Nature Nut

False scorpions

House Pseudoscorpion (Chelifer cancroides) in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. (Wiki Commons/Ryan Hodnett)

House Pseudoscorpion (Chelifer cancroides) in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. (Wiki Commons/Ryan Hodnett)

I see that a woman in the Okanagan recently found a Northern Scorpion on her deck after dark. She was thrilled to find it as she had always wanted to see one. It is only one of two species of scorpion in B.C. and although it has a tail and a stinger, it does not attack humans and its venom is mild.

What we do have here in abundance, though rarely seen, are the very cryptic pseudoscorpions or “false” scorpions. I first fell in love with them when we were extracting creatures from leaf litter in a classroom in Bamfield on the west coast.

There are 25 species of pseudoscorpions found in Canada to date. These tiny arachnids (2-8 mm long) are predators. Their disproportionately large pincers (or pedipalps) carried up front on their heads do bear a mild venom, but their pincers are much too small and are incapable of harming humans. Unlike their larger scorpion relatives, they do not have a tail with a stinger.

One day after being outside I flopped on the bed for a rest and suddenly became aware of a tiny, yellow-brown, oval-bodied creature with 8 legs on my bedside table that was waving its two enormous pincers in my direction as if to say “hello.” It looked so comical because the pincers seemed so large compared with the rest of the body and I half expected it would lose its balance and roll over.

Typically, most species live outside in leaf litter, dead wood, under stones, in bird or animal nests – anywhere where it is dark and humid – and prey on smaller insects and larvae of moths. I used to give a prize to the first student to find a pseudoscorpion when they were dissecting dead logs in my college classes to see what creatures live there.

The House Pseudoscorpion likes dark, damp places inside homes and should be considered a friend of humans as it preys on clothes moth larvae, dust mites and booklice.