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I need a LOT of info on tailless whip scorpions

Discussion in 'Other Spiders & Arachnids' started by ampersand, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    If you don't want the long story, skip to the end to see all my newbie questions.

    I've been interested in exotic pets for a long time, and recently found out about tailless whip scorpions when I came across them on an Instagram account that I follow. At first I was terrified but that fear turned into an infatuation. I researched them a bit to find out more and learnt a few things.
    Soon after that, my mother, an arachnophobe, found a molt under the basin outside. I was excited to think that it was possible for these amazing creatures to be living in our garden.
    A while after that and, lo-and-behold, I spot one in the garden. It was not near the basin so I automatically assumed there where at least two. It was on the side of a wall along a stairs just outside our front door.
    I went on an intense investigation to research as much as I could find but there wasn't really much. I know that they like living in cave-like environments, high humidity, vertical slopes, darkness. I know they're nocturnal and feed on crawling insects and sometimes small vertebrates and, unlike most arachnids, are sensitive to smell.
    I took some photos of the one on the wall and spent time observing it, and with the knowledge I'd accumulated, concluded that it was a female. I went around my garden at night with a flashlight looking for more and found one behind the basin. It was slightly larger than the other and seemed to also be female.
    A fly happened to get stuck in my curtain one evening so I caught it and waited for nighttime. I made a homemade spear out of an ice cream stick because I couldn't find kebab sticks and used it to successfully feed the female on the wall (I didn't stick it in her face and force-feed her, I pointed the stick in front of her pedipalps and she grabbed the fly).
    I contacted the Instagram account that I first saw them on and asked for some advise. Then, the next evening, I took some more photos and saw something that looked like an egg sac underneath her abdomen. I sent a photo to the account asking if she was gravid and the answer was yes. So I immediately went on another research spree to find out about whip breeding and babies and started to seriously consider trying to catch her and keep her.
    Today a garden service came to our house and, thank goodness, my dad got her into a jar carefully before the gardeners could kill her. I found a larger jar that I cleaned to put her in and found this forum and made an account, so that is where I am.

    The female I have is about 2cm or 0.8" long. I'm not sure exactly what kind of whip scorpion she is but the closest I could find was the giant Tanzanian whip scorpion (she has faint stripes on her legs and the same shaped body). The egg sac is brown but isn't bulging.

    My questions are: how big must a tank be for an adult? Would you recommend glass or is a plastic tank ideal? What type of substrate should I use? What should I do when the egg sac starts hatching? How do you care for babies? How do you judge how big crickets should be for feeding? Do you have any other advice or ideas?

    Thank you so much for reading

  2. Albireo Wulfbooper

    Albireo Wulfbooper Arachnopeon Active Member

    I'm still pretty new to keeping amblypygi, so my knowledge is somewhat limited, but this will get you started:
    1. They don't need a large space, but it does need to have some height to it. I keep mine in tall food storage containers, around 6-8 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 10-16 inches tall.
    2. Coconut fibre works well as a substrate. Give her a couple of inches of well-moistened fibre, but don't drench it.
    3. She'll need a vertical climbing surface. Clean styrofoam or natural cork bark are common. Just avoid anything that might have harmful adhesives, like processed cork sheets.
    4. Crickets around the size of her cephalothorax is a good general size, though they'll take larger or smaller if they're hungry. Mine usually take one a week, but will sometimes skip a feeding. Remove uneaten crickets from the enclosure after a few hours - crickets can harm or kill a moulting (or newly hatched) amblypygi and will stress out the animal if it isn't hungry.
    5. Assuming the babies successfully emerge, they'll ride around on mom's back until their first moult. She'll take care of them for the first little while.

    Hopefully someone more knowledgeable will come along shortly with more info.
    • Like Like x 3
  3. chanda

    chanda Arachnoprince Active Member

    She is a beauty! I love keeping these guys. They're so much fun to watch!

    The most important thing is that she needs vertical/diagonal climbing surfaces such as rough-textured wood or cork bark, and enough free space underneath the wood to hang upside down during molting, with her legs and pedipalps fully extended. If she is unable to hang upside down to molt, or does not have room to stretch out her appendages as she pulls them free of the old exoskeleton, she may not survive the molting process, or may be left crippled. This will also give you an idea of cage size - the cage needs to be big enough to allow for the molting space.

    During the daytime, whip spiders like to hide in dark crevices. What I do with mine is loosely stack two pieces of cork bark on top of each other, angled vertically in the tank. This provides the molting space underneath (as an adult, expect her to molt roughly once a year) and also provides the dark, sheltered gap between the bark slabs for her to hide in during the day.

    Substrate isn't terribly important with these guys. They don't burrow, so it doesn't have to be deep - and they'll spend most of their time up on the wood anyway, so they won't often come down onto the substrate. Plain old (pesticide-free) dirt from your garden would be fine, or you could use coconut fiber or other substrate mix from a pet store. It just needs to be something that will help to hold in a little moisture.

    Ventilation is also important. If the enclosure is not well-ventilated, it will get too humid and moldy. They do need humidity/moisture in the enclosure, but you don't want it too wet. With mine, I wet down the substrate a couple of times a week - and let it dry out in between. I also mist the bark slabs so they can drink directly off the bark or off the glass.

    I keep mine in screen-topped glass cages because that's what I had on hand, but a plastic enclosure would be fine too - as long as it was big enough/tall enough. Plastic also has the advantage of being able to drill additional ventilation holes if they are needed.

    The mother should carry her eggs for roughly six months before they are ready to hatch - but from the look of her swollen brood pouch, I'd say she's well on her way and they could be hatching shortly! When the eggs hatch, the young will climb up onto their mother's back and ride around on top of her for the first week to ten days. During this time they will not feed. They will undergo their first molt, and then they will begin to disperse. Once they have left the mother's back, they are ready to feed.

    When I've raised them, I try to remove the mother from the cage after the young have left her back and house her separately from the babies - otherwise, she will sometimes eat them. The babies may eat each other, too, if housed communally - but when you have a whole bunch of them, it can be impractical to house them individually. As long as they are kept well-fed, losses are minimal - at least when they're very young - but as they approach the sub-adult stage, the cannibalism tends to increase, so I try to separate them by then. If you are housing the babies together, be sure they have multiple wood slabs or tubes, with lots of hiding places for them - and plenty of room underneath for molting. The young will molt a lot more frequently than the adults.

    The babies are quite small when they first leave their mother - and there will be a lot of them, so you'll need a reliable source of food if you plan on keeping all of them. I raise fruit flies for mine, then gradually move them up to crickets as they get bigger. For prey size, I try to stick with prey that is smaller than the abdomen of the whip spider - whether I'm feeding a hatchling, a juvenile, or an adult. I feed hatchlings/juveniles 2-3 times a week - particularly if they are housed together (to minimize any urge they might have to eat each other if they get hungry), but feed adults and larger juveniles that are housed individually once a week or so. They will sometimes go two weeks between feedings, if I am out of town, and they're fine with that.

    Good luck with them!
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2020
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  4. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    Thank you so much Albireo Wulfbooper (awesome name) and chanda for the advice!

    Little update: I just spotted a second one under the sink. It is much smaller than the others, like sub-adult size. Do you think I should try to keep as many as I can in captivity or would it be better if I focused on the one I have and her babies first?
  5. chanda

    chanda Arachnoprince Active Member

    No, they're not Pokemon - you don't have to catch them all.

    It's better to leave them in their natural environment unless there is an imminent hazard (such as a pest control guy coming to spray pesticides all over the place). When those eggs hatch, you're going to have all the whip spiders you can handle! They are clearly doing well in that natural environment if you are finding multiples of them, but they are not animals that normally live in dense populations. They tend to be relatively solitary and spread out, so if you start grabbing them all, you might deplete them to the point where they are no longer able to sustain the population.

    You are just learning how to keep these animals in captivity. If you get it wrong - or they meet with some misadventure in your care - it would be nice to have that wild population to draw on if you want to try again, rather than having all of them suffer the same fate.
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  6. aphono

    aphono Arachnobaron

    Enjoyed reading about your experience! :) It's a dream to be where they are right around the house and garden.

    Care and advise has been covered- going to touch on the species here: Tanzanian giant whip spider usually, maybe "originally" refers to Damon diadema. Part of their range includes Tanzania, however the common name does get thrown around a bit onto various species. In the U.S. that name sometimes is given to Damon medius, which is a West African species. In other words, "not even close..." This is partly the reason common names are not always helpful, especially inside the hobby and something to keep in mind while browsing the Internet- playing loose with names can give seemingly very confusing results.

    It appears you're in South Africa? Apparently there are three known amblypygi species in SA- Damon variegatus, Damon annulatipes and Phrynichodamon scullyi(restricted range in Northern Cape, looks quite different from yours). It's difficult to be definite on species ID- lot of it depends on tiny bits of anatomy. Might be the easiest to go with known geographical ranges and then deduce the most likely chance by location. Here's a link to a map showing general ranges of Damon species in southern Africa:


    Good luck and hope to continue enjoy reading about your experiences.
    • Informative Informative x 2
  7. wizentrop

    wizentrop to the rescue! Old Timer

    That is a great find! Makes me jealous that you can simply find them in your garden.
    By the way, identifying this female is actually easy - she is Damon annulatipes. The pedipalps are quite unique in their morphology in this species.
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  8. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    Thank you! :joyful:
  9. woodie

    woodie Arachnosquire Active Member

    Keep some of mine in these large plastic pretzel jars with lots of cross ventilation holes and layered bark slabs
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  10. woodie

    woodie Arachnosquire Active Member

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  11. woodie

    woodie Arachnosquire Active Member

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  12. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    Update: I got to work a few days ago looking for tanks that I could find in pet stores and online, only to find that the one I'd need would cost over R1000 ($70) at least. My arachnophobic mother told me that she's not spending money on "frivolous things" so I tried to look for the cheapest tanks (just for the record, I'm not some 27 year old living with their mother, I'm 17 :smuggrin:). I was running out of time because I didn't want to keep my whip in the container I have her in currently for too long, so I came up with a solution.

    My dad makes simple wooden furniture as a business. He has all the tools and a lifetime of experience. My mom promotes and sells this furniture online, as well as refurbished second-hand goods. She also makes mirrors, which she buys the frames for from second-hand stores. Most of the time the frames have pieces of glass in them, so...I asked my dad if he could make a tank.

    I thought about the dimensions and he spent an evening cutting the pieces and gluing them with silicone sealant. This morning he put the door on and glued door hinges to the glass, haha. It is 47cm (18.5") tall, 34cm (13.5") wide and 26cm (10") deep with a base for substrate and an open top. I might put fabric or something along the exposed edges after they've been sanded and a lock on the door.
  13. Albireo Wulfbooper

    Albireo Wulfbooper Arachnopeon Active Member

    Make sure that silicone has plenty of time to cure and air out before you put your friend in there! Sounds like a good size. You'll also want to be sure that the babies can't squeeze out through any cracks - they're pretty tiny and can really flatten themselves out. Don't forget ventilation too - you can cover ventilation holes with a steel mesh screen (some prey can chew their way through fabric or plastic mesh).
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  14. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    Update: she is behaving strangely. I had her in this wide, round container with mesh over the top. There were some rough palm leaf husks in for her to climb but there was no substrate because this was only meant to be a temporary solution while I worked on a better tank setup. I saw her today sitting on one of the leaves facing the glass, which she hasn't done before. So I thought she needed some more humidity and sprayed water in through the top but she didn't move like she normally does. So I put my hand in to touch her and she didn't flinch. So I started panicking. I knew she was alive because her antenna were moving but she didn't seem as active as before. I carefully got her into another container to clean the one she was in, cut ridges into the palm husks and put some sand from my garden in just for now. The tank is almost ready.

    Is it the humidity? Is it maybe mold? Should I feed her? Is it stress from being moved around a lot? Is it because she is gravid? Is she about to molt? Is it because it's day time? Is she about to die?
    Please help. Thank you
  15. Albireo Wulfbooper

    Albireo Wulfbooper Arachnopeon Active Member

    I don't know this species, but I can tell you that my amblypygi don't move around much, especially during the day. If you can see that her antenniform legs are held up off the ground, and she has access to air and moisture, I'd say just leave her be. Poking her definitely isn't going to help her be a happy and calm momma.
  16. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    She died tonight. I tried as many things as I could think of to help her but the thing was that I didn't know why she was dying. After thinking about it for a while, I suspect that it had something to do with the spray bottle I used for humidity.
    I cried. I feel ashamed and disappointed in myself. I heard that whips are incredibly easy to keep so I must have done something terribly wrong.
    Should I remove the egg sac and try to raise her babies myself, which I know is basically impossible, or should I just not bother?

    Thank you everyone for your support and input.
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  17. Albireo Wulfbooper

    Albireo Wulfbooper Arachnopeon Active Member

    They are easy to keep in the sense that they do not require a lot of fuss, but they are quite delicate animals.

    If you decide to try again, I suggest having your enclosure prepared ahead of time, ensuring there are no potentially toxic materials in it (some kinds of wood and leaves can be dangerous) and handling the animal as little as possible.

    Out of curiosity, what makes you think that the spray bottle was to blame?
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  18. aprilmayjunebugs

    aprilmayjunebugs Arachnopeon Active Member

    I don't know anything about these myself, but I just wanted to say how sorry I am for your loss. It's probably hard for even experienced keepers to know what exactly went wrong. Sometimes even when we try our hardest and care too much, harsh reality is still thrown in our faces. You are an incredibly honorable human for trying and doing all you could. Please don't let this loss discourage you from trying again with those or another type of invert. In my experience, critter keeping has been one of the most rewarding and educational things I've ever done. Again, so so sorry :(
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  19. ampersand

    ampersand Arachnopeon

    I suspect the spray bottle because there was a mix of vinegar and water in it before I used it. I did wash it but maybe there was still some residue stuck in the top part. I also used tap water, which I probably shouldn't have. It could have also been the pieces of palm husk I put in.

    Thank you everyone for being understanding and kind :shame:
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2020
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