Androctonus bicolor

So, Day One of my black fat tail scorpion experiment.  A few basics about African Black Fat Tail Scorpions – that’s the common name, for one.  Another is that the latin name is Androctonus bicolor.  They’re found throughout northern Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, in dry, arid regions.  I personally haven’t been able to find much on where they’re found in the wild (as in pictures of them in situ or collection data from people who’ve actually found them), although I can find several accounts of people who’ve bred them, so I’m approximating my care and setup based on their successful housing.  They’re one of the more toxic scorpion species, and a handful of deaths are attributed to them each year.  There is lots of documentation regarding the sting of their cousin, the yellow fat tail, Androctonus australis, but little is readily found on the A. bicolor.  A few anecdotal stories of stings suggest to me that the sting is much like the other deadly scorpions in the area – most of the time it just hurts really bad, but the small or the weak are more likely to have a negative or fatal reaction to the venom.

Alright, so we know a bit about the fat tails now.  What I’m doing, or trying to do, is raise a small group communally to see how they interact and just plain see if it can be done.  I’ve set up 5 of them in a 36” x 12” x 12” glass terrarium, on a substrate of mostly sand with some bark and coconut fiber mixed in.  I found a few stories of people who’d been stung, and most of them were not out in sand dunes in straight sand, they were in sandy soil areas with brush and rocks.  This is about all I can find on what niche they prefer to inhabit in the wild, so that’s what I’m going on!  Since these are also babies in their 2nd instar, I didn’t want to dry them out too much with a strictly sand substrate, so I provided them with areas of higher moisture as well as areas without. They sit on the top of my blue tongue skink cage, which has a 100 watt mercury vapor inside that heats up the top of the cage to a nice 90 or so degrees.  At night I’m debating if I will heat them with a heat pad or let them cool to room temperature (72 – 76 degrees).  A simple search of high and low temperatures in Egypt shows that their nights cool to that range naturally, so I may leave them without supplemental heat as long as the weather stays warm here.

cage setup

How the cage is set up

The babies I set up in the cage all ate 1 to 2 fruit flies yesterday prior to being placed in the cage, so they have full tummies setting out.  I’ll give them a couple days to settle in then toss in some more fruit flies. I almost regret using such a large cage for babies; I set up the cage last night and trying to find them in there this morning is damn near impossible. Immediately after releasing them, I was able to find a couple…

black fat tail scorpling

One of the baby fat tails hiding under a rock - only visible thanks to the black light!

But after searching the cage again this morning with my trusty Stinger light, I can’t find a single one of them.  I guess I’ll just have to toss food in there and keep my fingers crossed – maybe I’ll start seeing them after they molt a time or two.

I also have 5 babies set up individually, in 32 oz insect cups on paper towel.  They are heated with a bit of heat cable, but they are heated 24 hours a day.  There is a natural rise in temperature in my apartment during the day, so their daytime highs should reach about 90 or so degrees, while the babies in the naturalistic cage should have high temps approaching 100 or more.  I will temp them morning prior to lights on, morning 1 hour after lights on, evening after 12 hours lights on, and evening 1 hour after lights off.  If I can find their locations within the cage I’ll also note that, but it’s looking highly unlikely until they molt a bit bigger.
And just like that, so it begins!