There are around 2,000 types of scorpions worldwide; thankfully, only 25 to 30 are venom-producing, and even fewer are deadly types of scorpions. Scorpions are instantly recognizable thanks to their lobster-like bodies, distinctly curled tails, and wicked-looking pincers.
While all scorpions have poison in their stingers, only a few can do real harm to humans. Even though most scorpion stings are harmless (in terms of sickness or death), they’re very painful, often much worse than a wasp, yellow jacket, or bee sting.
Most scorpions live in hot climates, whether tropical or arid, and are arachnids, just like spiders. The venom found inside their tail stingers is a neurotoxin, meaning it affects the nervous system of its prey.
1. Deathstalker Scorpion
The leiurus quinquestriatus, or deathstalker scorpion, sounds terrifying and deservedly so. It’s easily one of the nastiest scorpions in the world, with venom potent enough to drop a human being. It’s on the small side (as far as scorpions go), measuring between 2″ and 2.5″.
Deathstalker scorpions roam the Middle East and North African desert climates, and their translucent, pale-tan bodies indicate their preferred environments. Its pincers are tiny compared to most other scorpions and don’t look very threatening.
However, if one of the deathstalker scorpions gets its stinger in you, you need to seek medical attention immediately. The neurotoxins in the Deathstalkers stinger are a combination of chlorotoxin and cardiotoxin and will typically cause a rapid heartbeat, convulsions, skyrocketing blood pressure, and potential coma.
The deathstalker’s poison is enough to kill children and the elderly, though a grown, healthy adult may survive. Unfortunately, even survival comes with the caveat of horrific and enduring pain that takes a long time to dissipate. If you survive the sting of a deathstalker, the ferocity of the pain will create an enduring memory.
2. Indian Red Scorpion
The hottentotta tamulus (Indian red scorpion) are primarily located in Pakistan, but there are a few scattered throughout India and Nepal. They’re a particularly nasty species with a toxin strong enough to cause pulmonary edema, nausea, and heart palpitations.
While none of these symptoms cause death per se, they can, especially in combination and a long way from a hospital. It’s a toss-up between the Indian red scorpion and the deathstalker as to which one is more deadly, but most will point to the Indian red scorpion as the winner.
Indian reds are a bit bulkier than the deathstalker, with a meaner-looking set of pincers and a more robust abdomen. However, they’re also smaller in length, with a fully grown adult reaching between 1.8″ and 2.3″.
Their colorations vary as well, depending on their surrounding environment. Typically, Indian reds are a reddish hue, with a darker red in the body’s center. Orange, dark yellows, and brown are prevalent as well. One of the more distinguishing features is the grey dot patterns usually found on the head and upper abdomen.
3. Striped Bark Scorpion
The striped bark scorpion (centruroides vittatus), is a very common scorpion and the first one on our list that’s primarily found in the United States and Northern Mexico. Like the first two, striped barks don’t grow very large, with 2.75″ being their maximum length.
They’re a very light yellow with a hint of translucence, along with two parallel dark stripes running down the lengths of their backs. While this scorpion can be deadly to humans, it’s usually because of existing underlying conditions that make the scorpion’s venom more lethal.
These scorpions love to set up shop underneath rocks, which is usually how people (primarily children) get stung. Picking up a rock in Texas or Kansas is always a slight risk, thanks to the striped bark scorpion. Thousands are stung by this scorpion on an annual basis, so its sting and the effect are very well known and understood by doctors.
The venom in the stinger is capable of causing several symptoms, including tightness in the chest, lightheadedness (associated with nausea and vomiting), stomach cramps, muscle spasms, shortness of breath, and anaphylactic shock. Most of these are worst-case scenarios.
4. Spitting Blacktail Black Scorpion
These deadly types of scorpions also go by another name—South African fat-tail scorpions. As the second name implies, the parabuthus transvaalicus live in South Africa. Its also considered to be one of the most deadly scorpions in Africa.
Its stinger delivers a massive dose (over 4 mg) of toxin that’s roughly the equivalent of cyanide, causing many of the same symptoms. The spitting tail manufactures two types of poison and can choose which one to inject. The first is an immobilizing toxin it uses for smaller prey.
The second is the nasty one, made just for self-defense against large predators. If confronted by a human, the spitting blacktail will automatically go with the nasty version because it views us as an insurmountable threat.
Fortunately, only 1% of sting victims die after crossing paths with the spitting black tail. However, its sting is nasty and causes immense pain, heart palpitations, and muscle spasms that aren’t specific to any body region. The spitting black tail has a fuzzy, black appearance, with pale legs and light yellow, translucent pincers.
5. Arizona Bark Scorpion
The Arizona Bark Scorpion (centruroides exilicauda) is a feisty little creature with a particularly nasty sting. Adults are shy of 3″, with a yellowish, translucent body with a black abdomen. The black runs halfway up the tail, covering most meatier portions.
The Arizona bark scorpion is the most deadly in North America, hands down. The neurotoxin it delivers through its sting is excruciatingly painful.
As the name implies, the Arizona Bark scorpion is mostly in Arizona. However, they also exist in other states, including the southern parts of Utah, Nevada, and New Mexico. Once stung, the site of the sting is excruciating. After a few minutes, victims may experience a numbing sensation, sudden bouts of diarrhea and vomiting, and a feeling of electricity passing through various parts of the body.
The sting must be treated with antivenin. Though plenty of scorpions are running around in North America and Mexico, none are more toxic and deadly than the Arizona Bark Scorpion.
6. Yellow Fat-Tail Scorpion
The yellow fat-tail scorpion (Androctonus) is one of the more insidious-looking scorpions on the list, mostly because of its huge, thick, translucent tail. The curved stinger on the end of the tail is immediately noticeable. The scientific name is derived from the Greek word for “man-killer,” in case this scorpion needed a more deadly aspect.
Like most scorpions, the venom found in the yellow fat-tail is a neurotoxin that paralyzes the prey or victim. It delivers enough to potentially kill a human being via respiratory failure. Thankfully, death is not common, especially for young and strong individuals. The elderly and children are far more vulnerable to its potent effects.
This scorpion primarily resides in the northern regions of Africa and Southeast Asia. It has a distinctly yellow appearance, with the outer shell nearly transparent, revealing a darker internal structure in the abdomen. They grow to between 2.5″ and 3.5″ in length.
7. Arabian Fat-Tail Scorpion
The Arabian fat-tail scorpion is entirely black, though it’s a distant relative of the aforementioned yellow fat-tail scorpion. The Arabian resides in various countries throughout the Middle East, along with most of Africa.
Its highly toxic venom is often farmed by those brave enough to catch them and sold to local hospitals for antivenin production. Like the yellow tail, the huge tail of the Arabian is wicked-looking and more than capable of delivering multiple strikes in a short period.
Plus, a full-grown Arabian fat tail is capable of reaching 4″ in length, making it the biggest on the list thus far. Despite that fact, the Arabian is a medium-sized scorpion. This scorpion is also one of the most aggressive species on our list and often won’t hesitate to go after you.
Its pincers are more powerful than most of its cousins, and it uses them to tear apart smaller insects and creatures it can consume. Though almost always black, the exoskeleton is sometimes deep, red-brown, and has hundreds of tiny protrusions along it, creating a rough textured appearance.
The Arabian is an arid climate scorpion and prefers to come out only at night, like most creatures in the desert. It attacks lizards and desert mice or anything else it’s big enough to take on.
8. Brazilian Yellow Scorpion
As its name makes clear, the Brazilian yellow scorpion hails from Brazil, and it’s a very common scorpion in both Brazil and other southern parts of South America. Out of all the deadly types of scorpions, the Brazilian is one of the most painful.
Thousands of people in South America are stung on an annual basis. Once stung, most people go through a period of intense pain (mostly at the location of the sting), run a fever, sweat profusely, and experience on-and-off bouts of nausea and/or fatigue.
Hyperesthesia occurs in the worst-case scenarios. Hyperesthesia is a condition that affects the entire body. Since scorpion venom attacks the nervous system, the Brazilian version makes the skin extremely sensitive and very painful to touch.
The Brazilian yellow scorpion is generally bright yellow, though it can change to lighter and darker hues depending on its environment. The tail is pretty standard for a scorpion, though it’s often a much darker yellow—almost orange or red in some cases.
9. Tanzanian Red-Clawed Scorpion
The Tanzanian red-clawed scorpion is one huge scorpion, often reaching lengths of over a foot. To make matters worse, it’s highly aggressive and won’t back down from a fight, even from a human being that accidentally stumbles into its territory.
It’s the bird tarantula of its kind, with a more potent venom. Its pincers are small but fade back into huge arms/legs that are nearly as large individually as the abdomen. The Tanzanian is a glossy black color with red-brown legs and pincers and a long black tail that features a red-brown, curled stinger.
Fortunately, it’s not as deadly to humans as the previous scorpions on this list. Its stinger is mild (at least as far as scorpion stingers go), though it still packs a bit of a punch. However, the venom it releases through its stinger is more than deadly for frogs, mice, smaller insects, and other mice.
Its gargantuan size is often more than enough to deter humans from getting anywhere near one. Unfortunately, it blends into its surrounding environment very well, making contact with people nearly inevitable.
10. Transvaal Fat-Tailed Scorpion
The Transvaal fat-tailed scorpion is thought to be the most deadly scorpion on the planet. It’s also known as the South African thick-tailed scorpion, and they’re mostly found in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.
It’s only half the length of the Tanzanian, yet it carries a far more potent venom in its thick stinger. Typically dark brown or black, the venom causes anaphylactic shock if the sting goes untreated for too long.
Adults are often capable of surviving untreated but not without consequences. The venom is far deadlier to children, the elderly, or those with other medical issues. Fortunately, the ones who have the most to fear are the small creatures of the Transvaal’s environment.
Its wicked stinger is covered in tiny, sharp-looking protrusions resembling very thin sewing needles. The Transvaal can deliver its potent venom concoction in two ways: by direct injection via the stinger or sprayed from the stinger onto its target.
11. Rough Thick-Tail Scorpion
The rough thick-tail scorpion (Parabuthus granulatus) is one of the most dangerous scorpions in the world. They primarily live in South Africa, within the drier regions. Like some of the other scorpions on this list, locals farm the venom, at least those who dare to find and capture them.
Their venom creates potent antivenins, and it’s been important in the medical industry. The venom of a rough thick-tail is a potent neurotoxin that often causes paraesthesia or hyperaesthesia.
Four deaths were recorded out of the last 42 stings in human beings. So, it’s not the deadliest in the world, but the ratio is high enough for concern. As with any scorpion sting, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
The rough thick tail is mostly yellow, with the abdomen featuring a burnt-yellow appearance that fades into the yellow of the legs. The stinger is dark, burnt brown, and features a nasty-looking curve that’s more pronounced than the stinger on most scorpions.
12. Vietnam Forest Scorpion
It’s hard to hate this scorpion because it’s one of the prettiest in the arachnid world. The entire exoskeleton is a deep, sea-blue that’s lightly textured and glossy in appearance. The only dark spots are where the segments connect, such as the tail to the abdomen and the legs to the abdomen.
Its pincers are large and more like a crawfish than a lobster. Its tail is smaller than most of the scorpions on this list, though it’s no less destructive for that. The Vietnam Forest Scorpion is one of the most deadly types of scorpions but mostly to its prey rather than humans.
However, its stinger still packs quite the punch. It only delivers its venom through the intravenous nature of its sting, creating one of the most severe, localized pain of all scorpions. Some swelling, possible fever, and inflammation in the immediate area are likely, but that should be the worst of it.
As its name implies, the Vietnam Forest Scorpion spends most of its time in the forests of Vietnam. Its blue isn’t quite bright enough to make it instantly visible in the thick forest canopies, so it still maintains a healthy camouflage.
13. Giant Forest Scorpion
The giant forest scorpion reaches lengths of 9.5″. Most are found in India and Southeast Asia. Despite their size and capabilities, locals are apt to keep them as pets. Yes, pets. Though giant forest scorpions have nasty stingers, they are very hesitant to use them, almost as hesitant as a honey bee, which will die if it stings.
One of the reasons people keep them as pets is because of the value of their venom. The venom from a giant forest scorpion is very useful in the medical community. It can fight antibiotic-resistant MRSA, which is invaluable all over the world.
Antibiotic-resistant MRSA can make humans septic, which is very nearly a death sentence. In its native environment, a sting from a giant forest scorpion causes a lot of pain, along with typical side effects of neurotoxicity.
The giant forest scorpion is typically black or various shades of brownish grey. If you’re in the mood for some more interesting information about this particular scorpion, they’re also a local delicacy on the dinner table.
14. Gadim Scorpion
The gadim scorpion is the deadliest in Iran, and it’s one of the oddest scorpions compared to its equally deadly cousins. For one, the gadim scorpion has a nearly painless sting, except for the immediate sensation of the sting.
For two, the gadim scorpion is the only deadly scorpion that doesn’t belong to the Buthidae family. Instead, the gadim scorpion belongs to the Hemiscorpiidae family. After the initial sting, victims are pain-free for 48 to 72 hours.
Unfortunately, terrible things are happening inside the body while the victim walks around, completely oblivious. After some time, symptoms crop up in the form of acute kidney failure, as the venom of the gadim scorpion is a mixture of cytotoxins and hemotoxins.
The toxins also create necrosis, which is a rotting of the flesh around the wound, similar to the brown recluse spider. Gadim scorpions are small and almost cream-white. They spend much time under rocks and in shady areas, striking when disturbed.
15. Emperor Scorpion
It’s hard to deny the awesome aesthetic of the emperor scorpion, including its name. It’s the last to make our list of 15 deadly types of scorpions. The emperor scorpion has huge fore-pincers.
They’re mostly a dark, glossy brown with a slightly textured surface, and they are the closest to the universal imagining of the scorpion. Emperor scorpions are native to West Africa and reach 7″ to 8″ long.
They aren’t the longest on this list, but they are certainly the beefiest and one of the more intimidating to look at. Their venom is only potentially deadly to the very young, very sick, or the elderly, but it’s still a wallop when it stings a healthy adult.
While it probably won’t send you to the hospital, it will hurt, and it’s worth keeping an eye on to make sure you’re in the clear over two days.
Final Thoughts on the 15 Deadly Types of Scorpions
Even the most deadly scorpion (deathstalker) will not likely bring down a grown, healthy adult. But all of these scorpions are potentially deadly to one degree or another. One thing is for certain; they are all very deadly to the prey that coexists with them in their native environments.
The unfortunate side of things is that scorpions often catch a very bad rep. For the most part, they are like any other animal and will flee from a giant foot appearing in their territory. Some are quite aggressive but capable of recognizing when they bite off more than they can chew.
At the end of the day, poison or very little poison, scorpions are fascinating arachnids that exist in one form or another worldwide. Be careful the next time you decide to pick up a rock.
Summary Of The 15 Deadly Types Of Scorpions
|Striped Bark Scorpion
|Spitting Blacktail Black Scorpion
|Arizona Bark Scorpion
|Yello Fat-Tail Scorpion
|Arabian Fat-Tail Scorpion
|Brazilian Yellow Scorpion
|Tanzanian Red-Clawed Scorpion
|Transvaal Fat-Tailed Scorpion
|Rough Thick-Tail Scorpion
|Vietnam Forest Scorpion
|Giant Forest Scorpion
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Valt Ahyppo/Shutterstock.com
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