Pseudoscorpions In Flight
January 24, 2013 7:11 AM   Subscribe

You don't need to go into the forest to find a creepy scorpion-like arthropod. The pseudoscorpion is a fun little critter who usually lives in the woods but have found bathrooms and kitchens just as hospitable, feeding on pests. You don't have anything to fear from the critters hiding behind your shampoo bottles, but you might wonder how they got out of the woods and into your bathtub?

Pseudoscorpions are one of the few creatures that participates in phoresis, or hitching a ride on another bug. A pseudoscorpion waits for a larger flying insect to land nearby, runs over as fast as it can, grabs on to any convenient handle, and holds on tight. A pseudoscorpion isn't too picky, and might choose somebody who just runs faster. When they get to wherever they're going, they drop off and make themselves at home, whether it's your backyard or your toilet seat.
posted by AzraelBrown (24 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Is today "Annual MetaFilter Scorpion Day"?
posted by Wordshore at 7:16 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

When she sees this, the fury of elizardbits' wrath will likely fling all the pseudoscorpions in the vicinity into space, so no worries for a while.
posted by Curious Artificer at 7:19 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

Bunch of hobos.
posted by Kabanos at 7:20 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

largest is .5 in (12mm), eh? That's a bit easier to deal with, though it wouldn't stop me from having that initial freak-out when I first noticed it on me
posted by zombieApoc at 7:25 AM on January 24, 2013

They are wee and tiny and cute. You would hardly notice one crawling on your face at all.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:39 AM on January 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

yeah! we see these in the house sometimes. They're teensy, and not fleas or ticks or termites or clothes moths or carpet beetles or cockaroaches or silverfish or miller moths or carpenter ants or house centipedes or even asian ladybugs... so they're welcome.
posted by Lou Stuells at 7:50 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

put it on your face!
posted by orme at 8:24 AM on January 24, 2013

Given the small size and general body shape I'd probably freakout and assume that I had bedbugs if I saw one of these.
posted by asnider at 8:47 AM on January 24, 2013

asnider: I'd probably freakout and assume that I had bedbugs if I saw one of these.

These little guys will eat bedbugs, so be nice to them!
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:57 AM on January 24, 2013

We don't have any pseudoscorpions as far as I'm aware, but we have lots of these guys, who are often mistakenly called pseudoscorpions. I can't find a great picture, but in the flesh they look more like crustaceans than arachnids and can grow as large as lobsters. I sometimes call them "land lobsters." Interestingly, Wikipedia says this about their cousin scorpions: "They are thought to have existed in some form since about 450 to 425 million years ago. They are believed to have an oceanic origin, with gills and a claw like appendage that enabled them to hold onto rocky shores or seaweed." They're usually nonaggressive unless you're a habitual stick-poker, at which point they'll raise their claws in a "boxing" posture and try to punch you in your big jerk face. Some people call them "whip scorpions" (they're not) because of their long, thin tails and the superficial resemblance.

We also have lots of these guys. They're mostly pretty small, but if you're familiar with that one terrifying camel spider picture (which exaggerates their size), you'll know they can get horrifically huge. They can grow almost as big as an average woman's hand (the largest I've seen, ever, was about the length of my palm), but they're usually pretty smallish (2 inches in length tops). They have some of the strongest chelicerae of any arachnid, and on a sunny day they'll run right at you. It totally freaks you out at first, but they're actually running for the shade your body's making, and they're really pretty peaceful. They look really freaking weird and have little creepystrange alien faces. They make themselves pretty scarce, most of the time, and pop out most often on super windy days (strong winds confuse/agitate them, as with some other arachnids), I guess earning their nickname of "wind scorpion" (they're not, either).

Happy Arachnids Are Awesome Day, everyone!

posted by byanyothername at 9:20 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

I discovered these guys (online!) while searching for identification a different bug. Somehow, I had it in my head that they were the same size as "real" scorpions.

So I'm somewhat relieved, but still kind of horrified.
posted by JoanArkham at 9:22 AM on January 24, 2013

You may also be interested in scorpion flies (Mecoptera), which are, of course, insects.
posted by Nomyte at 9:42 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also also, that face!
posted by Nomyte at 9:43 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

AzraelBrown: "asnider: I'd probably freakout and assume that I had bedbugs if I saw one of these.

These little guys will eat bedbugs, so be nice to them!

Ahem. Just because one disgusting insect eats another disgusting insect does not mean I will be nice to them. And now I believe I have a return engagement with my lunch.
posted by Splunge at 11:36 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

We have a Zelda Day. Why not an Arachnid Day? So long as they don't block out other kinds of posts, let a hundred different special days bloom!
posted by JHarris at 11:59 AM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

You know, one of the nice things about Ontario is the winter keeps the really scary bugs down.

That said, how dangerous are these? When I hear scorpion I think "OH damn, if that stings me I am dead" but this is a psudoscorpion.... and I know Emperor scorpions aren't that bad, if gigantic.
posted by Canageek at 2:25 PM on January 24, 2013

Canageek: That said, how dangerous are these?

These are smaller than a sesame seed, the house ones are even smaller than that, and generally look like a little moving spot of dirt. They do have a poison, with their 'stinger' in their claws, but it is much too small and weak to affect a person if they ever felt an inkling to be mean. They're called pseudoscorpions because they've got relatively big claws like a scorpion, but they're only tangentally related to a scorpion and not a threat to humans at all. Other than that, they're a beneficial resident of your house and backyard, so if you see one, just say 'hi' and keep moving along. If it won't creep you out too much, watch the two videos in the original post, and just keep in mind how big it is on the scale of the stuff around them. The first video shows that a U.S. dime is as big as an efficiency apartment to the average house pseudoscorpion.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:18 PM on January 24, 2013

Cool. I found a book scorpion once at the U of A, in a book, of all places. It was so tiny I almost couldn't believe it.
posted by sneebler at 3:37 PM on January 24, 2013

Wow, I need to get some of these guys in my house. I'd way prefer them to moths any day.
posted by ooga_booga at 3:47 PM on January 24, 2013

Pseudoscorpions are beyond gorgeous! When you encounter one they wave their little pedipalps (the appendages that look like claws) at you and click them in your general direction. This fearsome display of wrath is just so damn cute when it occurs in miniature.

And if you like pseudoscorpions, then you'll LOVE schizomids. These other tiny arachnids are even MORE awesome when you collect them. You put your vial in front of them and they walk right up to it then - realizing their impending fate - proceed to reverse into a three point turn. They look like a tiny semi-trailer truck hitting the road!

Yeah, I work on these beasties as well as spiders now. They're tiny and difficult to work with, but you gotta love them!

Also, for the record and in response to comments above...

1) Pseudoscorpions ain't bugs, or insects for that matter! They have eight legs for starters, not to mention a completely different evolutionary trajectory to members of the Hexapoda.

2) Some pseudoscorpions have little venom glands in the chela (the claw thingys) but not all of them. In any case, only their prey items are susceptible to the venom.
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 4:41 PM on January 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

If you want these predator insects in your house you need to live in areas where there is not widespread pesticide spraying. When the target insect is continually sprayed with the same insecticide it can eventually evolve [as a population] resistance to this chemical. Being that many predator insects are not primarily the target of this spraying they do not develop resistance to this pesticide. Thus, the insects like termites,roaches, and small moths would be more common in the city, for example, and their predators would be very rare. Newly built housing developments, houses in the country and places where insecticide spraying was rare would be great areas to look for these guys. Resisting the urge to "spray it away" at home can, after a while, make your environment more likely to host these cute guys. Though, I guess sometimes there is no avoiding the use of insecticides [roaches].
posted by RuvaBlue at 10:55 PM on January 24, 2013

AzraelBrown: Cool. I always keep in mind that animal size has nothing to do with toxicity. For example, small scorpions are more toxic as I understand it. Also botulism is the most toxic thing on the planet, and that is made by a bacteria.

I don't mind bugs, the thing on the giant stick insets was pretty cool, I am just scared of toxic things for no apparent reason.
posted by Canageek at 12:10 PM on January 25, 2013

Canageek: I have heard that the smaller the claws of the scorpion, the more toxic the venom must be in order to subdue prey.
posted by RuvaBlue at 12:36 AM on January 26, 2013

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