Acid-Spraying, Scorpion-Like Vinegaroons Looking for Love Emerge in Texas

Large, acid-spraying arachnids called vinegaroons have emerged from their burrows "in search of food and love" in Texas.

Big Bend National Park posted a picture of one of the unusual creatures on Facebook last week, explaining that summer rains have sparked a flurry of vinegaroon activity.

Vinegaroons are also widely known as "whip scorpions," due to several characteristics that they share with scorpions. However, that name is misleading, since vinegaroons belong to their own unique arachnid order.

Their bodies, not including the tail, can exceed 80mm in length, which is more than 3 inches.

Despite the appearance of their long and thin tails, they do not sting. Instead, they protect themselves by spraying a substance from the base of their tails.

According to Texas A&M AgriLife, this substance is 85% concentrated acetic acid, which is one of the main components of vinegar.

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Vinegaroons are also armed with a formidable set of mouthparts, which are enormous in proportion to their bodies.

These jaws, which resemble a scorpion's pincers, are capable of crushing prey, as well as inflicting a painful pinch on any larger creatures that threaten them.

Big Bend National Park describes vinegaroons as "relatively benign unless you happen to annoy them."

Their first pair of legs resemble antennae, and have evolved to be used in a similar manner to true antennae.

Vinegaroons are nocturnal and have poor eyesight, which means they rely on their frontmost legs for navigation. The other six legs are used for walking.

They locate prey, such as millipedes, scorpions, crickets, cockroaches and other invertebrates, by picking up subtle vibrations from the ground.

"Summer rains bring vinegaroons out of their burrows in search of food and love," Big Bend National Park wrote in an update on its Facebook page, prompting mixed reactions from the wider public.

It added: "Most commonly seen in the desert, this vinegaroon was taking a stroll around the Chisos Basin campground.

"If you're lucky enough to see one, look closely. If it's a female, she may be carrying her hatchlings on her back."

This is yet another piece of common ground shared by vinegaroons and scorpions, which transport their young on their backs.

According to the American Museum of Natural History, there are more than 120 known species of vinegaroon in the world.

One of these is Mastigoproctus giganteus, which is more commonly known as the giant North American vinegaroon, and can be found in parts of Texas, Florida and Arizona.

A vinegaroon standing on leaves
A stock image shows a vinegaroon standing on a pile of leaves. The unusual arachnids have a whip-like tail and enormous mouthparts, and are capable of spraying a vinegar-like substance. ePhotocorp/iStock