Scorpions in Southern Arizona

COMMONNAME: The three most commonly observed scorpions in Arizona are:

a) Desert or Giant Hairy Scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis)
b) Striped or Devil Scorpion (Vaejovis spinigerus)
c) Bark Scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus)

DESCRIPTION: The adults look very much like tiny versions of their cousins, the lobsters, but with the addition of a very wicked-looking stinger at the tip of the long slender "tail." They have four sets of walking legs and a pair of very efficient pincers or claws that are used in defense or for holding on to prey. The young look like miniature adults.

LIFE CYCLE: Adult scorpions live solitary lives, getting together only when it is time to mate and then separating again. The young are born alive and are commonly carried on the back of the female for protection until at least their first molt. They then leave to establish their own hunting grounds. In ideal conditions scorpions may live for several years.

PREY: Scorpions are actually quite handy when it comes to taking care of insect pests in the garden. They use their claws to capture just about any soft-bodied insect or spider they see. One reference states that they may also feed upon small reptiles and young rodents. A large victim may need a sting to subdue it, smaller ones are just torn apart by the scorpion's strong pincers and eaten.

TIME OF YEAR: Like most cold-blooded creatures, scorpions do not get around much in cold weather. They become most active when the temperatures reach the seventies. They will also become more noticeable, often in relatively "safe" areas, when the summer rains flood the usually dry stream beds and washes where they may live and hunt. This is also when they may come inside homes.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Bark Scorpions, like their name suggests, are usually found in conjunction with wood or wood products. They dearly love wood piles, bark, rotten logs, and tangles of fallen trees and limbs. If you like to camp near tree-lined streams or in the forested areas, this is the critter you are likely to find in your boots or sleeping bag. This animal is rather small (2- 2 1/2 inches) and slender looking and is pale (straw-like) in color. THIS ANIMAL IS ALSO THE MOST POISONOUS AND DANGEROUS SCORPION IN OUR AREA!!!

The Giant Hairy Scorpion is partial to rocky terrain in the central and southern portion of the state. This is a relatively robust creature that can exceed 4 inches in length and looks as though he may have spent a fair amount of time working out at the local gym. "Hairy" (who isn't really) is also darker in color and although he may scare you to death with his appearance, has the LEAST dangerous venom of the three.

The Striped Scorpion can be found most anywhere in a variety of habitats. He is "medium" all the way around. He can grow to about 2-3 inches in length and is usually a medium tan/brown in color.

All scorpions are nocturnal. They hide in burrows or crevices until the sun goes down and then come out to hunt. A good way to hunt for scorpions (strictly as a precaution, of course) is to go out after dark with an ultraviolet fluorescent (black light) lamp. Scorpions glow quite brightly in this type of light and can often be seen from several yards away.

CULTURAL CONTROLS: Clean up the area! Scorpions need places to hide in and likewise do most of their prey. Clearing away of any stacks of wood or brush and removing piles of rocks or building debris will go a long way toward reducing scorpion habitat. Seal cracks or any other entrances into your home.

PRECAUTIONS: Wear gloves when working in the yard or garden. (Don't forget to check the gloves for "occupants" BEFORE putting them on!) Don't put your hands (or any other part of your anatomy!) where your eyes have not been first. Use a stick or your foot to roll over logs or large stones before picking them up. Storage sheds and utility closets are favorite haunts. Move items carefully, inspecting all sides before picking them up. Shake out mats, blankets, drop cloths, etc... When camping or picnicking, avoid piles of wood or rocks and check your intended resting area carefully. Always shake out shoes and clothing before putting them on and totally unroll and shake out sleeping bags before crawling into the sack.

MECHANICAL CONTROLS: If you must eliminate scorpions that are posing a safety hazard, the trial and true method is to smash them. You will have to be quick and NEVER grab for one with a bare hand or foot to prevent its escape! Use a long-handled tool or a rock it you have one.

NATURAL CONTROLS: Scorpions are a natural food source for some birds (especially owls), several rodents, and larger reptiles.

PROBLEMS AND DAMAGE: When left alone in their natural habitat or even when allowed to coexist in yards and gardens, scorpions are a beneficial natural predator of many pest species. The problems come about when humans come upon them unexpectedly or try to mess with them. Like any other animal, scorpions will defend themselves and unfortunately for us, the venom from their sting can cause serious illness or even death.

FIRST AID: When a scorpion attacks, it may grab hold of the skin with its pincers and then use its stinger repeatedly. It is very important to dislodge the animal by knocking or scraping it off as it will inject more poison with each sting. Normal reactions to the sting will include pain, numbness, or tingling. This can be treated with applications of a cold compress (10 minutes on, 10 off) and the use of your normal pain reliever. In case of other symptoms such as muscle spasms, twitching, or blurred vision, it is suggested that you have someone drive you to the nearest medical facility. DO NOT TRY TO DRIVE YOURSELF. In the case of a small child or anyone else who is weak or infirm, seek IMMEDIATE emergency care at the closest medical facility. IN ALL CASES you should contact the Arizona Poison Control Hotline at 1-800-362-0101 or your local emergency room for up-to-date medical advice.

CHEMICAL CONTROLS: Please consult the Agricultural Extension Agent or a Master Gardener Volunteer for current recommendations. Phone 458-8278, Ext. 2141 in Sierra Vista or 384-3594 in Willcox. Whatever you use, FOLLOW LABEL DIRECTIONS EXACTLY and take the necessary precautions to protect yourself, other humans, non-target animals, and the environment.

T.J. Martin
May, 1994