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Safety Precautions

Discussion in 'Scorpions' started by Eurypterid, Jul 24, 2004.

  1. Eurypterid

    Eurypterid Arachnerd Old Timer

    I was just looking through the thread on A. australis, and given all the talk on there about safety, I thought a thread discussing safety measures might be interesting. I'm not preaching here, just posting the precautions I take.

    I keep scorps in two different places: at home and in my lab at work. At home all my scorps (except 1 H. troglodytes) are kept in a separate room set aside for animal enclosures (including other inverts and herps). I keep all my scorps in tanks with sides high enough that there is no possible way for the animals to reach the top edge, and the potentially dangerous species are all in tanks with very sturdy lids that automatically latch when closed, and also can be locked with a small padlock (These tanks are called "Critter Cages", and are made by All-Glass, the same company that makes most of your standard fish aquariums. They are quite nice, and very well designed. I am in the process of moving my whole collection into these.) I also try to set up each tank so that there are limited places where the scorp can hide, so that if I need to go into an enclosure, I know where the animal must be if it is not visible. I never reach into an enclusure with my hand, even for harmless species. This is just a way of making sure that I don't get careless or forgetful. I keep at least 3 pairs of forceps in my scorp room for working in the cages. My animal room is not always closed, as I have no children or roaming pets, but I can close and lock it if I have company that brings over either type of creature.

    At work I keep all my scorps (none of which are particularly dangerous) in locked "Critter Cages". I do not yet have a separate room for them (working on it). I also use secondary containment - each cage is inside a larger tank with higher sides and its own lid. This way, if any animal should escape from its primary cage, it simply falls into another cage. I am considering adding secondary containment for my scorps at home too, but I have to work out the space requirements first, as room is more limited.

    Anytime before I open a cage, I try to locate the scorp(s) first. I keep a couple of small UV headlamps in both locations, and if I don't see all the scorps in the cage out in the open, I use the UV lamps to check in scrapes and under hides. If I can't locate a scorp, I check very thoroughly along the rim of the cage and on the underside of the lid (I did once have a large Centruroides that managed to get on the lid). It could be pretty exciting if your Leiurus figured out how to climb the silicone along a tank corner and was waiting for feeding time just under the edge of the lid.

    If I have to move a scorp out of its cage, I place a deli container in the cage, and transfer the scorp to the container inside of the cage. To place the scorp back into its cage or into another, I put the deli container in the cage and then open it. This way the scorp is inside at least one level of containment at all times. I never have a scorp outside of containment, no matter how securely I believe it is held. I have seen them do amazing things in escaping from forceps, so I never hold one over open ground, even for a second. All it takes is one instant and you could have a very nasty little bug running around loose. Besides, moving them in a container is safer and less stressful for them as well.

    Finally, I never handle any of my scorps. I've proved my masculinity to myself in plenty of ways a long time ago, and I know that the scorps don't have any desire to be held, so I personally have no need to do it. I have to admit the attraction of it is there, but I know it is better for the animal not to, and I'm proud of being able to say that despite thousands of hours of dealing with thousands of animals, I've never been tagged or pinched.

    Anyway, that's my rundown.

    Last edited: Jul 24, 2004
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  2. fusion121

    fusion121 Arachnoking Old Timer

    All my tanks are in a locked room, I don't have locks on the individual cages but I make very sure that escape is impossible by having plenty of height between anywhere the scorpion can reach and the top of the cage. All medically significant species are labeled with a large Skull and crossbones that says "venomous". The lid is immovable except from the outside of the vivarium.

    I use forceps with all my scorpions except very occasionally, when I’m feeling lazy, hadrurus and pandinus species, where I grab the tail. If I'm using forceps with my AA/LQ scorpions I wear thick leather gloves as well for extra safety. With medically significant species I always turn off the lights and find them with UV before opening the cage.

    I too never use forceps for anything except intra-cage manipulation, if I’m cleaning the tank or moving the scorpion between tanks I use a large glass beaker and trap the scorp in it with a aluminum plate. Some will also go crazy if you grab the tail with forceps, its virtually impossible to hold them.

    I used to handle pandinus species to prove my masculinity to friends, but I don’t now probably because I don’t keep them anymore. I’ve been pinched but never been stung by scorpions I’ve kept, I think I treat all my scorps with enough respect to avoid it.
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2004
  3. protheus

    protheus Arachnoknight Old Timer

    Well, the most dangerous animal I keep is B. jacksoni, at the moment. I never get my hand closer to it than about twice the length of the scorpion. Keep all of them in securely shut containers, and always keep an eye on my animals when working with their enclosures.

    For the B. Jacksoni, I'm working on a locking enclosure, and I have considered buying the "critter cage" tanks as well, at some point in the future.

  4. carpe scorpio

    carpe scorpio Arachnoking Old Timer

    I don't keep my scorpions in a seperate room, but the tanks are mounted solidly in a large wooden cabinet, and the cabinet is bolted to the wall. The upper and lower faces of the tanks are covered by heavy teak panels that lock in place preventing any access to the scorpions. All wiring is also made inaccessible to any visitors. I only keep buthids, so I don't use anything but long tools when working in the tanks. I don't handle scorpions and I have never been stung or had an escape. The combination of curious visitors, effects of envenomation, and earthquake danger has been the prime motivation for my setups and precautions.
  5. Eurypterid

    Eurypterid Arachnerd Old Timer

    Here's a couple of pics. The first is of one of the "Critter Cages", a 5.5 gallon version. The lid slides into place from the front and seats very securely. In the rear is a latch that locks the lid in place as it slides closed, and is easily released with one hand. In front is a small hasp for a padlock. It is one of the easiest lids to work with, and at the same time one of the most secure. For humid enclosures I simply cut a piece of the cardboard that comes wrapped around the tank to fit down into the screen, and then cover it with aluminum foil. It works very well.

    The second pic is of the tools I always keep with me when working in a tank. The two longer pairs of forceps are 12 inchers, with the tips wrapped in flourescent gaffers tape. This gives them some padding, better grip, and makes them visible under UV. I keep 2 pair in case I need an extra hand in a hurry. The shorter pair is a 7 inch pair with angled, serrated tips. Works very well for picking up anything small and/or delicate. The UV headlamp is an LED type that is small and lightweight. It is easily held with one hand, worn on the head, or, in a real hurry (usually on hunting trips) held in the teeth.

    Attached Files:

  6. skinheaddave

    skinheaddave SkorpionSkin Arachnosupporter

    I have a more cavalier attitude in some respects but not in others. I also insist on secure enclosures. Around our place, nothing is locked, but I do have locking enclosures I use when I loan out animals for display purposes. Secure lids are standard, though my overall housing precautions do not go as far as Gary's.

    I also locate scorpions with UV light and keep my hands away from the Buthids (most of the time). I have lots of forceps, cups etc. around at all times and use them regularily. I do, however, free-handle some scorpions and this is where I depart from some of the others. It isn't that I regularily free-handle things. In fact, maintenance and transfers are done exlcusively with tools. Now and again, however, I do handle things for photo ops, demonstrations etc. I have discussed my philosophy on this in other places so I won't repeat myself. It should be noted, however, that I do not handle all specimens or even species. I have never handled anything I have felt was a real threat to my safety -- the hottest being C.exilicauda and that was only once with an adult specimen. I have a definite line in my head and do not cross it. Androctonus, Parabuthus etc. are right out. Even Centruroides is 99% of the time. I don't handle anything regularily or for very long, as I want to minimize stress. That being said, it is an aspect of the hobby I enjoy and I do find it useful for bringing accross to people that scorpions are interesting and that they aren't all dangerous.

  7. Eurypterid

    Eurypterid Arachnerd Old Timer

    I don't think that there's anything wrong with a little judicious handling of certain species, especially for educational demonstrations. I think that it can be very effective in teaching people to look at the animals in a positive light. I have done the same quite a bit in the past with other animals. Personally I don't do it anymore simply as a general policy. I do feel tempted often to pick them up, and I'm sure that I'd even enjoy it. I also think that I could probably handle most species without getting tagged, since even some of the worst seem docile enough if dealt with properly. However, for me it's just simpler to make a general safety policy and stick with it. If I don't give in to the urge to handle a Pandinus or Hadogenes, I'm not likely to give in when I feel the urge to pick up a Centruroides or Parabuthus. I have handled scorps in the past, including some buthids, but I've long since decided that I don't need to anymore. Also, since I work with students, I like to set a good example. I make a point of showing them that the animals should not be feared, but I use other ways to do it. I hope that teaching them how to work with them skillfully and safely gives them confidence while also instilling a strong respect for their potential. Besides, some of the girls in my classes would bolt for the door if I pulled a full-grown emp out of its cage ;)
  8. Stormcrow

    Stormcrow Arachnoknight Old Timer

    I have handled many non-dangerous species and even catching them since a very young teen by quickly grasping the fifth metasoma segment directly below the telson. Now, worst case scenario, what if someone had attempted that with a cling and sting species such as A.australis and L.quinquestriatus, they would release the tail thinking the deadly scorpion will drop off safely but to their shock neither species is finished with their molester. Clinging to whatever skin it had grasped and instantly thrust it's aculeus into their tender flesh.

    I have had A.australis specimens cling to my foreceps for a full ½ minute injecting venom all over the instrument.

    Personally, I wholeheartedly recommend using tools instead fingers. But to each his own, I am capable catching harmless species of scorpions as described above and I am capable of catching Widow with my bare hands too but never do anymore, I have too much respect for her.
  9. Nazgul

    Nazgul Arachnoangel Old Timer


    I guess one important thing is to always use a plastic winnow when you are handling scorpions, for example when you put them into plastic bags to count the pectinal teeth. Even if the scorpion falls of the forceps or whatever you are using it falls into the winnow and is not on the loose in your house.

    Last edited: Aug 1, 2004
  10. Kaos

    Kaos Arachnolord

    I've been stung a couple of times. But only by juvenile harmless species such as Nebo and Heterometrus sp. I'm more carefull now. With the real nasty ones like A. australis and L. q. i don't even handle with forceps, they can twist loose of these so easy :eek: . If i'm moving them i put a cup in to their enclosure and push them in to this with a paintbrush, then i put the lid on the cup with forceps.
  11. I keep every scorp seperate in a full glas terrarium , wich are all locked ( and all have temperature and humidity sensors, something I often mis in pictures posted)

    I always use forceps , or other tools , but my hands are never in a terrarium when the scorp is stil in it.

    I have a "help me label" with al the important information , behind the terrarium of every dangerous scorp I own , wich I can pin on my clothing if I should get stung.

    I have a first aid kit and a aspivenin

    greez Ronald
  12. I use forceps on "hot" scorps and especially wriggly little scorps/babies. The hottest scorp I've had is a P. transvaalicus. I used forceps and goggles. If I had any cuts/scrapes on my hands/forearm I put on welding gloves.
    What information would be useful on a "hot sheet" for emergency medical personnel? A picture, the scientific name, common name(if applicable)?
  13. Michiel

    Michiel Arachnoking Old Timer

    Great text. I totally agree with Skinheaddave and Eurypterid. You can't be to carefull. It is important that you are well disciplined in taking safety precautions, you it becomes a second nature....There is always a risk of a moment of distraction and that Babycurus jacksoni you startled without knowing, runs op your arm via your tweezers..
    I also only use the different tweezers for "in terra manipulation" and sometimes if a scorpion does not want to let go of it's bark...
    I needed to move a 2rd instar Tityus paraensis the other and it clinged to it's bark and I could not get it to walk of it, by itself, so I grabbed it very gently, but it went totally berserk (offcourse it probably thinks he's being eaten).
    That's why I like to use delicups or cricket boxes and stuff like that.

    I sometimes trap them in a glass jar. Just put the jar in the enclosure, check on the scorp a couple times (they should be active in the evening) and when they are in the jar, quickly put the lid on and your ready to do whatever you wanted, without stings or stressing the animal....
  14. Prymal

    Prymal Arachnoking Old Timer

    Another simple, inexpensive and safe method I use to utilize for retaining a scorp or tarantula during maintenance or a transfer is to use a tall plastic jar (e.g. solid plastic, dry, non-dairy coffee creamer jar) with a screw top lid as a retreat. Partially bury it in the substrate without the lid attached. The invert will adopt the jar as a retreat and when it comes time for cleaning or transfer, screw the lid on the jar until finished.
    The jar is easily hidden with substrate, moss, etc.
  15. MEXICOYA415

    MEXICOYA415 Arachnobaron

    Whenever transferring out of their enclosure for maintainence I use a big tupper wear type container. I then place it next to wherever the scorpion is on it's side. Next I use tongs or anything else with some length to coax the animal into the container which is then turned over and closed. To release back into the enclosure I just open the container and gently tip it so that the animal slides safetly back onto the substrate.