Perhaps one of the most feared bugs on the planet, scorpions are best known for their excruciating sting. If you encounter a scorpion anywhere, you’ll want to give it a wide berth – but what about the bugs that look like scorpions?
There are several critters out there that can be mistaken for scorpions, and learning to tell them apart is important if you want to avoid stings.
What are scorpions?
Scorpions are often lumped in with insects, but they’re actually arachnids. This means they belong to the same class as spiders, mites, and ticks.
These eight-legged creepy crawlies also have two claws, the size of which varies between species and, of course, a powerful sting. The stinger of the scorpion can be found at the end of the tail and is held coiled over the back of the bug, ready to strike whenever they feel threatened. Although many scorpion stings are merely very painful, a small number of species house a highly toxic venom that can be fatal.
There are around 1750 known species of scorpions, and they’re found on almost every major landmass on earth. All scorpions are carnivores and skilled hunters, which may have contributed to their reputation as aggressive creatures. In reality, scorpions are quite shy, and will only attack humans if they feel threatened.
4 Bugs that look like scorpions
1. Pseudoscorpions – Mini scorpion
Pseudoscorpions are related to scorpions, and they look an awful lot like them!
The key difference in their appearance is their size, as pseudoscorpions are usually only about 5 millimeters long.
It may be easy to mistake them for baby scorpions but, if you see a tiny scorpion looking bug, take a closer peek before you start freaking out.
These scorpion look-alikes are missing one key feature, and that’s the sting! Whereas true scorpions have a long, coiled tail, pseudoscorpions have nothing at the rear of their flat, oval abdomens. Pseudoscorpions are completely harmless, as they don’t bite, sting or damage furniture, clothing or houses.
However, they can be a nuisance in large numbers. Pseudoscorpions sometimes invade houses in the spring and summer months and are known to hide among books (giving them the common nickname of ‘book scorpions’).
If you can deal with the odd pseudoscorpion, however, these predatory bugs can help to keep your insect population to a minimum.
2. Devil’s coach horse beetle – Insect with a scorpion-like tail
Devil’s coach horse beetle is a black, predatory, scorpion looking insect that is often mistaken for a stinger.
When disturbed, these beetles adopt an aggressive stance, curling up their rear ends and opening their powerful jaws. It may not have a stinger, but the Devil’s coach horse beetle does squirt a foul-smelling fluid from its rear end when threatened. Those pincer-like jaws can also deliver a painful bite, so never try to handle one!
Fortunately, these insects prefer the great outdoors and are most often found hanging out around compost heaps, hedgerows, and under leaf litter and stones. Like the other scorpion look-alikes on this list, these are predatory insects and can help to keep populations of slugs and fly larvae low.
You can tell the Devil’s coach horse beetle from a scorpion by their lack of pincers and, though they may stand like scorpions, they don’t have tails or stingers.
3. Whip scorpions – The harmless one
The whip scorpion is a fearsome-looking bug that closely resembles a scorpion. Their large pincers and long, thin ‘tail’ may look alarming, but the whip scorpion is actually quite a harmless critter (though it can pinch if handled).
The long, thin, sting-like appendage sticking out of the rear of the whip scorpion is actually not a sting at all and contains no venom. The whip scorpion uses it as a sensory tool that helps them hunt down their prey in the dark. The ‘whip’ can, however, be used to spray acetic acid, which has a vinegary scent and can sting a lot if it gets into the eyes or nose.
Like the other bugs on our list, the whip scorpion is a predatory creature and primarily feeds on ticks, cockroaches, and crickets. This makes them quite useful to have around, so long as you don’t try to handle them!
4. Camel spiders – Spider that looks like a scorpion
Perhaps the most terrifying-looking creature on this list is the camel spider. Despite the name, they aren’t spiders at all (though they do belong to the same class: arachnid).
Their name actually comes from an urban legend, which claims that these ferocious-looking bugs use their enormous mandibles to disembowel camels (and even humans) in the desert.
While it’s true that these critters pack a powerful bite, they aren’t large or strong enough to eviscerate a human. They do, however, prey on insects, lizards, rodents, and even small birds. Though not venomous, the camel spider does use digestive fluids to liquefy the flesh of their victims, so they can easily drink them down.
Camel spiders may evoke fear and disgust in all who see them, but they’re relatively harmless to people. They’re incredibly fast runners and will almost certainly flee if disturbed, but if you manage to get a look at their retreating behinds you may see that, unlike scorpions, they don’t have a stinger.
Pseudoscorpions, whip scorpions, camel spiders, and Devil’s coach horse beetles all closely resemble scorpions. Despite their fearsome features, however, these critters are all relatively harmless (unless handled).
As predatory creatures, they can even be beneficial to have around and may help to keep populations of other, undesirable insects (like termites and roaches) to a minimum.
When you encounter insects that look like scorpions, it’s always better to take a closer look before panicking – though you should never attempt to handle an unfamiliar bug!