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Giant whip scorpions are native to Florida, too. UF expert explains what to expect

An expert from the University of Florida says although the giant whip scorpion looks...
An expert from the University of Florida says although the giant whip scorpion looks intimidating, it’s harmless to people and pets.(UF)
Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 12:15 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - News reports about a “land lobster” found at a national park in Texas were shared widely in July, and it turns out the species is also native to the Sunshine State.

An expert from the University of Florida says although the giant whip scorpion looks intimidating, it’s harmless to people and pets.

William Kern, an associate professor in the department of entomology and nematology at UF, wrote a co-authored article about the arachnid.

He says the scorpion is neither venomous nor physically hazardous.

“They can give a mild pinch with their pincers (pedipalps). Most mammals and birds will not eat them because they are distasteful, but not because they are poisonous,” Kern says.

The giant whip scorpion is actually native to Florida, and it was actually elevated from a subspecies to a species in 2018, according to Kern.

He says they live in deep, well-drained sandy soils like long-leaf pine sandhills, sand pine scrub, coastal and relict dunes.

“They may have burrows, but often just burrow under logs and boards on the ground,” Kern says. “Their population has been declining due to habitat loss and over-collecting for the pet trade.”

Under some conditions, a whip scorpion will try to defend itself by pinching with its pincers. Kern says it is a mild pinch, comparable to a small lizard’s bite.

Another defense mechanism the whip scorpion has is its acetic acid spray, which Kern says is a little bit stronger than food-grade vinegar. They use this when predators get too close.

“The spray can sting the eyes and irritate the nose and doesn’t taste good. It comes from two pores at the base of the ‘whip,’” Kern says. “They are actually pretty accurate with the spray.”

If the spray gets on your skin, simply wash the exposed skin with soap and water before touching your eyes. If it does manage to get in your eyes, Kern says to flush them with clean water.

According to Kern, it’s possible there could be more giant whip scorpions around if you find one on your property since it could be the right habitat for them.

“Why get rid of them? They are harmless, eat cockroaches and millipedes, and they are cool,” he says.

Kern says although people want the scorpions as pets, they rarely do well in captivity. In fact, the pet trade had had a largely negative impact for the giant whip scorpion population in Florida.

“Appreciate them in the field then leave them in peace,” he says. “They are very photogenic, so you don’t need to collect them.”

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