A strange looking creature, these arachnids got their name due to their ability to spray acetic acid (which smells like vinegar) from their back end in order to deter predators. It’s harmless, but if it gets into a cut it stings a bit, and getting it in your eyes would be very unpleasant!
They are tropical in distribution, with the largest species hailing from the drier parts of North America (Mastigoproctus giganteus), and the South-East Asian species preferring a more humid background. Despite their intimidating appearance, they have no venom and cannot bite; they possess a heavy pair of chelicerae that they use to grab and crush their prey before eating it, but that isn’t capable of giving a person any more than a slight pinch. The very long front legs act as antennae, and are used to guide the vinegaroon around its habitat and find food. Being nocturnal, they have very poor eyesight and rely mostly on their sensitive sense of touch.
Slow growing and generally calm creatures, the vinegaroon doesn’t race about like the tailless whip scorpions it is closely related to. They can grow from 2.5 to 7cm in length, with total size depending on the particular species.
An enclosure of 30x30x30cm will suit a single adult, although larger is not only better but may allow more than one to be kept together; as long as they have room to build their own burrows they can be cohabited successfully.
The Malaysian species like a wetter environment, so a background temperature of 25 to 28ºC during the day with a small temperature drop at night will suit them, with a substrate of coir fibre, sphagnum moss, and a soil based mixture topped with leaf litter that will hold a burrow. The American species prefer it a little drier, so a sand and coir mix can work well for them. Leaf litter is not essential, but it gives them a more natural surface to hunt in.
As a slow growing species, they do not feed every day. Offering food should be done once a week, and the enclosure checked very carefully the following morning to remove any uneaten prey. When they are hungry they are very efficient hunters, with the Asian species eating their prey on the spot and the American taking theirs back to their burrow to eat in peace. Offer a varied diet of crickets, locusts, appropriately sized cockroaches, even mealworms and waxworm moths will all be taken by a hungry vinegaroon.
Although their docile nature and slow movement means that they are easier to handle than many predatory arachnids, caution should still be exercised. Like spiders and scorpions, vinegaroons can be damaged by a fall from even a modest height; if you must handle them, be aware of how far they may have to fall if they slip. They only appear to spray their acid when afraid of predation, so as long as interaction is gentle and slow you should get away without being sprayed – although an unhappy vinegaroon is still capable of giving a respectable pinch.
They might have the looks of a savage killer, but the vinegaroon is a gentle, fascinating creature that can make a good invertebrate pet. If you would like something a little different, the vinegaroon is worth a try!