Acid-shooting ‘land lobsters’ live in Texas and are being spotted more after recent rains

Vinegaroons pinch with ‘heavy mouthparts’

Summer rains bring vinegaroons out of their burrows in search of food and love.
Summer rains bring vinegaroons out of their burrows in search of food and love. (National Park Service)

BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK, Texas – Big Bend National Park shared what might be a nightmare-inducing photo for some people on social media last week.

Park officials posted a photo of a vinegaroon, or as Houston Chronicle reporter Abigail Rosenthal called it - a “land lobster from hell,” saying they’re coming out in search of food.

Recent rains are responsible for the vinegaroon sightings, according to park officials, who said the creature shoots a “well-aimed spray of 85% acetic acid (vinegar) from the base of their ‘whip’ to protect themselves.”

Because of that whip, they’re commonly called whipscorpions, although they’re not related to scorpions and don’t have stingers.

According to the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, the vinegaroon spray is not considered poisonous to humans but these arachnids can pinch with their “heavy mouthparts.”

Vinegaroons will generally leave you alone unless you annoy or provoke them, Big Bend officials said in the social media post.

They’re nocturnal and don’t see well but they hunt other bugs like millipedes, scorpions, crickets and cockroaches so you might actually want to let these “land lobsters” live since they’re great for pest control.

Vinegaroons, which get their name because of the vinegar acid they shoot, are typically found in the desert but have also been spotted “as far north as the Panhandle and in south Texas,” according to the Agrilife Extension.

Park officials said if you’re lucky enough to see one, you should look closely (um, no thanks) because if it’s a female, she may be carrying her hatchlings on her back.

Summer rains bring vinegaroons out of their burrows in search of food and love. Vinegaroons are about 3 inches long and...

Posted by Big Bend National Park on Wednesday, July 14, 2021

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About the Author:

Mary Claire Patton has been a journalist with KSAT 12 since 2015. She has reported on several high-profile stories during her career at KSAT and specializes in trending news and things to do around Texas and San Antonio.