It’s a crazy idea isn’t it? Turning poisons (venoms) into profit would definitely require some can-do spirit and tenacity. Did you know more farmers are now venturing into scorpions farming for venom since 2016, globally? Perhaps, you don’t also know that a gallon of scorpion venom can cost as much as US$39million or even more? This is because this agro-produce is mostly sought after for medical interventions and breakthroughs as well as cosmetics. Not just that, insect experts have revealed that the venom in one scorpion can contain hundreds of different toxins, which may be beneficial for not just humans, but even plants.
The deadly African fat-tailed scorpion (Parabuthus transvaalicus) for example, has a toxin that can kill one type of beetle, but not another. This variety and specificity could make scorpion venom a good source of natural pesticides. Scorpion-inspired pesticides have been said to be rather considered safer and more environmentally friendly than chemicals because they would decompose instead of building up in soil or water or getting into bodies of animals and people through food or water. Research has shown that scorpion farms exemplify the potential for sustainable and innovative practices. According to a documentary on Reuters, there are over 2,000 species of scorpions with just about 30 of them strong enough to kill humans with their venoms.
With continued research, increased awareness, and a growing market for scorpion-based products, scorpion farms are poised to play an even more prominent role in shaping the world’s agricultural landscape. Scorpion farms have sprung up in regions where agriculture was once a struggle due to harsh environmental conditions such as in Central Asia and in the Middle East. Iran is one of the countries that had pioneering blooming scorpion farms in the world. These farms have not only provided employment opportunities, but have also injected much-needed economic vitality into these rare areas of agriculture. The global demand for scorpion-derived products, especially by internationally-recognsied companies; has created a thriving industry, benefiting both farmers and consumers alike. Scorpion farming is not just about tradition; it’s about innovation. Cutting-edge technology, such as automated feeding systems and advanced monitoring tools, has revolutionised the industry in the last few years. These advancements are ensuring the welfare of the scorpions and the quality of the products they yield.
From venom to medicine
Scorpions have long been feared for their venomous stingers; however, scorpion breeders have discovered a unique use for their potent toxins. Researchers and scientists have begun to harness the medicinal properties of scorpion venom, with promising breakthroughs in treating various diseases, including cancer and neurological disorders. These farms have become veritable treasure troves of life-saving compounds, forever altering the landscape of modern medicine. Because of its medical value, scorpion venom does not sell cheap, as one gramme of venom can sell for as much as US$115,000 and medical catalogues seldom sell more than one gramme at a time.
According to a biotech researcher from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Dr. Lourival Possani, “Not all the venom components of scorpions are dangerous to humans, and there are actually many components with useful potential applications in medicine”. He added that the scorpion venom has a huge range of potential uses, including “as an antimalarial agent, anti-epileptic, insecticide, anti-cancer cell, antibiotic and others”.
In an article published by Reuters, a scorpion farmer, Merin Orenler revealed that his lab in Turkey’s southeastern province, which breeds more than 20,000 scorpions, produce valuable venom, which they freeze and later turn to powder for export to Europe, most especially. According to Orenler, a litre of venom is worth US$10 million. He also revealed that a scorpion has the capacity to produce 2 milligrammes of venom in a single section.
The art of farming scorpions
Scorpions are reportedly sought locally especially during summer season by farmers and bred in controlled environments such as in transparent plastic boxes. In Vietnam for instance, scorpions are reared locally by keeping them under coconut shells in a monitored space. Contrary to common misconceptions, scorpion farming is a delicate art. These enigmatic creatures thrive in controlled environments that mimic their natural habitats. Farmers have become adept at creating optimal conditions, including temperature, humidity, and substrate, to ensure the well-being of their scorpion colonies.
According to an Afghan scorpion farmer, Pir Mohammed, who was once interviewed in an article published by thenationalnews, saying only mature scorpions produce one or two drops of milky white fluid that must be carefully-collected in airtight vials, after a small electrical pulse is administered to the scorpion’s stinger, which causes the venom to be expelled. “Each scorpion takes about six months to produce just one or two drops of venom, which we can then extract, but they don’t start producing this venom until they are almost fully grown. It’s a slow process, and right now, many of our scorpions are still too young to be producing these amounts of venom”, he added.
Scorpion farms play an unexpected role in conservation efforts. By breeding scorpions in captivity, they reduce the pressure on wild populations and protect these ecologically-vital creatures from habitat destruction. Many farms are also involved in educational outreach, promoting awareness about the importance of preserving these unique arachnids. Interestingly, scorpions have made their way onto dining tables around the world. Culinary enthusiasts are exploring scorpion-based dishes, from crunchy snacks to gourmet delicacies. Scorpions are rich in protein and low in fat, as they have a slight beefy-fishy taste with their stings cut off. The skewers of fried scorpion are said to contain protein and are good for the health as it is sold as a regular snack along the street in countries like China, Bangladesh, and Vietnam. In the world of scorpion farming, nature’s enigmatic creatures are not merely survivors; they are thriving, contributing, and reshaping the way we think about agriculture. These farms are a testament to human ingenuity, dedication, and a profound respect for the delicate balance of our ecosystem.