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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NATURAL WONDERS - Scorpions

Scorpions in Baja

by Karri Moser

Christine Wood proudly shows off the scorpion she killed
near her home. Photo by Raine Fisher
After nearly 400 million years, scorpions still awaken from their winter hibernation to creep around seeking prey during the warm nights in the Baja region. While these creatures typically aspire to pounce on insects, spiders or other scorpions, they are encroaching more and more on humans. Or, we may be encroaching on their habitat. Regardless of how you look at it, the encounters are usually unwanted by both parties.

Scorpions have a distinctive body, namely due to their long pincers and unique tails. The tail of a scorpion is divided into five segments, with a stinger off of the last segment. Scorpions are fluorescent under ultraviolet light. With a small black light outside, it can be very easy to locate scorpions either in their natural habitat or around the house.

There are two kinds of scorpions found in Baja—the bark scorpion and the striped tail scorpion. The striped tail scorpion is venomous, but not considered dangerous. A striped tail scorpion sting can cause the same affects of a bee or wasp sting. There may be some localized swelling and burning that will generally subside within 30 minutes. Some people may be allergic to the sting and have a more severe reaction.
The striped tail scorpion is a burrowing scorpion and can be found under rocks and in sand. This kind typically grows to be around two inches in length and has dark colored ridges on the underside of its body. Because it does burrow, it can sometimes be found in sleeping bags and in shoes.

The bark scorpion has longer pincers and a longer tail than the other varieties. It has a yellow-colored body and can grow to three inches long. The bark scorpion is the only kind that does not burrow. It is a climber. They can climb fences, stucco walls and trees. You can find them living under the bark of palm and other trees. They are also the only scorpion variety that will congregate with other kinds of scorpions. The sting of a bark scorpion can be more severe than the sting of others, especially for children and the elderly. The sting may result in severe pain, numbness of the site, frothing at the mouth, respiratory distress, twitching or convulsions. You should seek medical attention if you think you have been stung by a bark scorpion.

There are a few basic steps you can take to avoid scorpion encounters or stings:
  • Try to seal any cracks around the house, such as loose doors or windows. Scorpions only need 1/16 of an inch to get through a crack.
  • It is also advisable to remove piles of bricks or wood farther away from the house. Standing water or trash may also attract them.
  • If you leave any shoes or clothing outdoors, such as wet towels, always shake them out to remove any hiding scorpions.
  • One other tip is to use yellow lights outside. Regular outdoor lights attract insects, which, in turn, attract scorpions.

General knowledge of the scorpion and basic tips to avoid a sting can help keep the summer nights carefree and safe. While stings can be irritating and rarely dangerous, antivenins work well and can prevent any lingering effects of a scorpion encounter.