Scorpions live on every continent except Antarctica. They’re arachnids, part of the same charming family as tarantulas and delicious lobsters. And they have segmented bodies and four pairs of legs. But a scorpion’s offensive equipment is different.
The two pinchers at the front of its body might scare you. But there’s a telson or venom sac on its tail, paired with a stinger. That’s the part that can really hurt you. It can contain up to 50 types of toxins.
A scorpion only has a limited supply of toxins that are readily available. So it has to be smart about how much it uses during an attack. While there are about 1,500 types of scorpions, only about 30 species have strong enough venom to kill humans.
The Arizona Bark Scorpion, for example, is the only scorpion in the U.S. with venom that’s strong enough to cause severe symptoms. Survivors of its sting say the toxin is as painful as several severe electric shocks.
And bark scorpions can also cause diarrhea, numbness, vomiting, and death. If you discover that a scorpion is nearby, how can UV light help you? What can you do at home to help the pain and swelling? Why are we having a photoshoot for this scorpion?
Scorpion attacks are very common. So what can you do to make sure you’re not on the wrong end of a scared, threatened scorpion?
Step 1: Be careful at night
If you’re outside at nighttime, be careful. Scorpions are nocturnal hunters. Using an ultraviolet UV light can do more than light your way. It will also illuminate any scorpions up to 2 m (6 ft) away, since their skins can absorb UV light and reflect it.
Using an ultraviolet UV light can do more than light your way. It will also illuminate any scorpions up to 2 m (6 ft) away, since their skins can absorb UV light and reflect it back, revealing this tiny terror. This is especially important in the southern region of Africa, home to the Spitting Thicktail Black Scorpion. Its venom is about as strong as cyanide. And it doesn’t have to sting you. It can spit its venom up to 1 m (3 ft), and kill a fully grown adult. But his method isn’t flawless. When a scorpion molts, its new shell doesn’t contain the substance that makes it glow. So, watch out.
Step 2: Know your turf
If you’re moving to an area where scorpions are common, be sure to do your research first. Learn what types of scorpions are common there, what they look like, and how dangerous they are. And it helps to learn where they like to live. Will they be crawling around out on the sand? Or do they like cool, dark places, like your garage or a woodpile? Maybe they’ll crawl inside your slippers, shoes, or boots.
Step 3: Stay Stocked
Although most scorpion stings won’t kill you, they can cause anything from mild discomfort to a lot of pain. So keep your medicine cabinet stocked. If you’re stung, wash the area with soap and water. Then put a thin cloth on your skin, and put ice on top for 10 to 20 minutes to help reduce swelling. Antihistamines often help. And anti-itch creams like calamine lotion or hydrocortisone will help reduce the itching and swelling. And if you’re allergic to scorpion venom, keep an EpiPen nearby, just in case.
Step 4: Know when to go
If one of the dangerous scorpion species stings you, or you begin to have an allergic reaction, you’ll need to know when home treatment is not enough. If you need emergency help, the signs include vomiting, diarrhea, unusual head and neck movements, burning throughout your body, numbness, and involuntary twitching. In these cases, don’t delay. Get to an emergency room.
Step 5: Time for a photoshoot
If you, or someone you’re with gets stung, whip out your cell phone. Try to get a photo of the scorpion. Since there are so many kinds of scorpion venom, this can be extremely helpful to the medical staff, especially if it could be a lethal sting. You may need antivenom. Some types are expensive, and are not stocked in every hospital. So it really helps to know what kind of scorpion has stung you. Scorpions are mostly non-lethal, and they’re scared of humans. So, if you know where they might be, and keep your distance, you should be able to survive a close encounter with a scorpion.
But there are over 40,000 other species of arachnids. If you have arachnophobia, how will you react when you see one? Will you freeze? Panic? Or faint?
- “Fatal Stingers: The 6 Deadliest Scorpions In The World”. American Survival Guide.
- “World’s Deadliest Scorpion? | National Geographic”. youtube.com
- “Scorpion Toxicity”. Shamoon, Zafar, Ryan Peterfy, Sami Hammoud, and Babak Khazaeni. 2020. Statpearls Publishing.
- “When Do Scorpions Spray Their Enemies?”. Muth, Felicity. 2015. Scientific American Blog Network.
- “Venom-Squirting Scorpions Blind Enemies With Toxin”. Joseph, Castro. 2021. livescience.com.
- “Tarantula Bites And Scorpion Stings”. 2021. poison.org.
- “Scorpions Of Australia – Australian Geographic”. 2016. Australian Geographic.