Centruroides vittatus

(Say, 1821)
  • 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."
Centruroides vittatus
Vital Stats:
  • SIZE: < 75 mm
  • DEFENSE: Stings while running away
  • FOOD: Small arthropods.

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.

Centruroides vittatus
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 in 1904.


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.

Distribution map
Fun Facts

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

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