What types of scorpions are found in California?
All the scorpions living in California are nocturnal carnivores, so they are most easily seen at night. But did you know that all scorpions glow a bright blueish color under ultraviolet light?
So many times, people take blacklights to help them find and observe scorpions!
Here are the 7 Types of Scorpions Found in California:
- As a rule of thumb, scorpions with small claws and a large stinger are dangerously venomous, while those with large claws and a small stinger are less. This ID Guide will help you identify scorpions, but please seek medical attention if you get stung.
- Tiny and normally reddish-brown, but can vary in a color—segmented body shaped like a teardrop.
- Eight small legs. Large pincers that are more than twice as long as the legs.
- No stinger!
- Also known as the False Scorpion.
Have you ever seen something that looked like a scorpion but didn’t have a tail?
If you have, well, consider yourself lucky! This tiny arachnid is called a Pseudoscorpion. They are rarely seen and are considered a FALSE scorpion! The Pseudoscorpion is harmless to humans, but since they are predators, they will help keep your home free of small unwanted creatures.
Despite the name, Pseudoscorpions don’t have a tail with a venom-filled stinger. Instead, these tiny arachnids have venom in their pincers that they use to kill their prey. But you shouldn’t have any fear as they cannot harm a human, so there is no need to be afraid of this 1/8 inch (3 mm) arachnid.
Pseudoscorpions are kind of like spiders too because they can make silk! However, they don’t make webs to catch prey. Instead, they use the silk to create a cocoon to use as shelter from cold weather.
Pseudoscorpion Range Map
Pseudoscorpions are more common than you think! But since they are so tiny, they are often overlooked and live in homes. In addition, their preferred habitats include moss, leaf litter, and under stones, logs, or bark.
#2. Northern Scorpion
- Paruroctonus boreus
- Tan with dark brown stripes on the back.
- Large round pincers.
This arachnid is the most cold-tolerant scorpion in California.
You will typically find Northern Scorpions near sandstone cliffs. Look for them in a variety of habitats and elevations.
Northern Scorpion Range Map
Like other scorpions in California, this species feeds on small prey like insects. When they sting, venom is injected, which subdues their prey.
Northern Scorpions are nocturnal and rarely seen during the day. To find them, you need to go looking under rocks in the daytime. But please be careful if you do since they have a venom-packed stinger.
Luckily, the effects of a sting are mild and similar to a hornet. You can expect localized numbness, which lasts up to four hours.
Check out this video of the Northern Scorpion in the wild!
#3. Giant Whip Scorpion
- Mastigoproctus giganteus
- Completely black. Their two front legs are antenna-like.
- Their two large appendages are more like claws instead of pincers.
- A long, thin, whip-like tail that lacks a stinger (hence their name).
- Also known as Giant Vinegaroon and Grampus.
The Giant Whip Scorpion is called a scorpion but is missing the venom-filled stinger that most other scorpions in California possess. You can find them in thorn scrub, oak, and pine forest habitats.
Giant Whip Scorpion Range Map
The Giant Whip Scorpion has poor eyesight and relies on its two antenna-like front legs to feel around and detect vibrations to find its prey. Once a victim is located, they use their claw-like pedipalps to crush them to help them consume it.
This scorpion prefers to hunt for various insects, termites, worms, slugs, cockroaches, and other arachnids. They also have been seen eating tiny frogs and toads.
- Related: The 9 Types of Frogs In California!
The Giant Whip Scorpion can spray a powerful acid from their anus, which is located on the tip of their tail. This defense strategy sounds like science fiction, but it’s used commonly when they feel threatened.
Oddly enough, this scorpion is often sold in the exotic animal trade as pets. Good thing they aren’t venomous!
#4. Tailless Whip Scorpion
- Colors vary from the blackish-brown or dark brown.
- Large, wide, and flat body with long skinny legs and pincers.
- The name “amblypygid” means “blunt tail.” It lacks a stinging tail like a typical scorpion.
- Also known as a Whip Spider or Cave Spider.
This creepy crawler looks like a spider and is called a scorpion, but it is neither. This species lacks silk glands to make silk or a tail with a venom-filled stinger. The best part about these arachnids is they aren’t harmful to humans!
Tailless Whip Scorpions are found in arid and tropical environments. Even though they’re not actual scorpions, they act similarly in several ways, which is why they are included on this list.
Tailless Whip Scorpion Range Map
This arachnid is nocturnal and spends its days hiding under leaf litter or inside caves, waiting for nightfall to hunt and eat its prey. If you expose one by lifting the stone it’s hiding under; it will run sideways, like a crab, to escape and seek shelter elsewhere. They are speedy runners!
It is surprising with eight eyes that the Whip Scorpion would have poor eyesight; it is like nature’s sick joke. But this species does not go hungry, as it uses its first pair of legs as antennas (like whips) to help find prey, such as large insects, frogs, small animals, and spiders.
This species is scary looking but very fascinating, and many people have them as pets. And if this species seems familiar to you, it might be because this arthropod was featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
#5. Arizona Bark Scorpion
- Centruroides Sculptuatuas
- Yellowish tan or brownish with a broad body that tapers down to its distinctive curled thinner tail.
- The abdomen has two stripes.
- Two large pincers.
Arizona Bark Scorpions are commonly found in logs (hence the name), woodpiles, under rocks, and inside houses. They are great climbers and like to hang upside down. These scorpions prefer darker places and may be hiding in your drawers, dark cabinets, tub, barn, attic, or other structures.
This species is the most venomous scorpion in California.
Arizona Bark Scorpion Range Map
If you should be stung by the Striped Bark Scorpion, it will feel similar to a bee or wasp sting. However, you won’t experience more than temporary sharp or burning pain for about 30 minutes, and medical care is rarely necessary.
BUT, sometimes the sting can cause an allergic reaction, leading to severe abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, seizures, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing. If you experience these symptoms, then seek medical attention right away!
#6. Giant Hairy Desert Scorpion
- Hadrurus arizonensis
- Large and hairy. Yellow with a dark back and pale yellow between the eyes.
- Crab-like claws and a long bristly stinger-tipped tail.
- Also known as the Arizona Desert Hairy Scorpion and the Giant Hairy Scorpion.
The Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion is the largest scorpion in California
This scorpion’s size allows it to feed on various larger prey, including lizards, snakes, and other scorpions. It also has been known to take down or fight with giant centipedes.
Giant Desert Hairy Scorpion Range Map
You will find these nocturnal scorpions in rocky deserts and arid foothills in California.
These scorpions like to burrow and search for moisture. They spend their days under boards, rocks, and other debris on the ground and sometimes in a deep burrow.
The Arizona Desert Hairy Scorpion is venomous, but it only causes local pain, similar to a honey bee sting. However, you could be allergic to the venom, and that could be fatal. Symptoms include difficultly breathing, excessive swelling, and prolonged pain.
This scorpion is unique because of its very different mating dance called the promenade a deux. First, the male finds a mate, and they grasp each other with their claws and pull back and forth. Once that is done, the male deposits a sperm packet on the ground, then the female picks it up with her reproductive organs.
Young scorpions are born alive and crawl onto their mother’s back and stay there for about two weeks.
#7. Stripe-tailed Scorpion
- Paravaejovis spinigerus
- Yellowish-tan with brownish-tan stripes on the back of its tail along the ridges.
- The tail is thicker than its hand, but both are slender and have brown markings.
- Also known as Devil Scorpion.
This scorpion is commonly found under rocks or other debris in various habitats, from desert floors to rocky hillsides. However, this scorpion tends to look for the most humid areas it can find.
Stripe-tailed Scorpion Range Map
Like most scorpions in California, the Arizona Stripetail Scorpion feeds on small invertebrates, crickets, mealworms, roaches, and other scorpions.
The main predators of the Arizona Stripetail Scorpion are Pallid Bats, snakes, spiders, centipedes, lizards, birds, mammals, and other scorpions. These guys need to watch their backs!
These scorpions are venomous; however, the venom of this species is not considered dangerous. But, you should still be cautious because you could be allergic to the poison and not know it.
Do you need additional help identifying scorpions in California?
Try this field guide!
Which of these scorpions have you seen in California?
Leave a comment below!