Page originally created in 2012, and last updated: 16th January 2024

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion at Sheerness Docks, 2012.

Euscorpius flavicaudis / Tetratrichobothrius flavicaudis

It often comes as a surprise to most people to learn that we have had scorpions living and breeding here in the UK for over 150 years. The small Yellow-Tailed Scorpion, Euscorpius flavicaudis, has managed to set up at least one thriving colony, in an isolated area in SE England, despite the generally cool and mild climate here in the UK . These scorpions have been found on occasion at several coastal towns across the south of England over the years. The best known and most successful introduced population can still be found on the Isle of Sheppy, in Kent, around the dock-land town of Sheerness. This Yellow-Tailed Scorpion population was estimated in the late 1980's to consist of around 700 specimens. Due to the sedentary nature of these scorpions it has since been agreed by many arachnologists that this initial number was probably grossly underestimated. Many sources now claim that the Yellow-Tailed Scorpion colony at Sheerness could be as large as 10,000 or even 15,000 specimens. I can't find any information on how this 10,000 - 15.000 figure was calculated though and after studying and photographing the scorpions at Sheerness for 15 years I personally believe that the colony is far smaller than these claimed figures.

This population was the first ever scorpion colony recorded in the UK. Old records are a little sketchy but it's believed that these scorpions first arrived at Sheerness Docks during the 1860's. The Natural History Museum has a preserved Yellow-Tailed Scorpion specimen in its collection, which was collected from within the grounds of the Sheerness Docks in 1870, and was identified at the time by J. J. Walker. This is the earliest confirmed and identified specimen so we known that these scorpions were already established at the docks before 1870. The Yellow Tailed Scorpion has been living in the south-facing walls, rock crevices, abandoned buildings and railway sleepers of these docks for over 150 years now and still thrives there today in 2022. In fact these little arachnid stowaways have been established in Britain for longer than the Grey squirrel, which didn't arrive in the UK until it was imported and deliberately introduced in 1890, during the Victorian era.

Although no one knows for sure it is widely accepted that these small scorpions originally found there way into the UK accidentally as stowaways amid the regular shipments of Italian masonry, that were brought to the docks aboard sailing ships during the reign of Edward VII. Due to the success of this scorpion colony it's likely that it became established as a result of multiple additions from accidental stowaways over the years.

Euscorpius flavicaudis is sometimes referred to by its synonym, Tetratrichobothrius flavicaudis. Other sources refer to this species as Euscorpius (Tetratrichobothrius) flavicaudis . - LINK  It seems there is much confusion whether Euscorpius flavicaudis was transferred from the Euscorpius genus into the Tetratrichobothrius genus, of which it is the only species. However, both names are currently still widely in use and accepted. Both names were assigned by De Geer, in 1778.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion at Sheerness Docks, 2013.

Although the majority of the Sheerness scorpions live within the relative safety of the private docks some specimens can be found on the south-facing wall that surrounds the docks, which is accessible to the public. The Yellow-Tailed Scorpion is native to much of Western and Southern Europe, including France, Italy and Spain as well as Northwest Africa, where it is usually recorded at altitudes below 500m. These tiny scorpions prefer dry and humid habitats, including forests, fields and parks, but are often also found in or around human habitations as well. Like other species of scorpion the Yellow-Tailed Scorpion's body is covered in tiny hairs that are able to detect the slightest movements or vibrations from its surroundings.

The Old Great Dockyard Wall is a listed construction built around 1823, that measures up to 430cm high and is up to 66cm deep.

The Yellow-Tailed Scorpions are the most northerly species of scorpion in the world and it is their tolerance to cold temperatures and their ability to adapt that has allowed them to thrive in the UK's cooler climate at Sheerness. During the colder months these scorpions remain inactive deep within the dock wall or under rocks and railway sleepers etc. Tim Benton's studies in the late 1980's measured the internal temperature of the Old Dockyard Wall during the winter. It was found that the temperature in the middle of the Great Dockyard Wall would only drop to around 3 degrees during the coldest spells of winter. The Yellow-Tailed Scorpion can survive temperatures at least as low as -7 degrees, so the UK's winters are not a problem for this hardy species at Sheerness.

No one knows exactly why the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions have managed to successfully breed and thrive at the Sheerness Docks when all other introduced populations of these scorpions have failed within a few years at other sites across the UK. It could be significant factor that the Isle of Sheppey has a relatively low mean annual rainfall of just 18 inches, compared to that of 24 inches for London and 60 inches for Devon and Cornwall? The average rainfall recorded at coastal sites across the UK is typically twice that of the average rainfall at Sheerness. 

Sheerness Port was originally built in 1665 as a Royal Navy dockyard and fort, and was rebuilt with the Great Dockyard Wall in 1823. The Great Dockyard Wall, along with the now ruined army barracks and various other old buildings within the docks, are all constructed using the same brickwork, that appears to be particularly favourable to the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions. This is likely to be due to the soft mortar between the bricks, that allows the scorpions to tunnel into the walls, as well as the 66cm depth of the wall that allows the scorpions to escape freezing temperatures during the winter months. Within the grounds of Sheerness Docks are gardens, allotments and areas of rough ground, which favour all manor of insect life, providing an ample and constant supply of insect prey for the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions. In addition, areas of the north face of the Great Dockyard Wall have ivy climbing the wall and overhanging trees which also provide a rich environment for insect prey for the scorpions, which don't need to feed very often.

Sheerness Great Dockyard Wall, Blue Town, Sheerness, Kent, 8th July 2021

One reason why these scorpions haven't spread much beyond the confinement of the docks is the remote location of the Sheerness Docks. With the river on one side of the docks and man-made defence moats and busy roads surrounding the docks they are stranded on an island within an island at Sheerness Docks. Although escapes must occur they don't happen in large enough numbers to establish any viable new colonies of scorpions away from the docks.

Most residents, that I have spoken to, in the area of the Sheerness Docks, not only accept the scorpions as part of the local fauna but they are actually proud of their novel arachnid neighbours and the claim to fame that they bring to the town. Local schools have even organised evening trips to visit the Great Dockyard Wall and guide the children as they look for the scorpions at night. Jenny Hurkett, the founder of the Blue Town Heritage Centre at the Criterion Theatre, Sheerness, has two preserved specimens on display for anyone interested in seeing what they look like.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion glowing under UV light. Found at Sheerness Docks Wall February 2012

The Yellow-Tailed Scorpion is a fairly small scorpion species reaching a maximum size of around 20-25mm body-length and 35-45mm including tail and pincers. These small scorpions have large pincers for their size, and a short, thin, stinging tail. This tail can only deliver a very mild sting to a human. However, the Yellow-Tailed Scorpion is usually very reluctant to use its sting though, even when hunting these scorpions rely mainly on their powerful pincers to subdue their prey. The effect of the sting to humans is a mere pin-prick to most people and is said to be less painful than the sting of a bee or wasp. The sting usually poses no threat to healthy adult humans at all, although medical advice should be sought if you feel unwell following a sting in case of an allergic reaction. 

In southern Europe, where these scorpions are native, there are recent records though of more severe reactions to the sting of the Yellow-Tailed Scorpion by children. One such incident was in the South of France back in 2019, where a 10 year old boy was stung on the hand whilst handling a Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. His symptoms included localised pain, sweating, nausea, abdominal cramps, decreasing muscular strength and an inability to raise his arm above shoulder level. These symptoms past after 72 hours with no long-term effects. It is likely that this extreme reaction is partly due to the child's sensitivity to the venom and the time of year the incident occurred. The venom of the scorpion would have been of a much higher concentration than usual as the sting occurred in winter when the scorpion would have previously been inactive for some time.  LINK 1    LINK 2

I have handled several specimens of these scorpions myself with my bare hands and have never experienced any signs of aggressive or defensive behaviour from any of them. However this doesn't mean that I would encourage anyone else to ever handle wild scorpions.

These scorpions hide themselves away for most of their lives becoming active only to feed and breed, usually on warm evenings. Despite their preference for warm weather these hardy scorpions have even been recorded at Sheerness in every month of the year except January. I have personally seen them at Sheerness in both November and February, in small numbers, when the evening temperatures were around 7-9 degrees. At this time of year the scorpions were largely inactive, and were found hiding at the outer edge of the cracks in the mortar of the Great Dockyard Wall. Yellow-Tailed Scorpions feed on any insects or spiders that come within range, with a preference for woodlice. Because of their incredibly slow metabolism it is thought that they may only need to feed as few as 4-5 times a year during the summer months, and can survive for long periods between meals. Whilst largely a nocturnal ambush predator Yellow-Tailed Scorpions will leave their hiding place and actively search for prey on occasion.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion glowing under UV light. Found at Sheerness Docks Wall February 2012

During the day these nocturnal scorpions can be almost impossible to find as they hide themselves away in the smallest of gaps and cracks in the rocks and bricks that they make their home. However, on very rare occasions some specimens have been seen active during the day, which is fairly uncommon for scorpions of most species, apart from forest-dwelling scorpions.

Scorpions are easiest to find once they become active at night, usually an hour or two after the sun has set. Under a UV lamp scorpions glow bright turquoise, making them much easier to spot, whether climbing the walls or hiding in rock crevices. It is not understood exactly how scorpions could benefit from glowing under UV light but it is known that the fluorescence is caused by the accumulation of a chemical called beta-carboline in the exoskeleton, which glows under UV light. One theory is that this florescence may help to shield scorpions from harmful UV rays emitted by the sun by converting UV light into harmless visible light. Other possible theories include: the emitted glow from UV light could attract moths and other insects that scorpions prey upon, or the glow could help male scorpions looking for potential female mates. Other scientists believe that the florescence may be purely by chance of evolution and have no significant purpose at all.

Scorpions are not the only invertebrates that glow under UV light though. The Ecuadorian Harvestmen (Eucynorta sp., Cosmetidae) is one such example of another invertebrate that fluoresces when exposed to UV light.  LINK

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion, Euscorpius flavicaudis, on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

The image on the left shows the scorpion under normal diffused flash light. The image on the right shows the same scorpion under UV light.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion glowing under UV light. Found at Sheerness Great Dockyard Wall February 2012

As scorpions grow they periodically shed their hard exoskeleton in one complete shell. The few hours following a shed of the old exoskeleton is quite a dangerous time for the scorpion until the new soft shell hardens up. The old discarded shell still glows under UV light however the new shell will not glow immediately but the fluorescence slowly returns as the scorpion ages and the beta-carboline begins to build up in the new exoskeleton once again.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion photographed on a mirror.

Scorpions are not insects, but they are classed along with spiders and harvestmen as arachnids. They are very basic creatures and early fossil records show that scorpions have been on the earth for over 400 million years! Early Sea Scorpions, that could have been as long as 2.5 metres, were capable of walking on land as well as living beneath the water, like modern crabs. There is even consideration over whether these ancient scorpions may have been one of the first creatures to leave the sea and begin living a terrestrial existence.  LINK

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion photographed on a mirror.

Despite the dangerous reputation that scorpions have, due to their venomous sting, out of the 2200+ species of scorpion found throughout the world it is thought that only about 104 species are considered to be any real threat to healthy adult humans if stung. Scorpions are one of the most resilient creatures on the earth. They are capable of surviving fairly low temperatures and extremely hot temperatures, such as those experienced in dessert environments. During US nuclear testing, both scorpions and cockroaches were found surviving near ground zero showing no adverse effects from the radiation. One species of scorpion, Orobothriurus crassimanus, has been recorded at an altitude of 5550 metres above sea level where oxygen levels are very low and many creatures could not survive. Scorpions are also one of the species of terrestrial life-forms that usually survives flooding. Tests have shown that many species of scorpion can survive being submerged in water for several hours, due to their ability to slow their metabolism down, enabling them to retain sufficient oxygen supplies in their body. Some scorpions can last indefinitely without water and obtain the necessary fluids to survive purely from their occasional prey.


Yellow-Tailed Scorpion glowing under UV light. Found at Sheerness Great Dockyard Wall February 2012

Yellow-Tailed Scorpions are not generally a communal species and cannibalism does occur if keeping more than one of these scorpions in the same enclosure, just as it does in the wild. Following mating, which usually occurs in June, July and August, the long gestation period of the female scorpion is between 10 and 14 months, depending on the temperature and the quantity and quality of food available. The female then gives birth to the fertilised eggs when they are ready to hatch. Once laid the eggs hatch immediately and the number of tiny scorplings can range from 4-30 individuals, that are born soft and white. The female carries these tiny scorpions on her back until they are too large to all fit on her back. This can vary from one to eight weeks. Excellent photos of a female Euscorpius sp. carrying her newly hatched scorplings can be seen here: LINK

As with many species of spider it is not unusual for a mature male Yellow-Tailed Scorpion to stand guard over a viable female mate until she is mature and ready to to copulate. At this stage the male will hold onto the tips of the female's pincers and the two scorpions will begin to circle each other in the "dance of the scorpions". The male will then deposit his sperm-sac on the ground and drag the female until she is directly over it. The female will then collect the sperm package through her sexual opening. Due to the long gestation period female Yellow-Tailed Scorpions will only mate once per year, and not every year. Males may mate with several different partners in a single year, but females will always choose the larger and more dominant males to mate with.

Scorpions have a very basic digestive system. All prey is caught using the powerful pincers and then brought to the jaws where it is effectively chopped into very fine particles and reduced to liquid form that can be sucked up into the mouth of the scorpion. As with snakes the venom of the scorpion not only stuns or kills its prey but may also aid with the digestion process too. Prey items are usually eaten head first and one meal generally takes several hours to consume.

So what does the future hold for the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions in Sheerness?

Sheerness Docks is privately owned is is therefore always at risk of being sold, or partially sold for redevelopment. Parts of the docks have already been converted into residential accommodation and there have been additional plans to turn more of the docks over to further development for housing. In 2002 Dr Tim Benton, who had been studying the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness for a decade, expressed his serious concerns over plans to convert some of the dockyard buildings into residential flats.  LINK

In June 2009 a planning application by Dockyard Buildings was successfully fought off following a local petition started by the founder of the Blue Town Heritage Centre, Jenny Hurkett. The proposed application had already been declined once before but revised plans were submitted, which involved converting a historic dockyard building into 26 residential units and building a new development of another 69 residential units, with a car park within Sheerness Docks. Access for the new development proposed knocking a large hole through the historic Great Dockyard Wall, which is currently afforded legal protection as a listed structure. Even the RSPCA voiced concerns about the potential risk to the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions should the proposed development get approval. The proposed application was eventually withdrawn to allow the plans to be reworked before being resubmitted again at some point in the future.


Unfortunately, despite being resident at Sheerness Docks for over 150 years Natural England has confirmed that Euscorpius flavicaudis is classed as a non-native species in Great Britain and is therefore not protected under UK Law from being harmed, killed or removed. These scorpions could swiftly, and perfectly legally, be removed by developers spraying the site with pesticides if they stood in the way of future development or deterred potential buyers from investing in their new riverside flats.


Is Sheerness the only place in the UK where scorpions can be found?

No, Sheerness is the only place in Britain where the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions have managed to establish a successful, long-term breeding colony. Historically scorpions have popped up at various coastal towns and shipping ports across the UK for hundreds of years. Should a gravid female scorpion arrive in the UK as an accidental stowaway, it could quickly establish a small colony in the area where it was introduced, as has been demonstrated at many coastal towns across the UK. However these other introduced colonies have always died out within a few years of their introduction at every other location where they have been sighted. It is highly likely that scorpions will continue to turn up at similar locations in the future and maybe one day another viable colony will become established with a sustainable future, but as of yet this hasn't happened anywhere in the UK apart from at Sheerness.

Other Scorpion sightings in the UK

Whenever the subject of "Scorpions in the UK" comes up it's extremely common to hear many anecdotal stories, from various members of the pubic, about wild scorpions being found at a multitude of different sites across the UK. Many of these claimed sightings come from coastal towns, or towns with busy shipping ports, either current or historical. What is not so common though is finding any proof to support these alleged scorpion sightings. In this day and age most people carry mobile phones with high quality phone cameras, and yet finding any photographic evidence to confirm the existence of scorpions from anyone claiming to have seen scorpions at any of these different sites usually proves impossible. Whilst it is well known that small colonies of scorpion have historically been present at many coastal towns or shipping ports, none have survived for any length of time, with the exception of the Sheerness colony.

There are various sources on the internet that report other alleged sightings of these scorpions in the UK from various sites including have come from Harwich Docks, Pinner, Tilbury Docks, Portsmouth Docks and Southampton Docks, Swanage pier in Dorset, as well as Whitemoor and Ongar Underground Station. Even if there is any truth to the historic existence of scorpion colonies, at any of these mentioned sites, none of these scorpion colonies have managed to survive for many years before dying out. The commonly reported scorpions at Ongar Railway Station are discussed below.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpions were also allegedly sighted in 2012 on Erith Pier, in SE London, by night fishermen. However I have since thoroughly investigated this Erith site in ideal conditions and there were no scorpions present there in 2020. In 2015 a number of Yellow-Tailed Scorpions were reportedly collected from a stone wall at the bottom of a residential garden in the coastal town of Seaton, East Devon. 

There are also two unconfirmed records of single specimens of Yellow-Tailed Scorpion found in the UK on the NBN Atlas website: 

First: Yellow-Tailed Scorpion found in church grounds of Croydon Minister, in South London. 2nd July 2014. LINK   LINK 2

Second: Yellow-Tailed Scorpion found on a farmland site in Charltons, Saltburn-by-the-sea, Cleveland, North-East England. 8th July 2009. LINK

On 25th August 2023 a sighting was shared on Facebook of a small, dark scorpion found in Halifax. From the images provided the scorpion could be identified as being from the Euscorpius or Tetratrichobothrius genus, but couldn't be identified to species level without close examination. It is likely that the scorpion was either Euscorpius flavicaudis / Tetratrichobothrius flavicaudis or Euscorpius italicus.   -  LINK

The post generated the usual responses from folk claiming to have seen scorpions, or heard rumours of scorpions being seen, at various parts of the UK, including Oxfordshire and Bristol Docks. There was one interesting contribution to the conversation from a lady who found a small scorpion living in her fireplace in the New Forest area, near Lymington. The sighting included a photo of a small, dark scorpion with pale brown legs. The specimen lacked the yellow stinger of Euscorpius flavicaudis / Tetratrichobothrius flavicaudis, so was likely to be a different Euscorpius species.  -  LINK

On 5th February 2023 a small scorpion was found in a South London house. The finding was shared on Twitter and an ID was requested. An exact ID couldn't be given from the photo provided but the scorpion could definitely be identified as a species from the family Buthidae. It's unknown how this scorpion came to be in the UK but it was collected by pest controllers and removed.. -  LINK

On 4th July 2022, Sara Coker shared an image on Facebook of a Yellow-Tailed Scorpion that was found wild at an industrial site in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. As a wooden pallet was being moved the scorpion fell to the ground. It's unclear whether this is an isolated specimen or if there are further scorpions on the site. No other specimens have been found in the area though. The Facebook post generated a host of typically unsubstantiated claims that scorpion colonies can be found at various sites across the UK, including: Gravesend in Kent, Barry Island in Glamorgan, Scarborough in Yorkshire, the Old Heritage Market in Liverpool, Alton in Staffordshire, Norfolk, New Haven in East Sussex, Dover in Kent, Northampton Golf Course, and Bristol Docks. And yet when I asked each of those Facebook members, who claimed to have seen these scorpions, none were able to provide any photographs to support their stories of scorpions being present at any sites in the UK, other than Sheerness. - LINK

On 30th June 2021, Alan Cooke found a small scorpion in his home in Wimbish near Saffron Walden in Essex. The scorpion looked like a species of Euscorpius but not Euscorpius flavicaudis. It was brown in colour, including the legs and tail, and was larger than the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions of Sheerness. It also lacked the distinctive yellow stinger at the end of its tail, found on Euscorpius flavicaudis. The town of Wimbush is home to the British Army's Carver Barracks and this is a likely source for the scorpion's arrival into the UK. There is also the potential for this scorpion to be an escaped pet. Alan released the scorpion on an old wall near Audley End House. This specimen had a notably swollen abdomen and was likely to be a gravid female. This release could be the start of a new population of scorpions in Essex!  LINK

In 2016 Mizraelle and his colleagues, from the Czech Republic, reportedly found a colony of small scorpions near Brighstone, Newport, on the Isle of Wight. These small scorpions were entirely brown in colour, including the legs, tail and pincers. Mizraelle reports that these scorpions, although similar in size, were notably different in appearance to the Euscorpius flavicaudis, that are established in Sheerness, Kent. Mizraelle describes these scorpions as having smaller and less bulbous pincers than Euscorpius flavicaudis, and a more slender body with sharper edges to their body segments. Unfortunately no photos were sent to me to confirm the record, and I have been unable to find any other recorded sightings of scorpions on the Isle of Wight.

A TikTok post shared in August 2022 featured a slide show of Yellow-Tailed Scorpion images, including some of my own, photographed at Sheerness. The post attracted many comments from members of the public. Within these comments were many claimed sightings of scorpions at various parts of the UK. These included: Exeter, Canvey Island, Hadleigh Castle in Essex, Skegness, Sea Wall in Plymouth Dockyard, Dover Dock Walls. The post was removed by TikTok as it used my scorpion images without my consent.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion found on the Great Dock Wall, Sheerness, 24th April 2013

Ongar Underground Station scorpions

The scorpion population at Ongar Underground Station was once featured in the BBC's TV program, "Wildlife on One" back in 1979, but this "wild" population of scorpions was later reported by The Independent to have been a hoax orchestrated by the station foreman "Fred" who deliberately released five scorpions, bought from a local pet shop in Camden. The scorpions may have bred, or one of the released specimens may have been a gravid female, but some former employees at the Railway Station, and some visitors and local residents, claim the end result was a small population of more than a dozen scorpions that lived in the brickwork of the station for several years, before eventually dying out.

The Independent Newspaper article Sunday 9th July 1995

"At its peak in 1971, 750 passengers were making the return trip. But even then the track was hardly an economic proposition although the staff did their utmost to drum up business. In 1965, an Ongar station foreman bought five (harmless) European scorpions in a Camden pet shop and let them loose in his goods yard. This formed the basis of one of the few scorpion colonies in Britain, which became an attraction. The staff kept quiet about its real origins, and encouraged speculation that it arrived in a banana van in the 1860s."

Dean Sullivan, a former employee at Ongar Railway Station during the 1960's and 1970's, claimed on the former online forum '' that when David Attenborough arrived with a BBC film crew to record the Ongar Railway scorpion population they were unable to find any "wild" scorpion specimens at the station. This former employee also claims that the film crew brought their own captive-bred scorpions, which they filmed and then claimed were found living wild at the Ongar Railway Station.  See report here. - Ongar Railway Station

"The sand drag at the very end of the rails — intended to help slow trains that overshot the stopping mark — was said to be home to a breed of harmless scorpion and featured in a 1979 episode of the BBC's Wildlife On One. They had been released there by a station foreman who was a keeper of exotic pets."

iPhone recording of the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness Docks, 2020.

This video was filmed at 9pm on 30th September 2020. The air temperature was very mild at 15 degrees and the weather was dry and calm with no wind. Perfect conditions for Yellow-Tailed Scorpions to be found at Sheerness. In 25 minutes I had found 23 specimens ranging from adults, with a body-length of around 25mm (excluding tail and pincers), to young juveniles of just a few mm in length. Several specimens were spotted actively wandering along the south face of the wall that surrounds the docks. However most specimens were found hiding away in cracks and crevices of the wall.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

This image of a Yellow-Tailed Scorpion, with a body-length of 20mm, not only shows how small these scorpions are but also demonstrates how placid they are if treated with respect.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found at Sheerness Docks 30th September 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis), with a body-length of 20mm, on the Sheerness Great Dockyard Wall, 25th November 2020.

Image taken with the Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro lens. Hand-held using manual exposure, manual focus and manual flash settings.
3.2 second exposure, f/32 aperture, ISO 1600. Diffused flash.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) hiding in the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th November 2020.

The scorpion pictured above was one of twelve Yellow-Tailed Scorpions I saw hiding in the wall at Sheerness Docks on a mild, drizzly night at around 7pm on 25th November when the air temperature was around 8-9 degrees. As the drizzle arrived and the temperature began to drop further the scorpions all began to disappear out of sight deeper into the wall. The Yellow-Tailed Scorpion in this image shows its exoskeleton is starting to split open along the side as the scorpion begins to shed its skin. The scorpion will be highly vulnerable with its soft new skin exposed so it will need to stay hidden away until the new skin hardens and forms the new exoskeleton. The new skin has yet to build up the chemical, beta-carboline, so is not yet fluorescent under UV light. 

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) hiding in the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th November 2020.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpions take three or more years to reach maturity and adult specimens can live for around two years, giving the scorpion a lifespan of around five years. With much of the adult female's life spent during the gestation period, when they are carrying fertilised eggs inside them, they remain largely inactive are rarely leave their hiding place. It was reported by Professor Tim Guy Benton, who studied the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness extensively between 1987 - 1989, that female Yellow-Tailed Scorpions may leave their hiding place as few as ten times during their entire life time. Professor Tim Benton studied this scorpion population for 18 months and marked and tracked 162 individual specimens at Sheerness in the course of his studies. 

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) found on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 27th April 2013

Male Yellow-Tailed Scorpions are more active than females and can on occasion be seen hunting for food, or for a mate, out in the open on warm, dry evenings. The activity of Yellow-Tailed Scorpions is not only affected by the air temperature, time of year, wind and rainfall, but also the lunar cycle. Many species of Scorpions are known to be less active when there is a full moon. Yellow-Tailed Scorpions spend most of their lives living in the same spot, which at Sheerness Docks is usually the same crack in the Great Dockyard Wall. When these scorpions do come out to forage for food they generally don't move much further than a few metres from their hideaway. 

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) hiding in the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th November 2020.

In many cases the protruding pincers of the scorpion is all that is seen as it hides itself away in the cracks within the mortar on the Sheerness Great Dockyard Wall. These pincers are modified pedipalps that are used to capture and restrain prey. The pedipalps are covered in tiny hairs called trichobothria. These super-sensitive hairs can detect the slightest vibration or movement not only through the ground but also through the air. With the pincers perched at the edge of the crack in the Great Dockyard Wall the scorpion can accurately detect the approach of prey species or the approach of a larger predator.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) wandering on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

My survey of the Great Dockyard Wall on 25th August 2022 revealed the first scorpions starting to emerge from within the wall at around 9pm. By 10:30pm I had seen two adult specimens briefly wandering on the face of the wall before disappearing back into cracks. 4 adult specimens, and one juvenile specimen were also observed hiding in cracks in the walls. These scorpions were seen until around midnight before they retreated slightly deeper into the wall. One tiny juvenile specimen was observed emerging and waiting at the edge of the wall at around midnight.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) wandering on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) wandering on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

Yellow-Tailed Scorpion (Euscorpius flavicaudis) wandering on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

4mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion waiting to ambush its prey amidst the crumbling mortar on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

By midnight most of the scorpions had retreated back into the wall. Just the tips of the claws of a few remaining scorpions could still be seen hiding in cracks and crevices amidst the crumbling mortar of the Great Dockyard Wall. This tiny 4mm specimen was still waiting at the edge of its retreat though, hoping to capture any passing small invertebrates that wandered by.

4mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion amidst the crumbling mortar on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

On the 17th June I surveyed the Sheerness site for Yellow-Tailed Scorpions. The conditions were perfect with an air temperature of 18 degrees, no wind, and complete cloud cover. I arrived at 10pm and within 2 minutes I had spotted 2 small juvenile specimens hiding in gaps in the crumbling mortar of the Great Dock Wall. By midnight I had counted 19 scorpions. 5 of which were adults and 14 were juveniles. 3 adults and 2 juveniles were found wandering on the south-facing side of the wall, whilst the other 14 specimens were seen waiting, at the edge of gaps and cracks in the mortar, to ambush any wandering prey. Throughout the evening the only prey seen wandering on the wall were woodlice, which regularly become meals to the scorpions.

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion under UV light. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

This gravid female specimen was found wandering on the south-facing side of the wall at around midnight. It had a body-length of 22mm, excluding the pincers and tail.

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

 Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

Gravid female Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

12mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

12mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

12mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

12mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall, 17th June 2023

12mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall at 10:20pm, 17th June 2023

9mm juvenile Yellow-Tailed Scorpion. Found out wandering on the Great Dock Wall at 10pm, 17th June 2023

This 9mm juvenile specimen had recently moulted and its semi-translucent new exoskeleton exhibited very little fluorescence under my UV torchlight.

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Other Invertebrates on The Great Dockyard Wall

9mm Southern Pill Woodlouse, Armadillidium depressum, wandering the Great Dockyard Wall late at night, 25th August 2022.

Woodlice are the main prey of the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness. These terrestrial crustaceans can be seen at night as they wander around the Great Dockyard Wall, where they have to avoid the many spiders and scorpions that lay in wait to ambush such invertebrates. Southern Pill Woodlouse, Armadillidium depressum, is generally found in the south and south-west of England, and is considered to be uncommon in Kent county.  LINK

Tube-Web Spider (Segestria florentina) hiding in the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th November 2020.

The Yellow-Tailed Scorpions are not the only ambush predators that hide away within the crumbling mortar of the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness. There is also an abundance of Tube-Web Spiders (Segestria florentina), with their menacing green chelicerae, that lie in wait for passing prey. The Tube-Web Spider is another non-native species of Mediterranean origin that has become naturalised in the UK since 1816, more than 200 years ago.

Dead specimens of Yellow-Tailed Scorpions have been found in the webs of Tube-Web Spiders and likewise, Yellow-Tailed Scorpions have been seen feeding on adult Tube-Web Spiders. Even when hiding in its retreat this species can be readily identified by the metallic green chelicerae that are not found on either of the other two Segestria species found in the UK. The Lace-Web Spider, Amaurobius similis, which also occupies the Great Dockyard Wall, is another species of spider that has been seen on occasion feeding on the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness.

Tube-Web Spider web (Segestria florentina) on the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks 25th August 2022.

One of the many distinctive webs of the Tube-Web Spider web, Segestria florentina, with their radiating signal lines that stretch out across the Great Dockyard Wall at Sheerness Docks.

5mm juvenile Steatoda nobilis, in its tangle-web on the Great Dockyard Wall, 25th August 2022.

During my scorpion survey on 25th August 2022 I recorded the Noble False Widow Spider, Steatoda nobilis, for the first time living on the Great Dockyard Wall. On this occasion I only managed to find two juvenile specimens. Steatoda nobilis are a highly adaptable species though, and are very capable of colonising new areas with incredible success. It'll be interesting to watch how the arrival of this non-native spider to the Great Dockyard Wall will affect the Euscorpius flavicaudis, and the Segestria florentina that currently dominate this habitat. It's quite possible, but very unlikely that these two long established predatory species will devour the young Steatoda nobilis before it's able to establish itself on the Dockyard Wall. With just a couple of juvenile Steatoda nobilis currently present in 2022 they may or may not get the chance to establish themselves there.  However, after seeing how this species has managed to out-compete so many other spider species in my own garden, to rapidly become the most dominant spider there, I would expect the same to happen at Sheerness Docks too eventually. It's only a matter of time in my opinion. Hopefully this won't be too detrimental to the long-term survival of the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness.
My survey on 19th June 2023 found only three juvenile Steatoda nobilis on the Great Dock Wall. It could be that the surface of the wall is too flat to be suited to adult Steatoda nobilis. This would be good news for the Euscorpius flavicaudis.

4mm juvenile Zygiella sp. in its orb-web on the Great Dockyard Wall, 25th August 2022.

Another species that was present on the Great Dockyard Wall during my survey, 25th August 2022, was the Missing-Sector Orb-Weaver. I found two juvenile specimens on the wall. The Missing-Sector Orb-Weaver is another hardy and adaptable species.

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In September 2020 I was contacted by Sergio Henriques and Olga Sivell, from the Natural History Museum in London, and asked if I would be able to collect specimens of Yellow-Tailed Scorpion from Sheerness Docks for inclusion in the Darwin Tree Of Life Project, a project that aims to fully sequence the genomes of all 70.000 species of eukaryotic organisms in Britain and Ireland. Permission was sought and granted from Swale Council, Kent County Council, Sheerness Docks, Peel Ports and Edward Harris Law, on behalf of Spitalfields Trust, to collect the samples and two specimens were collected and submitted for inclusion in this project.

The Darwin Tree of Life Project uses genomic data to understand the evolution of the diversity of life, to explore the biology of organisms and ecosystems, to aid conservation efforts and to provide new tools for medicine and biotechnology. The Darwin Tree of Life Project is one of several initiatives across the globe working towards the ultimate goal of sequencing all complex life on Earth, in a venture known as the Earth BioGenome Project.    

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My Yellow-Tailed Scorpion Photography In The Media

During the summer of 2022 I was asked by researchers for the BBC's The One Show to help them find and film Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness, in Kent, and to feature on the film myself. I met with Lizzy Daly Wild, and the film crew, at Sheerness, on 25th August 2022. It was a mild dry night and it didn't take me long to find both adult and juvenile scorpions to feature on the film.

The final film was aired on BBC 1, on 12th October 2022, at 7pm, on The One Show. The film can be watched here:  "Scorpions at Sheerness" on The One Show 

The footage was shown once again in 2024 on the BBC 1 program "Morning Live", Series 5 at 9;30am on the 10th January. Watch from 105:43 - Morning Live

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Kent Online article on the Scorpions at Sheerness, 5th July 2021

On 5th July 2021 the KM News Group ran a story on the Yellow-Tailed Scorpions at Sheerness Docks. The story mentioned my photography of these scorpions and my website, and was accompanied by several of my photos.  Kent Online published the article 5/07/21 and the Sheerness Times Guardian printed the story in their newspaper 7/07/21.

There are others, like Kent postman Jason Steel who has won awards for his nature photography. The pictures of Sheppey scorpions on his website are stunning. But he uses macro lenses and stuff. I tried using a flash on one of mine but I think that just frazzled the poor thing. For those thinking of trying to 'pap' a scorpion, Jason offered these tips: "To get sharp images you are going to need your camera mounted on a tripod and you'll have to wait for the scorpion to stand still for a few seconds, which is something they don't often do when they out in the open and exposed to predators. "Wildlife photography takes a great deal of patience and dedication. You can use an off-camera flash to take more natural-looking images but you are still going to need a torch focussed on the scorpion so the camera can focus properly in such dark conditions. "Having a friend to hold the flash and torch for you while you concentrate on taking the photos makes things much easier."

Sheerness Times Guardian newspaper, 7th July 2021

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On 30th April 2022 the BBC's "Discover Wildlife" used my scorpion images to accompany an article entitled "Wildlife Surprises on the Islands of England and Wales".

See article here:  LINK

All Photographs on this page were taken using the Canon 40D, Canon 7D, Canon 7D mkii and Canon 5D mkiii cameras and the Canon 100mm 2.8IS, Canon 70-300mm IS L, Canon 17-85mm IS, Canon 15-85mm IS, and Venus Laowa 15mm f/4 Wide Angle 1:1 Macro lenses.