There are about 130 species of scorpion found in South Africa, but Hollywood has done these arachnids no favours, as most of us presume that they are all highly dangerous and that a sting is bound to be fatal. In fact only two species cause death. Contrary to popular belief not all scorpions are highly venomous. Southern Africa is home to the world’s least venomous scorpion as well as one of the world’s most venomous scorpions. As Jonathon Leeming, renowned local arachnid specialist points out, more people are killed by dogs, run over by cars or die of lung cancer than from scorpion stings.
Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognised by the pair of grasping pedipalps and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger.
They generally eat anything they can overpower. This includes insects, spiders, other scorpions, earthworms, gastropods, as well as small reptiles, mammals and amphibians.
South African scorpions can be divided into three ecological categories according to their choice of habitat: burrowing scorpions, rock-dwelling or arboreal species.
The scorpion that we need to look out for is the thick-tailed Parabuthus-genus. It can grow up to 11 – 14 cms long. Parabuthus transvaalicus is one of the biggest scorpions in the family Buthidae and is usually found in areas of low rainfall where they are ground-dwelling and dig shallow burrows at bases of shrubs, under rocks, under logs or any suitable structure. It is dark brown to black in colour and has hair on some parts of its body. This genus is found all over South Africa. It likes to dig shallow burrows in sand or hard soil and can mostly be found under logs or rocks. They often wander into houses and can be quite aggressive. Parabuthus have neurotoxic venom and its sting can be regarded as potentially lethal. A scorpion is ready to sting when the tail with stinger is held over the head, but interesting enough Parabuthus can also stings sideways – so never try to pick it up with your fingers. As with all venomous encounters, some people are more at risk of serious complications: The elderly, the immune-compromised, allergic persons and small children.
There are four scorpions commonly found in Gauteng: Uroplectes triangulifer, Hadogenes gunning, Pseudolychas ochraceus and Opistophthalmus pugnax. They are all small, ranging from 28 mm to 70 mm and their stings are similar to that of a bee. Antivenom is not necessary.

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