You might not know it, but scorpion venom is good for more than just defending scorpions. It's also used in immunosuppressants, anti-malarial medications and cancer research. As can be imagined, however, gathering the venom can be hazardous – which is why someone has developed a "milking machine" to do the job.

Ordinarily, scorpion venom is obtained either via electrical stimulation by hand, or through puncturing of its venom gland. Unfortunately, the first method exposes practitioners to the risk of stings and electric shocks, while the second is harmful to the animal itself. That's where the VES-4 comes in.

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The portable machine was created by Mouad Mkamel, along with a team from Morocco's Ben M'sik Hassan II University.

Designed to be used in the lab or the field by one person, it can accommodate up to four scorpions at once (arranged in a row, side by side), using clamps to gently hold them in place. Once they're secured, built-in electrodes are used to deliver electric shocks, causing them to secrete droplets of venom which are collected in removable vials – different shock levels can be applied to different species of scorpion, and saved as presets.

Once the venom-harvesting is complete, the animals are released unharmed.

An infrared remote control allows users to operate the device from a safe distance, although they presumably still have to handle the scorpions while getting them in and out.

Source: Society for Experimental Biology

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