Sunday, March 18, 2012

My First Scorpion

Here it is. My first real scorpion! I found it in the folds of a swing canopy that was laying on the ground. My Internet research shows it to be a Striped Bark Scorpion. Laying its tail on its side while at rest is one characteristic of this type of scorpion. It was only about an inch long curled up, but unfolded with its tail straight out behind it to an average adult length of approximately 2 3/4 inches. I had hoped to get a picture of it with its stinger curled over its back, but when I touched it with a stick, it ran very fast for cover. It kept its tail stretched out straight while running. It was intimidating looking enough at rest, but when it uncurled to its full length, it appeared even more menacing.

Here's an Internet picture of a Striped Bark Scorpion ready for action. Though not aggressive, the scorpion's close association with humans makes envenomation relatively common. The sting can be extremely painful. I'm told by a local that it's a bit worse than a wasp sting. For some, the worst passes in 15–20 minutes, but it's not uncommon for the wound to remain very painful with a numbing sensations for 2–3 days. Most scorpion's venom is comparable to a bee's, and not of the same magnitude as a poisonous snake like many of us think. Out of 90 known species in the United States only one is considered lethal and that is the Arizona Bark Scorpion. Countries such as Africa have higher percentages of scorpions that are considered lethal. There is an anti-venom for scorpion stings, but it is not recommended unless an individual has an allergic response to the sting or you are stung by one that is considered lethal, such as the Arizona Bark Scorpion.

This is an Internet picture of the Arizona Bark Scorpion. It is found in the deserts of Arizona, California, and Utah. An interesting rule of thumb regarding scorpions is that the smaller their pinchers the more venomous they are. The ideology behind this saying is that if they have larger pinchers they can capture their prey and use less venom. The smaller the pinchers the more they are reliant on venom to do the job. Here is the recommended treatment for scorpion stings as per the Texas Poison Center:

1. Recognize scorpion sting symptoms: immediate pain or burning, very little swelling, sensitivity to touch, and a numbness or tingling sensation.
2. Wash the area with soap and water.
3. Apply a cold compress to the sting.
4. If you experience difficulty breathing or a rash, call 911 or go to the emergency room.

Knowing the habits of scorpions will help to avoid stings. Here are a few things you should know. It is common for scorpions to climb trees and walls. They like dark quiet places and tend to come out in the evening to hunt. They are active foragers that do not burrow. They are likely to be nestled in dead vegetation, fallen trees, log and rock piles, as well as, anything left on the ground that provides a dark hiding place. They hunt crickets, roaches, and earthworms and will likely be found in the same places as their food source. During high outdoor temperatures scorpions will come into homes wherever they can gain entrance, especially if the bugs they seek are present. It is advisable to block their sources of entry with steel wool. Roach spray will also kill scorpions.

Now that we are all scared, lets try to redeem these creatures. In 2004 a Guinness World Record was set by a 27 year old Malaysian woman who spent 32 days living in a glass case with 6,069 scorpions. She was only stung 7 times. She emitted a yelp of pain, but did not require any medical treatment.

In 2011 a woman from Thailand lived in a glass case with 5,320 scorpions for 33 days and was only stung 13 times.

I think if we are mindful of leaning against things, watch where we put our hands, wear closed toe shoes at night when they are active, and keep in mind their habitat, we can greatly reduce our chances for an encounter.