Today's subject is Centruroides vittatus (Say, 1821). The generic
name Centruroides is from the Greek words centr-, meaning "pointed," and ur,
meaning "tail." The genus was originally called Centrurus,
but had to be changed to Centruroides because the name Centrurus was
already in use for another animal. The "-oides" ending
means "like" or "the form of," so the name really means "like Centrurus." The
specific name, vittatus, is from the Latin meaning "striped."
This scorpion is in the family Buthidae.
The genus Centruroides can be divided into several species groups. Centruroides
vittatus belongs to the Exilicauda species group, which includes all
the really venomous species of Centruroides. Like most of the
species in this group, C. vittatus comes in several color varieties.
The most common color variant of this species has the characteristic dark
interocular triangle on the carapace and a pair of dark, longitudinal stripes
on the mesosoma (see photo above). Another color variety (described as Centruroides
chisosarius Gertsch, 1939) has the dark interocular triangle on the
carapace, but not the dark longitudinal stripes on the mesosoma (see photo
below). A third color variant (described as Centruroides pantheriensis Stahnke,
1956), lacks dark pigmentation altogether (see photo below) and is indistinguishable
from the most common variety of C.
exilicauda in Arizona.
Original Description: Say, C. L. 1821.
An account of the Arachnides of the United States. Journal of the Philadephia
Academy of Natural Science, 1:59-65. The scorpion actually described by
Say in 1821 was what we now call Centruroides hentzi, which is
found in Florida and Georgia. The name "vittatus" was incorrectly
applied to what we now call C. vittatus by H. C. Wood in 1863.
Eventually, the name association stuck, and the species originally described
as C. vittatus was redescribed as C. hentzi by N. Banks
Probably the most commonly encountered scorpion in the United States,
the striped scorpion is known from Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois,
Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
Tennessee, and Texas. This scorpion is also found in the States of Tamaulipas,
Coahuila, Nuevo León, Chihuahua, and Durango in México.
Centruroides vittatus is a highly adaptable species that
is found in a wide variety of ecological situations. I am really quite
surprised that we do not see more spot introductions of this species
around the United States. Like all crevice scorpions, it is most common
in areas where there are a lot of crevices (rocky areas, forests, people's
homes, etc.). Curiously, this species is also found in relatively open
areas, such as grasslands and sand dunes, that are more characteristic
of burrowing scorpions. Centruroides vittatus often lives in
close association with humans. It's not unusual to find this species
indoors. On a good night, one can collect 100-200 of these scorpions
in a very short time. Striped scorpions do pretty well in captivity,
though they aren't especially long-lived. They exhibit a natural tendency
to aggregate, so its often safe to put lots of them together. Development
and gestation varies depending on climate and environmental conditions.
One would expect to see the shortest times for development and gestation
in the warmest parts of the range. This species probably matures in 12-24
months. The gestation period is probably 6-12 months. Broods may contain
upwards of 50 young. I know of no actual statistics, but stings by this
species must number in the thousands per year over its entire range.
While quite painful (I compare it to hitting yourself in the thumb with
a hammer), the sting is very rarely fatal, and even then, death is due
to anaphylactic shock, not the direct toxic effects of the venom.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are mine
alone and do not represent the views of the Department of the Army
or the Smithsonian Institution... or anybody else for that matter.
- Dr. Scott A. Stockwell