Scorpions are very old creatures going back an estimated 430 million years. They are commonly believed to only be found in deserts, but species of scorpions exist in nearly every habitat including grasslands, forests, savannahs, and caves. They also can be found on all continents except Antarctica. Scorpions have developed a reputation for being particularly dangerous creatures, but out of nearly 1,750 species, only 25 represent a threat to humans.1 Even among these species, the chance of a fatal scorpion sting is very rare. That being said, stings are painful and no one wants to deal with scorpions around their yards or in their homes. Find out everything you need to know about scorpion behavior and scorpion prevention and control techniques in this ultimate guide.
Scorpions are arachnids that are related to ticks, mites, and spiders. They have eight legs, an elongated body, 2 grasping pincers in the front (known as pedipalps), and a 5-segmented tail that is often seen arching over the back. On the back of its tail is a venomous stinger that is the source of most of the trepidation surrounding scorpions. Scorpions can be many different colors including yellow, blue, reddish-brown, and black. The size of a scorpion varies by species and can range from under 1 inch up to 9 inches long. Scorpions are unique because they will glow a bluish-green color when exposed to an ultraviolet light source (like a black light). This is because the cuticle contains fluorescent chemicals. UV flashlights will allow you to see them in the dark when they are most active.
Arizona Bark Scorpion under UV light
Scorpions are nocturnal creatures. They spend the majority of the day hiding in cool, sheltered locations and will hunt at night. The diet of a scorpion mainly consists of insects and spiders, but may also include other scorpions, lizards, snakes, mice, and other small creatures. They are able to identify and locate their prey by sensing vibrations. They will either use their pincers to capture their prey or their stinger to inject venom to paralyze it.
Scorpions can go months without food, but must have water regularly. This means that most scorpions enter homes in search of water or shelter from heat or cold. When indoors, scorpions will find a dark, secluded area to hide like wall voids, basements, crawl spaces, and cupboards. They also usually remain close to entry points (doors and windows) and may seek out areas of high humidity like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens.
In the United States, scorpions are mostly found in arid, desert regions of the South and Southwest. States that tend to experience a lot of scorpion activity include Arizona, California, New Mexico, Central Texas, Central Oklahoma, and parts of Missouri and Kansas.
Significant Scorpion Species in the United States
While all scorpions are venomous and can cause pain with their sting, very few in the United States are a real threat to humans. In fact, only one species is considered extremely dangerous: the Arizona Bark Scorpion. Another very common, but less dangerous species in the U.S. is the Striped Bark Scorpion.
Arizona Bark Scorpion (centruroides sculpturatus or exilicauda)
Size: 2-3 inches long
Color: Light brown
Range: Southern California through New Mexico
Other: Bark scorpions are unusual because they like to climb. This means that you may find them on the ground under rocks and debris, but you may also find them in trees or climbing up walls. Centruroides sculpturatus is the most venomous and potentially dangerous species of scorpion in North America. Although its sting is rarely fatal, it can be severely painful and cause systemic reactions. People stung should seek medical treatment, which is administered based on symptoms.
Arizona Bark Scorpion By Musides at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Striped Bark Scorpions (Centruroides vittatus)
Size: Medium sized scorpion, growing up to 2 ¾ inches long
Color: Pale yellow with 2 dark longitudinal stripes on its back, giving it excellent camouflage
Range: The midsection of the U.S. including the states of: TX, OK, AR, KS, MO, NE, NM, CO, MO, and LA
Other: The striped bark scorpion is probably the most commonly spotted scorpion in the U.S. Thousands of people are stung each year, but they are very rarely fatal. Its venom is composed of many proteins which have been found to be allergens. This means that hypersensitive individuals, especially young children and the elderly, may be more at risk for severe reactions.
Striped Bark Scorpion By Dakota L. [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons
Most stings from scorpions will be slightly painful and feel like a wasp or bee sting. In these cases, treatment usually consists of a mild pain reliever and an ice pack. More venomous stings from bark scorpions or ones that affect hypersensitive individuals may cause severe pain and swelling, numbness at the site, muscle twitching, convulsions, difficulty breathing, and in rare cases anaphylaxis. For these more severe symptoms, you should seek medical attention immediately.
How to Prevent Scorpions
While most scorpions are not dangerous to humans, it is difficult to identify the exact species of scorpion you may encounter. This means that it is advantageous to try to prevent all scorpions from coming into your home and yard. It is also important to be cautious in scorpion habitats and learn how to prevent stings. The following are some tips and tricks to help in prevention efforts.
- Get rid of places where scorpions may hide in your yard like stones, wood piles, overgrown bushes, trash piles, and other debris
- Seal entry points to your home including: windows, doors, areas where pipes and wires enter, vents, cracks and crevices, and weep holes
- Make sure that window and door screens are in good condition with no holes
- Ensure that your garage door closes tightly and is properly fitted
- Trim back trees and bushes so that they don’t touch your home
- Mow the lawn regularly
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, people who work or spend a lot of time outside in areas known to have scorpions should also adhere to the following guidelines for preventing scorpion stings:
- Wear long sleeves and pants
- Wear leather gloves
- Shake out clothing and shoes before putting them on
- Carry an epipen if you have a known allergy or reaction to insect bites
Scorpion Control Methods
The prevention techniques mentioned above are effective, but sometimes more is needed. There are many methods of scorpion control, and a well-rounded approach is probably your best bet.
Identify Areas Where Scorpions Live
If you aren’t sure where the scorpions are coming from, you can go out at night and try to spot them. Always use caution and wear protective clothing when in areas that might contain scorpions. Special UV flashlight are sold so that you can see the scorpions glowing in the dark from up to 6 feet away. Once you have identified the problem areas, you can take care of them.
Monitor Using Glue Traps
Another way to find out where scorpions are getting in and whether the population is growing is to monitor them using scorpion traps. These glue traps contain a lure that attracts and catches scorpions. Since scorpions have poor eyesight, they generally travel along walls. Traps should be placed in areas where scorpions have been seen and along walls in garages, basements, closets, etc.
Apply a Perimeter Treatment
Wettable powders and encapsulated powders are great options for long-lasting residual pesticides. Spray around the perimeter of your home to form a barrier against insects, spiders, scorpions, and other household pests. This treatment normally extends 3-10 feet away from your home and up the foundation and walls 3 feet. Directions differ by product, so follow all label directions carefully. You should also treat cracks, crevices, and entryways.
Use Indoor Liquid Sprays
For indoor scorpion treatments, you can use liquid sprays. These sprays kill on contact and should be used in areas that are common scorpion hiding places. These areas include: around windows and doors, behind baseboards, around plumbing, closets, garages, and basements. Harris Scorpion Killer is a great long-lasting option that can be used indoors and outdoors.
Consider Insecticidal Dusts
Insecticidal dusts are great for hard to reach areas like attics, cracks and crevices, electrical outlets, and wall voids. These dusts are long-lasting and are a great part of a comprehensive scorpion treatment plan.
Scorpions can be a nerve-wracking problem for homeowners, but help is available. With the Harris brand of home pest control products, you can safely and effectively get rid of the scorpions around your home and ensure the safety of your family. You can trust Harris for all of your pest control needs.