If you’ve ever lived in the American southwest, you probably spent much of your time there thinking about scorpions. These pests have earned a somewhat deserved bad rap, at least in regards to their potential to kill. A common question asked by residents of this area is if a scorpion sting can kill you. While scorpions can, in some cases, prove to be fatal, in most cases their stings’ symptoms don’t cause death.
Nevertheless, it is important to familiarize yourself with the appearance and behavior of scorpions, as well as how you may react to one if you are stung so that you aren’t caught off guard next time you encounter one of these arachnids.
What are scorpions?
Scorpions are creatures that, like arthropods, are very similar in appearance and behavior to spiders, mites, and ticks. There are over 1,200 scorpion species in the world, with 70 of those residing within the United States. While not all scorpions are dangerous, the Arizona Bark Scorpion, which can issue a fatal sting, is found in the American southwest.
Scorpions tend to be pale in color, with their shades ranging from yellowish brown to tan. They are usually two to four inches in length, and although they have four pairs of legs and a pair of pinchers, they do not have antennae. Scorpions have long, segmented tails with pronounced stingers at the end.
Where are scorpions found?
Scorpions prefer to live in hot, dry habitats, preferring deserts and other arid regions. While some scorpions dig burrows in the soil, others hide under rocks or other debris. These creatures prefer to hide during the day, doing most of their hunting at night. They feed primarily on insects like crickets and cockroaches, which also tend to be nocturnal, making nighttime the most effective hunting period for these creatures.
Can scorpions kill you?
Scorpions hunt and defend themselves using a stinging mechanism. This is how they disable their prey, and also how they stop any threats that come their way. Unfortunately, sometimes these threats also include humans. Tell this to anybody on the street, and they will likely shake their heads dismissively before asking, “Yeah, but can a scorpion sting kill a human?”
While scorpion stings have the ability to stop any prey dead in its tracks, they usually are not deadly to humans. If you are stung by a scorpion, you will likely experience mild symptoms similar to those of a bee sting, such as mild pain, a burning sensation, and localized swelling.
That being said, if you have an allergy to scorpion venom, you could be in more serious trouble. Furthermore, there are some scorpion species around the world which possess dangerous venom that can be potentially fatal to humans. The Arizona bark scorpion is one such scorpion.
Of the thousands of scorpions known to man, only twenty-five of these is fatal. It should be noted that while all of these twenty-five species can produce lethal reactions, healthy adults may not have such adverse reactions even if they are stung by one of these deadly bugs. Generally, children and the elderly are most at risk of death from the deadliest species.
There is only one species in the United States – the aforementioned Arizona bark scorpion – that is lethal. While the name implies that the species is found only in Arizona, it is also found in the deserts of Utah and California. Luckily, there is an antivenom available for the treatment of this scorpion’s stings, so death by scorpion sting in these areas is still extremely uncommon.
If you are unsure of whether the scorpion you have encountered is lethal, follow this rule of thumb. Usually, the larger the pincers of the scorpion, the weaker their venom is. This is because individuals with large claws can snatch up their food more easily than those with smaller pincers can, meaning they can use less venom to immobilize it.
When are scorpions a problem?
While scorpions can usually just be ignored and left to their own devices, they become a problem when they enter your home. Scorpions can easily occupy your home and turn what was a case of one or two occasional pests into a full-blown infestation.
As a result, you should take swift action to prevent and eliminate any instances of a scorpion infestation. Start by repairing any torn screens, holes, or cracks in your home’s exterior. Scorpions can fit through extremely small openings, so eliminating cracks, holes, and damaged screens are the most crucial step in preventing an infestation.
Scorpions can also enter into homes through poorly fitted doors. If you can see daylight through the gaps between a door and its seal, it may be time to replace the seal or add some weather stripping.
And scorpions can be prevented by cleaning up your home, too. They like to live in wood piles, as well as piles of trash or other debris. Remove any unnecessary loose stones and store firewood at least twenty feet from the home, preferably off the ground.
What should I do if I am stung by a scorpion?
Venom from a scorpion is released from the tail. You might come into contact with a scorpion when you are working outside, or by accidentally stepping on one. In most cases, you will be able to see the scorpion after it has stung you, so you will know that it was a scorpion and not some other type of pest or insect.
Be wary of your symptoms, paying attention to any changes as they manifest. It’s always a good idea to get checked out by a doctor, even if you don’t seem to be showing any long-lasting symptoms. Reactions like itching, mild swelling, and redness are common, but if you start showing more serious symptoms like difficulty swallowing, vomiting, or an irregular heartbeat, you need to get to the emergency room as soon as possible. In most cases, scorpion stings are treatable with home remedies like painkillers and ice, but sometimes you may require a dose of antivenin as well.
Do I need to kill every scorpion I see?
The short answer – of course not! While scorpions taking up residence in your home can be a bit problematic, scorpions should, in general, be left to live in peace. These individuals eat harmful pests (including cockroaches!) that can spread a number of diseases, and there is also some evidence that scorpion venom can be used medicinally for treating a variety of brain tumors. So all in all, these creepy-looking pests are something to be respected and revered (especially from a distance!) but definitely not feared.