Emperor Scorpions: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on January 16, 2023
5 min read

Scorpions are commonly presented as frightful, intimidating creatures in movies and shows. They’re found throughout the world as threats, pests, and even pets. 

Some scorpion species are much safer than others. The list of reasonably safe species includes the emperor scorpion. In some parts of the world, these creatures are pests, but they’re also kept as pets. Learn how to identify the emperor scorpion so you’ll know what to do if you encounter one in any environment.

All scorpions are arachnids — just like tarantulas and other spiders. Different scorpion species are found in warm climates around the world. 

The scientific name for the emperor scorpion is Pandinus imperator

They’re actually popular pets because, despite their looks, they’re not very aggressive.  

What do emperor scorpions look like? Emperor scorpions are one of the largest types of scorpions on earth. They can grow to nearly 8 inches in length and tend to weigh more than species of similar sizes. 

They have strong shells on the outside of their bodies instead of an internal skeletal system. 

Their bodies are almost entirely black. One fun fact about this — and other — scorpion species is that their bodies take on a bright blue-green color under UV light. 

Emperor scorpions have a lot of different appendages coming from their main body. These include: 

  • Two large pincers on the front of their body
  • Four legs — two on each side of their abdomen
  • A long tail that ends in a stinger 

Young scorpions have the same body plan as adults. They go through several molts as they grow in size.

In captivity, the average emperor scorpion’s lifespan is 5 to 8 years. They likely have shorter lifespans in the wild.

What do emperor scorpions eat? In their natural habitat, emperor scorpions prefer to eat termites. They can survive off all kinds of insects, other arthropods, and small vertebrates.

Emperor scorpions originated in west Africa. Today you’re most likely to find them in:

  • Nigeria
  • Togo
  • Sierra Leone
  • Ghana
  • The Congo 

They prefer hot, humid forests. In their natural environments, you can find them: 

  • Under leaf litter and other forest debris
  • On stream banks 
  • In termite mounds 

They also thrive in places where humans live. If you live in the emperor scorpion’s range, you’ll likely find communities of them within your own home. 

Emperor scorpions in the pet trade are typically imported from Ghana and Togo.

Seeing an emperor scorpion in your home is an obvious sign that these large pests have found a way in. If you see one, there could easily be more. Emperor scorpions are communal animals. People have observed them living in groups of up to 15 individuals. 

If you find one, you should safely take care of it. Then start to systematically hunt for others. Check underneath objects on your floor and look for openings in your home that are large enough for a scorpion to get through.   

Emperor scorpions are nocturnal, so they’re most active at night. If some are in your home, there’s a good chance they won’t start wandering around until it’s dark. Try waiting until evening to look and listen for signs of more in your building.

Emperor scorpions are looking for areas where they can shelter as a group. If you have emperor scorpions in your home, then you likely live in an area where they’re common. It also means that your house has some sort of open entryway that they can use. This could be a crack in your foundation or a gap in a windowsill or door frame. 

The main risk posed by emperor scorpions is in the form of their attacks. But in the wild, they prefer to run from a fight. Keep this fact in mind if you encounter them in your home.

Do emperor scorpions sting? Emperor scorpions mostly use their stinger as a defense mechanism. They prefer to use their pincers to capture and kill their prey. But they’ll attack with both pincers and stinger if they’re cornered.  

You’ll know that they’re preparing to attack when you see them transition into a defensive posture — with their stinger raised and ready. 

Female emperor scorpions become more aggressive after they give birth. The young have few defenses and need to be protected by their mother. Be particularly cautious if you’re dealing with a mother and her young. 

Are emperor scorpions poisonous? Emperor scorpions have mild venom. It’s distributed through the stinger at the end of their tail. This means that emperor scorpions are venomous, not poisonous.  

Unlike other scorpion species, their venom is very mild and won’t kill you. But getting grabbed by their pincers can be very painful — even more than getting stung.  

If you do get stung, you could develop a number of symptoms at the site. These include: 

In most situations, you don’t need to get medical attention if you get stung by an emperor scorpion. Instead, you should:

  • Wash the area with soap and water 
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Contact poison control at 1-800-222-1222 if you have any additional questions or concerns

Getting stung by certain scorpion species can be fatal. If you’re not sure what species has stung you, it’s best to get immediate medical attention. You should also get immediate medical attention if you notice any bodywide symptoms instead of ones that are just at the sting site.

You can try to physically remove individual emperor scorpions that you find in your home. Just make sure that you wear and use safety equipment to protect yourself from their pincers and stingers. 

Then you can take steps to make your home less inviting for emperor scorpions. For example, clean up leaf litter and other debris around your yard. Pay special attention to areas near the walls and entrances to the building. 

You can also attempt to eliminate their food sources by reducing the insect populations in your yard. One way to do this is with insecticides. Just keep in mind that many insecticides can harm both humans and unintended species. Select your product with care and precisely follow every instruction on the label. 

Contact a professional pest removal company if you have a serious scorpion problem on your hands. Just make sure to take your time and research the company first. You want to find one that maintains rigorous safety standards and uses pest removal strategies that are compatible with your lifestyle.