Scorpion Identification Chart
Scorpions date back 350 to 400 million years ago, which makes them some of the oldest known terrestrial arthropods. At least 100 of the 2,000 species of scorpions around the world live in the U.S., and more than 50 species alone live in the southwest. Since most scorpions in the U.S. prefer warm, dry climates, they primarily live in states such as Arizona, California and New Mexico, but may also live in other states around the country.
Scorpions: How They Work
As predatory arachnids, scorpions are in the same family as spiders, mites and ticks. They are easy to recognize because of their crab-like appearance, distinctive pincers and long tail with a stinger on the tip. Venomous scorpion stings can be excruciatingly painful and, in some cases, even life-threatening, so it’s vital to be able to identify different types of scorpion species. Before identification, though, it’s essential to have a fundamental understanding of scorpions and how they operate.
Scorpions date back to the Silurian Period, making them the oldest known arachnids. Scorpions — arthropods in the class Arachnida and order Scorpionida — have oceanic origins, originally sporting gills and claw-like appendages. Scorpions have since taken on a slightly different appearance as they have evolved to live in dry, warm habitats in the south and southwest, sometimes even making their way up into more northern states. Although species vary in size and appearance, scorpions all have eight legs and long bodies. Their abdomens have 12 segments to make up the body, or mesosoma, and the tail — the metasoma. The last five segments make up the tail, which has the stinger attached to a bulb-shaped structure.
Along with the abdomen, the other central part of a scorpion’s body is the cephalothorax, or the head. On the head, scorpions have a hard bony covering called the carapace, where they typically have two to five pairs of lateral eyes. Scorpions use their mouthparts, known as chelicerae, in conjunction with their pedipalps — referring to their pincers or claws — to capture their prey. Sensory setae known as trichobothria cover a scorpion’s pedipalps, which helps the animal sense airborne vibrations. Scorpions also have pectines, additional sensory organs that hang under the abdomen and drag on the ground. These pectines have chemosensors to detect chemical signals that alert scorpions of nearby prey. Scorpions rely mainly on touch, as they don’t have good vision, despite their numerous pairs of eyes.
Scorpions, although mostly nocturnal predators, can also find prey during the day, making them both nocturnal and diurnal creatures. Scorpions detect their prey by sensing vibrations, and will capture their food with their pedipalps and paralyze them with venom if necessary. Although venom composition varies from species to species, scorpion venom is a complex mixture that allows the scorpions to depolarize their prey’s nervous system. Medical researchers have also used scorpion venom for its healing compounds to kill staph and tuberculosis bacteria. When attacking prey, scorpions can deliver venom in scale to the size of the prey, and may only use pre-venom to stun their prey. Pre-venom is transparent in appearance and used to save a scorpion’s potent, thicker venom for when they need it most.
Scorpions eat all types of insects — spiders, centipedes and even other scorpions — and larger scorpions may even prey on small lizards, snakes and mice. However, scorpions are also prey, as tarantulas, lizards, birds and mammals such as shrews or bats will hunt scorpions for food. It’s essential to know the majority of scorpions can’t pose any life-threatening risks to people, even though their sting is so painful. We only know of one species of scorpion in the U.S. whose sting has resulted in any human deaths — the Arizona bark scorpion, or the Centruroides sculpturatus. To avoid getting stung by one of these animals, you must know how to identify scorpions.
Identifying America’s Most Dangerous Scorpion: The Arizona Bark Scorpion
If you live in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado or Texas, you should be on the lookout for the Arizona bark scorpion. Arizona bark scorpions are a member of the Centruroides genera and are a relatively small scorpion species in Arizona. These scorpions usually grow to be only two to three inches long, but they can do some damage. The Arizona bark scorpion is the only species out of roughly 100 in the U.S. that has proven to be of medical concern. The color of this specific scorpion can vary, as some are pale-colored, while others may be darker with a striped or checkered pattern. However, one distinguishing feature among all Arizona bark scorpions is their slender tail. These scorpions’ tails are long and skinny, usually only one-sixteenth of an inch wide.
While Arizona bark scorpions usually go undetected around buildings, it’s a different story once they gain entry inside. Moisture attracts Arizona bark scorpions, so they will look for homes and buildings that have landscapes with plenty of supplied water. Once gathered around a building or home, Arizona bark scorpions can gain entry through small cracks. They can easily crawl under and around doorways that aren’t tightly fitted, through openings in exterior walls or window vents. Once inside the walls, these scorpions can easily gain access to interior spaces. The Arizona bark scorpion is the most commonly encountered house scorpion in the U.S., as 98% of exposures to these scorpions take place in or around homes.
Where Can You Find Arizona Bark Scorpions?
During the day, Arizona bark scorpions typically take cover in wall voids, under rocks or other surface objects, and can also be hiding in other protected spaces such as animal burrows. If you have a home or building with hollow-block perimeter walls in low desert areas, you could be at risk. These scorpions drink water from small standing pools and feed on tiny small insects like crickets or cockroaches. They usually live in groups with other Arizona bark scorpions. Additionally, if you find an Arizona bark scorpion in a pool or a spa, there’s a good chance it may still be alive. These scorpions can survive for some time even when completely submerged, so never try to remove them with your hands as it could still sting you.
Inside a home, Arizona bark scorpions can crawl on the floor, up the side of the wall and even across the ceiling. Their climbing abilities can be especially dangerous, considering these scorpions can fall off the ceiling and land in places such as showers, beds or toilet bowls. Since Arizona bark scorpions are attracted to moisture, it’s vital to hang up things like pool towels and clothing, as they could be excellent potential hiding spots.
These scorpions typically are on the move at night when temperatures are above 70 degrees Fahrenheit, most active between 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and then 3 a.m. to sunrise. When cold weather comes around, Arizona bark scorpions aren’t very active and usually cluster in a safe, undisturbed place. These scorpions can typically live up to five to seven years.
Getting Stung by an Arizona Bark Scorpion: What to Do
Besides being extremely painful, Arizona bark scorpion stings can pose life-threatening risks to young children, people with hypertension and elderly adults if not treated immediately. Stings will typically have an intense burning sensation right away. While individual reactions vary from person to person, symptoms usually develop within the first 20 minutes and get worse during the first four hours after getting stung. Some signs of a sting from this scorpion include frothing at the mouth, difficulty breathing, flailing limbs, muscle twitching and convulsions.
It’s crucial to call the Poison Helpline at 800-222-1222, where an expert specialist will determine the level of severity and give at-home treatment advice or recommend going to the hospital. It’s possible to treat about 90% of sting exposures reported via the Poison Helpline at home, which shows stings typically aren’t severe, and it’s rare for one to end in death.
Although symptoms typically disappear within 72 hours, you should wash the area with soap and water and apply a cool compress on the sting for 10 minutes on and off as necessary. If the scorpion stung you on an arm or a leg, you should prop it up in a supportive position. Deaths from Arizona bark scorpions are usually the result of heart or respiratory failure following the sting. However, with only four deaths stemming from Arizona bark scorpion stings in the last 11 years, dying is extremely rare. It’s still vital to know how to identify these scorpions and know what to do in the case of you, a friend or a family member getting stung.
Identifying Other Types of Scorpions: Hairy, Stripe-Tailed and More
With more than 50 different species of scorpions in California, Texas and other southwestern desert states of the U.S., you’ll likely come in contact with one at some point. In addition to the bark scorpion, other common species include the Arizona giant hairy scorpion or the Arizona stripe-tailed scorpion, for example. It’s essential to know the difference between these scorpions, so you know which ones pose a threat, and which ones are virtually harmless.
1. Arizona Giant Hairy Scorpion
Perhaps one of the easiest scorpions to identify due to its large size is the Arizona giant hairy scorpion, also known as the desert hairy scorpion, or Hadrurus arizonensis. This species usually grows to be more than five inches long and is the largest scorpion in America. Arizona giant hairy scorpions usually molt four to six times within four years before fully reaching adulthood and get their name from the small hairs on their bodies. These scorpions typically have a darker-colored body with pale sides and pale appendages when looked at from above.
Even though all scorpions can sting, Arizona giant hairy scorpions have weak venom and are harmless to humans. Indeed, these scorpions are beneficial, as they often prey on Arizona bark scorpions. These scorpions use their strong pedipalps to grasp prey, which, in addition to other arachnids, also includes insects, small lizards and other animals. Giant hairy scorpions typically live in low, sandy areas of the Sonoran and the Mojave Desert across Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. They may also live in suburban areas in Arizona and California where lawn irrigation is common, as moisture attracts these scorpions. These scorpions spend much of their time hiding under rocks and in shallow burrows and have the longest life expectancy among scorpion species, at seven to 10 years in the wild and 15 to 20 years in captivity.
2. Arizona Stripe-Tailed Scorpion
The stripe-tailed scorpion, or Paravaejovis spinigerus, is easy to confuse for the Arizona bark scorpion. It is similar in size, typically staying smaller than three inches long. Unlike the bark scorpion, which has a slender tail, stripe-tailed scorpions to have bulkier pedipalps and tail. Like the other scorpion species, stripe-tailed scorpions also look for moisture and feed on smaller arthropods and insects, such as crickets. The bodies of striped-tail scorpions are typically a light yellow-brown color, while their legs and tail are slightly lighter than the body. As you might infer from its name, the striped-tail scorpion also has distinctive striping along its tail.
The stripe-tailed scorpion is also most commonly present in the Sonoran desert, found in southern California, Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. These scorpions are burrowers and often hide under surface objects for protection during the day, then hunt for prey at night. Like the giant hairy scorpion, stripe-tailed scorpions have mild venom many equate to a bee sting and are harmless to humans.
3. Striped Bark Scorpion
Concentrated mainly in Texas and going outward to states such as Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee, the striped bark scorpion is one of the most frequently encountered scorpions in the U.S. These scorpions, also known as Centruroides vittatus, typically hide under rocks, logs, dead vegetation or inside homes in damp, cool areas. Striped bark scorpions are also climbers like the Arizona bark scorpion and are usually less than three inches long.
These scorpions’ body color varies from a yellowish color to a more tan color while the end segment on the body and the pedipalps are dark brown or black. Striped bark scorpions also have two distinctive black-looking stripes on the top of the abdomen and a dark triangular mark on the head over the eyes. These scorpions have a long, skinny tail, like the Arizona bark scorpion, and slender pedipalps. They primarily eat small insects like flies, beetles or crickets, and will hunt for prey at night while they take shelter during the day. Although their stings are painful, striped bark scorpion stings usually do not require medical assistance.
4. Yellow Ground Scorpion
Also known as Vaejovis confusus, the yellow ground scorpion has delicate pedipalps and thick, bulky tail. These scorpions, like the stripe-tailed scorpion, are small burrowers, usually not reaching three inches in length when fully grown. While not as prevalent as the stripe-tailed scorpion, the yellow ground scorpion is still relatively common throughout states such as Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada and Utah. Yellow ground scorpions live across different habitats, such as the desert or along the hillsides, and primarily eat smaller arthropods.
How to Live With Scorpions
Even if scorpions don’t necessarily pose a threat to your life, they can still prove to be a pest once inside your home. Although they are a natural part of living in the southwest, here are some tips to keep them out of your house so you can continue living in harmony.
- Teach children not to handle or touch scorpions.
- Wear shoes when walking outside at night.
- Wear slippers when walking inside at night.
- Do not keep shoes outside or inside on the floor.
- Hang up all towels and clothing both inside and outside.
- Check clothes, shoes and sleeping bags for scorpions when camping.
- Put any wood brought inside from the outdoors directly on the fire.
- Use a UV light to inspect your home before bed, since scorpions glow under ultraviolet light.
- Don’t allow things like woods, rocks or other debris to stack up against the house.
- Keep grass mowed and trees trimmed so they aren’t close to the home.
- Make sure doors and windows fit tightly within the frame.
- Keep garbage bins in a frame so they can be above ground level.
- Stay up to date with tetanus shots and vaccinations.
- Seal your home to prevent scorpion points of entry.
Contact Green Home Pest Control Today to Protect Your Home From Scorpions
Just like you have made the southwestern United States your home, scorpions have, too. Although scorpions typically live outdoors in the wild, more and more are finding their way inside homes across the country. Since scorpions have an intense sting that can prove dangerous to people and pets, the last thing you want is to have scorpions inside, where you or a family member could accidentally provoke one and cause it to attack. The best way to ensure your home stays safe and scorpion-free is to seal it, and Green Home Pest Control can help. At Green Home Pest Control, we find all the possible entry areas for scorpions to come in and block them with sealant, including every crack, hole and gap. Take this crucial preventive measure and protect your family by contacting Green Home Pest Control for a free quote today.
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