year should be no problem for any health specimen.
Scorpions are an excellent choice for an exotic pet both because of how unique and fun they look as well as how easy they are to feed. You can literally just pick something off your yard once every few days, toss it in your pet’s tank, and that’s it.