On the one hand, they are acid spitting, nocturnal, giant arachnids that emerge from the earth. On the other hand, they are very responsible mothers. Vinegaroons, also known as whip scorpions, are crawling to the surface in Texas after a period of heavy rains which have roused them into a heightened state of activity. This may sound like a somewhat unpleasant development for Texas but fear not, they aren’t quite as evil as they look.
“In search of food and love”
The name “vinegaroon” actually refers to the acid substance the creatures are capable of launching at anything unwise enough to make them angry.
The spray is composed of 85% concentrated acetic acid, which in a heavily diluted form serves as one of the main components of vinegar.
The creatures generally grow to be about three inches in length. With their black color, extensive collection of legs, and large pincer shaped mouths, the vinegaroon looks rather menacing.
Fortunately they aren’t particularly interested in people. The vinegaroons are emerging “in search of food and love” according to Big Bend National Park.
If the acid and large pincers are the most convincing reasons to leave them alone, another ought to be the fact that the food in question is in large part other invertebrates that might be a nuisance, including cockroaches, worms, and termites.
The vinegaroon is in turn eaten by raccoons, armadillos, and skunks. They are native to the area and play an important role in their ecosystems, although their exact range and distribution is not entirely known.
Not so bad aside from the acid
Looks aside, the presence of vinegaroons should not be too disturbing to humans. They typically hide under rocks during the day and emerge to hunt cockroaches and other pests by night.
They are solitary creatures outside of mating and are almost always ready to fight each other, sometimes to the death.
To humans they are hardly aggressive at all and are very unlikely to attack unless they feel threatened. They are not poisonous but they can spray their acid or pinch if they are provoked.
Big Bend National Park suggests looking closely (just not too closely or you may receive a volley of acid) if you happen to encounter of vinegaroon in the wild.
If it is a female it may be carrying hatchlings on its back. Mothers will do this for roughly a month after their eggs hatch, at which point the young will begin to molt for the first time.
While sometimes called whip scorpions, the vinegaroon is not actually a scorpion. In fact, they eat real scorpions. They may not be pretty but vinegaroons have no strong desire to hurt you. It is probably best to leave them to kill termites and cockroaches in peace as long as they are outside where they belong.