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Creature (Dis)Comforts, Part I: Scorpions

I am no fan of the creepy crawler. I don’t keep tarantulas and lizards as pets. Big southern roaches completely creep me out. And I let Charles and the terrier-mix Freida track the occasional mouse behind the hot water heater.

But a scout knows her wildlife, and that includes the creepiest and dangerous ones. There is, in fact, a task for the Wildlife Badge that requires scouts to learn about two poisonous plants or animals in her area.


After 15 years of living in Texas, this was the year I personally encountered a few nastier types here in Texas. So here’s your primer on one of my new acquaintances, the scorpion. In the next post, I’ll introduce you to the real bad boy–the coral snake.

This baby made its way into my tent at this year’s Kerrville Folk Festival. The guy in the next tent over helped me catch it. He insisted on “releasing it into the wild” — meaning the cow pasture across the road. I’d have preferred Death By Boot Heel.


They like desert climates, you’ll find them throughout the Southwest U.S. and comparable ecosystems worldwide. Cousin to the spider, scorpions are a member of the Arachnida class. They’ve got 8 legs, a segmented body, two pincers in the front and a stinger in the back–and there’s your problem, because a scorpion sting can be pretty nasty.

How deadly is a scorpion’s sting to a human? Well, it depends on the type of scorpion, and it depends on the victim, too. Young children and the elderly are more likely to have a bad reaction to any bit. Truthfully, however, most stings will hurt but not kill.

That’s certainly true here in Texas. Here, we see a light brown variety whose sting is compared to a bad wasp sting. For Texans living outside of cities, it’s pretty common practice to shake out your boots before you put ’em on.

Scorpions release a neurotoxin which impacts the nervous system in massive doses. Typical symptoms include numbness and tingling at the site. Severe–and rare–symptoms might include paralysis, a “thick tongue,” problems with eyesight, seizures… and death. Again, rare.

English: Arizona bark scorpion Centruroides sc...

English: Arizona bark scorpion Centruroides sculpturatus glowing under ultraviolet light. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Five Fun Facts About Scorpions:

  1. They glow in the dark, they really do! All you need is a blacklight.
  2. The most toxic scorpion in the U.S. is the bark scorpion, and you’ll find that bad boy mostly in Arizona’s Sonora desert and parts of New Mexico.
  3. The world’s longest species is the African scorpion, measuring in at around 8 inches.
  4. They can actually control the amount of venom they release with every sting. The greater the perceived threat, the more venom is released.
  5. Unlike bees, the scorpion’s stinger is not dislodged and lost after it has attacked its prey. In fact, the scorpion can release multiple stings on the same victim.

So what’s a scout to do if she’s been stung by a scorpion?

Assuming it’s *not* a bark scorpion, it’s probably enough to clean the wound and apply some ice to help with swelling. Lots of campers I know swear by Bentonite clay and never travel without it. This calcium-laden clay acts as a magnet, drawing impurities from stings and insect bites out of the body and bringing real relief. Just apply it like a paste to the sting. I’m gonna get me some.

If our scout should start exhibiting signs of a more serious reaction, she should take it seriously. It’s time for a call to 911 or Poison Control (800-222-1222). An antivenom has been approved for use against the bark scorpion, in particular. An infected sting may need an antibiotic, too.

Yes, scorpions are poisonous, but few are lethal. If in doubt, however, the smart scout always errs on the side of caution. Next post… let’s meet a really lethal neighbor: the coral snake.

2 thoughts on “Creature (Dis)Comforts, Part I: Scorpions

  1. Pingback: Creature (Dis)Comforts, Part II: Coral Snakes | Big Scout Project

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