The following article is based on an article I wrote for the journal published by the Exotiske Insekter society in Scandinavia (december issue (no. 29), 2001, in danish). No reproduction of this article is permitted (electronic or printed) without my permit.

This article will be updated continuously. Last updated: 20.06.03


Jan Ove Rein
Medical Library & Information Center
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Europe hosts a surprisingly high diversity of scorpions. At the moment, 18 valid species are reported from Europe (the species known from the Asian part of Turkey are excluded). Scorpions are reported from France, Monaco, Spain, Portugal, Italy, San Marino, Malta, Switzerland, Austria, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, Russia (North Caucasus), Ukraine (Crimea only), and the Balkan countries. In addition, an introduced colony of scorpions in southern England has been known since the 18th. century. Scorpion findings have also been reported from Germany, Holland and Sweden(!), but no data indicate that these countries host permanent populations (as England does).


This family has three representatives in Europe, which do not overlap in distribution. They are usually found in hot and dry wasteland with sparse vegetation, where they hide in natural burrows under stones etc. during daytime. As in other buthids, the venom is quite strong and sting is very painful. I have not been able to find any reports of deaths or serious cases attributed to European scorpions in the literature, but see the comments in connection with Iurus dufoureius and Calchas nordmanni. The European species seem not to pose any great threat to healthy humans.

Buthus occitanus (Amoreux, 1789)

This scorpion is quite common in the southwestern parts of Europe, and is reported from France, Spain and Portugal. Reports of B. occitanus from Greece are probably misidentifications of Mesobuthus gibbosus. B. occitanus is also known from northern Africa, where several "forms" occur. Research are being done on the taxonomic status of B. occitanus, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the african "forms" are raised to species status in the future.

B. occitanus is 60-80 mm in length, and has a yellow or yellow-brown color. The granulations on the anterior part of carapace (in front of the median eyes) form a lyre shape. This scorpion is often found in dry and hot areas with sparse vegetation, where it hides under stones etc. during daytime. It has also been reported from Mediterranean forests in Spain at altitudes above 1000 meters (with snowfall in the winter).

The European form of B. occitanus has a painful sting, but are not considered dangerous for healthy humans. The literature suggest that the African "forms" are much more potent, and deaths and serious cases have been reported.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Mesobuthus cyprius Gantenbein et al. 2000

As the name indicates, this species is endemic for Cyprus. This species was previous regarded as a subspecies of M. gibbosus, (M. gibbosus anatolicus), but molecular and genetic analysis revealed that the Cyprus population was clearly different from the mainland populations of the subspecies. The Cyprus population obtained species status in 2000.

It is almost impossible to separate M. cyprius from M. gibbosus by traditional morphological means. Genetical analysis are necessary. The only comfort is that all scorpions from Cyprus are probably M. cyprius (no other species are so far reported from this island, but it is important to note that no extensive field studies have been done. I'm very interested to know if someone has found Euscorpius or other scorpions on this island!). This scorpion is yellow to yellow-brown in color, and may reach 60-75 mm in length.

M. cyprius is known from mountain areas with spare vegetation. Two locations are reported from the northern part of the island, and I collected a few specimens in a small area located at 1900 meters on the highest mountain on the island (Mt. Olympos). This area experiences snow in the winter. The scorpions hide under stones etc. during daytime.

No data on the medical significance of M. cyprius have been found, but it is reasonable to assume that the sting is very painful, without causing serious systemic effects. Like B. occitanus and M. gibbosus, M. cyprius is probably not dangerous for healthy humans.

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Mesobuthus gibbosus (Brullé, 1832)

This yellow to yellow-brown scorpion can reach 67-75 mm in length, and is distributed in eastern parts of Europe. It is reported from Albania, Greece (including many of the Greek islands), Macedonia and Yugoslavia. M. gibbosus is found in several habitats. I have collected it in dry and hot wasteland without any vegetation, both in mountain areas and on the beach, only meters away from the sea. In addition, some papers reports of collecting sites located in forests. It seems that this species can be found in both humid areas and warm and dry areas. M. gibbosus is usually located under stones and other suitable objects on the ground.

See M. cyprius for information about differences between these two species.

Very little data have been available on the medical significance of M. gibbosus. As far as I can tell, the sting is very painful, but does not cause serious systemic effects. Like B. occitanus and M. cyprius, M. gibbosus is probably not dangerous for healthy humans.

Photo: Dietmar Huber (C)

In addition to these three buthids, Michalis & Dolkeras (1989) reported a finding of Androctonus bicolor from Greece. This is not correct, and the scorpion in question was a M. gibbosus (Fet & Braunwalder, 2000). A introduced colony of the South American scorpion Centruroides gracilis has been reported from the Canary Islands (these islands are not a part of the European fauna element, but the islands are a part of Spain, and I therefore choose to mention this). Armas & Báez (1988) reported about an established colony in La Laguna, Tenerife island, but I do not know if this scorpion has spread to the other islands in the area.


Euscorpius is the only genus of this family in Europe. Members of this genus are known from several countries, and are quite common in some places (In addition to the European distribution, some species have been reported from North Africa, Georgia and the Asian part of Turkey, Yemen (introduced) and Uruguay (introduced)). Most species of Euscorpius are similar in appearance, and can be difficult to identify without checking trichobothrial structures on the pedipalps. Some of the species also display intraspecific variations in colors and size, which also make identification more difficult. An online identification key is available in The Scorpion Files.

The venom of all species of Euscorpius is harmless. These species will rarely sting, and the smaller species have difficulties with penetrating human skin. Some sources say that the sting of E. italicus might be very painful (I. Stathi, pers. comm.).

NEWS! In a paper in October 2002, Fet & Soleglad have published several important changes for the "Euscorpius carpathicus species complex". E. carpathicus is now limited to Romania only, E. tergestinus is confirmed as a valid species, and two new species (E. hadzii and E. koschewnikowi) are described. In December, a new species (E. naupliensis) related to E. italicus, was described. I will include these changes in the next edition of this review article.

Euscorpius alpha Caporiacco, 1950

This species was formerly known as a subspecies of E. germanus. Molecular and genetic analysis of the different populations of E. germanus in southern Switzerland, northern Italy and southern Austria revealed the presence of two different forms, separated by the river Adige (Etsch) in the northern Italy. The genetic difference between the two forms was large enough to justify an elevation of the western form to a new species, E. alpha in the end of 2000.

It is almost impossible to separate E. alpha and E. germanus by using morphological characteristics, but collection site will tell which species you have. E. alpha (western distribution) and E. germanus (eastern distribution) do not overlap in distribution. E. alpha is a small, black scorpion, which rarely reach more than 30 mm in length. It is usually found in mountain areas with a reasonable high humidity, often under stones, logs etc. A. alpha is so far reported from Italy and southern Switzerland.

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Euscorpius balearicus Caporiacco, 1950

This species belongs to the "E. carpathicus species complex", and was previously recognized as a subspecies of E. carpathicus. E. balearicus is distributed on the Balearic Islands (Mallorca, Menorca, Cabrera, Ibiza & Formentera) in the Mediterranean sea, where it can be found under stones etc.

E. balearicus is small to medium sized (30 - 37 mm). Coloration is light brownish (actually some orange overtones in some specimens) with little contrasting patterns. Metasoma reduced proportionally, and unusual large pedipalps (compared to other populations of E. carpathicus). As a rule of thumb: All Euscorpius from the Balearic Islands are E. balearicus.

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Euscorpius beroni Fet, 2000

This species was recently described from a mountain area (1400-2400 meters) in northern Albania. Some specimens have been collected as high as 2569 meters, something which is very impressive for European scorpions. This is a small species (appr. 30 mm), with a light brownish trunk and brown legs and pedipalps.

This species belongs to the "E. mingrelicus species complex", which is so far poorly investigated. Due to this, there is some uncertainty regarding its species status, and more research are needed on E. mingrelicus and its subspecies (V. Fet, pers. comm.).

I have found no information about the biology of this species.

Species file.

Euscorpius carpathicus (Linnaeus, 1767)

NEW: This species is now restricted only to Romania and other populations have so far been separated into E. tergestinus, E. hadzii and E. koschewnikowi. The situation for the Crete population is not clear yet, and should be labled E. carpathicus candiota until the status is resolved. The status of some eastern populations is also still unclear. More information about alle these things as soon as I have time to write more.
This interesting species has 22 valid subspecies (excluding the newly described E. carpathicus balearicus, which has been raised to species status). Adults vary in legths from 20 to 45 mm, and also in colors (black and variations of black or brown and variations of brown). This species is the most widely distributed Euscorpius in Europe, and has been reported from Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Boznia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czech Republic (introduced - possibly extinct now (V. Fet, pers. comm.)), Greece, France, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Romania, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and Yugoslavia (Montenegro and Serbia).

E. carpathicus is known from different habitats like gardens, in fields, in forests, in houses, in old walls etc., where the scorpions can be found under stones, bark, logs and in cracks and crevices in dead trees, stones and rocks etc. Encounters in human buildings are not uncommon in some parts of Europe (the scorpions thrive in cracks and crevices in old buildings). Habitats with some humidity is preferred, but some populations are know from quite dry habitats. This species is found from sea level to 2000 meters.

A lot of research are being done on the taxonomy and phylogeny of this species, and thanks to molecular and genetic analysis it will be possible to tell if E. carpathicus is really a "species complex" that might be broken up into several new species (The species status of E. balearicus is a result of this research). The Scorpion Files will be updated as soon as results are published.

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Euscorpius flavicaudis (DeGeer, 1778)

This species has a western distribution in Europe, and is reported from England (introduced), France, Italy and Spain. E. flavicaudis is one of the largest members of the genus, and can reach 35-45 mm in length. The trunk is dark (almost black) with with lighter colored legs.

This scorpion is usually found in warm and humid areas (forests, fields, gardens, parks etc) under stones etc., but can also be found in human habitations (in old houses, in cracks and crevices of walls, in ruins etc.).

As mentioned earlier, E. flavicaudis has been introduced to Southern England by human activities. The first reports of these scorpions can be seen around the 18 th. century, and the scorpions have survived since then. The survival of E. flavicaudis in England is thanks to the species ability to adapt to a life in the cracks and crevices of the old brick buildings in some ports of southern England. Five different colonies are known, but some of these might be extinct now. I've been told that many of the buildings where the scorpions live are being renovated, and this means that the cracks and crevices needed for the scorpions to survive will disappear (R. Gabriel, pers. comm.). I fear that the unique scorpion population of England might disappear in the near future, unless it gets protected (this will probably not happen, because the scorpions are classified as alien species to the UK fauna).

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Euscorpius gamma Caporiacco, 1950

This species was described in 2000, and belongs to the "E. mingrelicus species complex". E. gamma is reported from Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia, and is a dark colored scorpion that reach 32 mm in length. It is usually found in humid mountain areas, where it can be collected under stones, logs and under the bark of old trees. It is very difficult to separate this species from E. mingrelicus and E. germanus.

Species file.

Photo: Dietmar Huber (C)

Euscorpius germanus (C.L. Koch, 1837)

This species is found in mountain areas with high humidity. In some areas they are found above 2000 meters, and some of these areas have an average annual temperature between 4 and 10 degrees C (in January, the temperature in some of these areas can drop to minus 4). E. germanus is usually found under stones and under bark. This species is rarely associated with human activities.

E. germanus is reported from Italy, Slovenia, Switzerland and Austria (previous reports of this species from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Croatia are probably scorpions belonging to the "E. mingrelicus species complex" (V. Fet, pers. comm.)). It is uncertain how widely this species is distributed in the countries, as this species thrives in desolated mountain areas, which are poorly investigated.

The trunk of this small scorpion (18-30 mm) is blackish, with darkly colored legs. It is very difficult to separate E. germanus from E. alpha and E. gamma (except that collecting site will be of help, as these species do not overlap in distribution).

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Euscorpius hadzii Caporiacco, 1950
More information later!!

Euscorpius italicus (Herbst, 1800)

This is the largest of the Euscorpius species, with adult lengths up to 50 mm. The color of the body is dark brown and with yellow-brown legs and sting (telson). E. italicus is more xerophile (heat loving) than the other species, and is often found in sun exposed habitats. This species is common in lowland habitats (but it is reported from mountain forests in some parts of eastern Europe), where it is quite common in ruins, in buildings, under house-hold furnishings, in crevices of walls etc. It can also be found in grass hills, under stones etc.

The large size is a way to identify adults of this species, but the best way is to use trichobothrial patterns (see family introduction above). E. italicus is reported from Albania, Croatia, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Macedonia, Monaco, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Euscorpius koschewnikowi Birula, 1900
More information later!!

Euscorpius mingrelicus (Kessler, 1874)

Like E. carpathicus, E. mingrelicus is a species with a large intraspecific variation (10 subspecies are described). This species is probably a "species complex", and future research might show that this species actually are several closely related species (E. gamma was separated from this "species complex"). E. mingrelicus has an eastern distribution, and is reported from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Italy, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Turkey and Yugoslavia.

Little information is available on the biology of this species, but it seems that it thrives in high altitude areas with some humidity (both in mountain forests and in higher areas with sparse vegetation). E. mingrelicus is also reported from river valleys in Austria. It hides under stones and other suitable objects on the ground, but is also found under the bark of dead trees and logs.

It is very difficult to separate this species from E. germanus and E. gamma. E. mingrelicus is also dark (blackish) like the other two, but is somewhat larger (adults reach in average 38 mm in length).

Species file.

Photo: Dr. Ahmet Karatash (C)

Euscorpius naupliensis (C. L. Koch, 1837)
More information later!!

Euscorpius tergestinus (C. L. Koch, 1837)

This species is named E. mesotrichus by some authors, but this is a non-valid name. The status of this species, which is closely related to E. carpathicus is uncertain. Some authors treat E. tergestinus as a subspecies of E. carpathicus. Until further research has been done, this species should be treated as a member of the "E. carpathicus species complex" (even though the species status is still valid). I do not know how E. tergestinus is separated from E. carpathicus.

E. tergestinus is distributed in eastern Europe, and is reported from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Turkey and Yugoslavia. Because of the species' unclear status, the reported distribution is also uncertain (reported locations might be for other subspecies of E. carpathicus).

I haven't been able to find any information of the biology of E. tergestinus, but it should be reasonable to assume that the species resembles E. carpathicus in biology.

Species file.


Two rare representatives of this family are found in Europe. These species are not mentioned in medical literature, but there exists an unpublished report from the Greek island Kos (Eastern Aegean Sea) that a man (not allergic to scorpion sting) almost died from a sting from Iurus dufoureius (I. Stathi, pers. comm.). The symptoms seemed to be systemic. Peoples also report about of severe symptoms from Calchas nordmanni stings from another Greek island (Megisti). It is very difficult to conclude anything from these unverified reports about the potential danger of Mediterranean Iuridae. These scorpions are very rare, and are seldom in contact with peoples. This might explained the lack of cases in the medical literature (peoples are rarly stung by these scorpions). It is also important to note that no other Iuridae worldwide are reported to have medical significance. Until further research is done, the European Iuridae should be treated with respect. Peoples who were stung were mostly construction workers who worked in the foundations of old stony buildings (I. Stathi, pers. comm.).

Calchas nordmanni Birula, 1899

This is a small scorpion that reaches 45 mm in length. It is light brown in color. C. nordmanni is only known from Greece (some of the islands) and Turkey. Very little is known about the biology and actual distribution of this scorpion. As far as I can tell, the species prefer humid habitats in forests, where it is located under stones and other suitable objects.

Iurus dufoureius (Brullé, 1832)

This is the largest scorpion in Europe. Adults measure up to 100 mm. Body color is dark brown to black. Legs are less dark than the trunk. Some authors treat this species as two different species, I. dufoureius (Greece) and I. asiaticus (Turkey). The valid status today is that I. dufoureius is one species with two subspecies (I. dufoureius dufoureius (Greece) and I. dufoureius asiaticus (Turkey)). This species is under investigation, though, and it will be interesting to see the research results.

This is a rare scorpion, that is only known from a few places in Greece (including some of the Greek islands) and Turkey. I. dufoureius is hygrophilic, and it is usually found in humid habitats like compost-based forest floor, shielded from the heat. Large stones are usually used as hiding places, but some specimens are located in natural holes. I dufoureius hides deep in the ground during the warmest part of the summer (I don't know if this species makes its own burrows, or use natural burrows during this period). This scorpion is usually encountered after rainfall in the spring. I. dufoureius is also found in houses in some places in Greece during the summer. It seems to prefer the basements, or under barrels of wine and other wooden furniture (I. Stathi, pers. comm.). I dufoureius is usually located in the lowlands, but there exist reports of specimens collected at 1000-1450 meters (Taygetos) and 1680 meters (Ciglikara, Antatolia).

This is an impressive species, of which I found one female of in Turkey in 2001. The female gave birth to 12 large scorplings in the fall of 2001. I. Stathi (pers. comm.) reports of a female from Greece giving birth to 13 scorplings in 1999. This seems to indicate that this species give birth to a small number (12-13) of large, well-developed offspring.

Species file.

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)

Photo: Jan Ove Rein (C)


This family has only two species, and one of these is located in Europe. The scientists are not sure about the taxonomy of these scorpions, and there might be changes in the future. None of them are dangerous for healthy humans.

Belisarius xambeui Simon, 1879

This strange scorpion lacks eyes and pigmentation, which is typical for many cave-living animals. This species is 3-4 cm long, and the trunk has a pale yellow color (almost translucent) Pedipalps are dark brown, and metasoma (tail) is also somewhat darker than the trunk. This is the only troglophile ("cave loving") species in Europe.

B. xambeui is the rarest scorpion in Europe, and is only reported from the southeastern Pyrenees in France and in Cataluña in Spain. It lives in quite high altitudes (650-1500 m). Even though it has cave-dwelling adaptations, it is seldom found deep into caves, but rather occupies cave entrances. B. xambeui can also be found under stones etc., and in connection with abandoned man-made structures like collapsed chimneys, cellars and castle ruins.

Species file.

Photo: Serge Mallet (C)

In this article I have excluded the species that are reported from the Asian (eastern) part of Turkey. So far, the following species have been reported from eastern part of Turkey:

Androctonus crassicauda (Olivier, 1807)
Buthacus sp.
Compsobuthus matthiesseni (Birula, 1905)
Hottentotta judaicus (Simon, 1872)
Leiurus quinquestriatus (Ehrenberg, 1828)
Mesobuthus eupeus (C.L. Koch, 1839)
Oliverius caucasicus (Nordmann, 1840) (formerly Mesobuthus caucasicus)
Scorpio maurus Linnaeus, 1758

It is possible that other species occur in these areas, as they are not very well investigated.

I'm very interested in getting European scorpions for my collection (I'm interested in purchasing or exchanges). It is important for me to know where the scorpions were collected, as some of them might be used for research. Please contact me if you are able to collect scorpions for me:


I'm very grateful to professor Victor Fet and Dr. Rolando Teruel for reviewing the article, and to professor Victor Fet and Drs. Benjamin Gantenbein and Valerio Vignoli for keeping me updated on the research on Euscorpius taxonomy and phylogeny! Dr. Iasmi Stathi has supplied me with a lot of unpublished information, and also made comments to the manuscript. I'm very grateful for this! A special thanks to Dave Gaban for checking the language and spellings in the article.

Recomended literature:

Armas, L. F. de & M. Báez. 1988. Presencia de Centruroides gracilis (Latreille) (Scorpiones: Buthidae) en Tenerife, Islas Canarias. Misc. Zool., vol. 40, 2.

Braunwalder, M. E. 2001: Scorpions of Switzerland: summary of a faunistic survey. 279-286. In V. Fet & P. A. Selden (eds.). Scorpions 2001. In memoriam Gary A. Polis. British Arachnological Society. Burnham Beeches, Bucks. xi + 404 pp.

Cloudsley-Thompson, J. L. and C. Constantinou (1983). "How does the scorpion Euscorpius flavicaudis (Deg.) manage to survive in Britain." Int. J. Biometeor., vol. 27(2), 87-92.

Crucitti, P. (1993). Distribution and diversity of Italian scorpions. REDIA, vol. LXXVI (2), 281-300.

Fet, V. (2000). Scorpions (Arachnida, Scorpiones) from the Balkan Peninsula in the collection of the National Museum of Natural History, Sofia. Historia Naturalis Bulgarica, vol. 11, 47-60.

Fet, V. & M. E. Braunwalder (2000). The scorpions (Arachnida: Scorpiones) of the Aegean area: current problems in taxonomy and biogeography. Belg. J. Zool., vol. 130 (suppl.), 17-22.

Fet, V., M. Kunter & B. Sket. 2001: Scorpions of Slovenia: a faunistic and biogeographical survey. 255-265. In V. Fet & P. A. Selden (eds.). Scorpions 2001. In memoriam Gary A. Polis. British Arachnological Society. Burnham Beeches, Bucks. xi + 404 pp.

Francke, O.F.(1981) Taxonomic and zoogeographic observations on Iurus Thorell (Scorpiones, Iuridae). Bull. British Arachnol. Soc. 5(5), 221-224.

Gantenbein, B, V. Fet, M. Barker & A. Scholl (2000). Nuclear and mitochondrial markers reveal the existence of two parapatric scorpion species in the Alps: Euscorpius germanus (C. L. Koch, 1837) and E. alpha Caporiacco, 1950, stat. nov. (Euscorpiidae). Revue Suisse de Zoologie, 107 (4), 843-869.

Gantenbein, B., Kropf, C., Largiadèr, C. R. & Scholl, A. (2000). Molecular and morphological evidence for the presence of a new buthid taxon (Scorpiones: Buthidae) on the island of Cyprus. Revue suisse de Zoologie, 107(1), 213-232.

Gantenbein, B., M. E. Soleglad & V. Fet. (2001). Euscorpius balearicus Caporiacco, stat. nov. (Scorpiones: Euscorpiidae): molecular (allozymes and mtDNA) and morphological evidence for an endemic Balearic Island species. Org. Divers. Evol., vol. 1(4), 301-320.

Komposch, C. & B. Komposch (2000). Die Skorpione Kärntens. Carinthia II, vol. 190, 247-268.

Komposch, C., B. Scherabon & V. Fet. 2001: Scorpions of Austria. 267-271. In V. Fet & P. A. Selden (eds.). Scorpions 2001. In memoriam Gary A. Polis. British Arachnological Society. Burnham Beeches, Bucks. xi + 404 pp.

Kovarik, F. (1999). Review of European scorpions, with a key to species. Serket, vol. 6(2), 38-44.

Kinzelbach, R. (1975). Die skorpione der Ägäis. Beiträge zur systematik, phylogenie und biogeographie. Zool. Jb. Syst., vol. 102, 12-50.

Kritscher, E. (1993), Ein beitrag zur verbreitung der skorpione im östlichen Mittelmeerraum. Ann. Naturhist. Mus. Wien, vol. 94/95, 377-391.

Michelas, K. & P. Dolkeras (1989). Beitrag zur kenntnis der Skorpione Thessaliens und Epirus (Nordgriechenland). Entomol. Mitt. Zool. Mus. Hamburg, vol. 9(136/137), 259-270.

Scherabon, B., B. Gantenbein, V. Fet, M. Barker, M. Kunter, C. Kropf & D. Huber (2000). A new species of scorpion from Austria, Italy, Slovenia and Croatia: Euscorpius gamma Caporiacco, 1950, Stat. Nov. (Scorpiones: Euscorpiidae). Ekologia (Bratislava), vol. 19 (suppl. 3), 253-262.