If you’ve lived anywhere in Arizona long enough, you’ve likely encountered at least one scorpion.
Scorpions have become synonymous with the American Southwest — although various species can be found all over the United States and in other parts of the world — to the point that any tourist can pick up their own scorpion encased in a block of resin, with the trinket often molded into the shape of the state of Arizona.
Despite their unattractive — or “scary” — appearance, not all scorpions are particularly dangerous, especially in Arizona.
In Sedona and Northern Arizona, there are three common species most likely to be found out and about: the Arizona hairy scorpion [Hadrurus arizonesis], the striped-tail or devil scorpion [Vaejovis spinigerus], and the bark scorpion [Centruroides exilicauda].
The Arizona hairy scorpion, despite its size — it can grow up to seven inches in length — is venomous like all scorpions, but its venom is not considered particularly potent. It is also the least common of the three major species found in Arizona, and tends to burrow in the hot summer months.
In terms of venom potency, the same can be said for the striped-tail scorpion, which is smaller than the Arizona hairy and considered the most common species in the state.
Stings from both Arizona hairy and striped-tail scorpions can hurt like a bee sting, but are otherwise only harmful if the person being stung has an allergic reaction.
The bark scorpion, meanwhile, is another story altogether.
According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the bark scorpion is the only one of the three that displays an affinity for climbing and clinging to walls, trees and overhangs, and combined with its lighter, more translucent appearance compared to other species, it can be the one most likely to be accidentally picked up or stepped on.
Unfortunately, the bark scorpion — the most venomous species in North America — is the one species of the three whose sting is considered harmful to humans and pets, as well as the species most likely found around the house, in closets, cabinets and garages or a tool shed.
As summer fades away and temperatures begin to drop, bark scorpions can become more common indoors and are the only species known to coexist with each other in groups.
According to the University of Arizona, the bark scorpion’s sting can typically cause numbness and pain in adults, with only small children, animals and people with weak immune systems in life-threatening danger. Fatalities from bark scorpion stings are incredibly rare, with the University of Arizona noting only two recorded deaths in the state since the 1960s.
Cool — not cold — compresses and over-the-counter painkillers are generally recommended for most stings from scorpions.
All scorpions are photophobic — displaying an aversion to light — and are primarily nocturnal predators. During daytime hours, hikers out on a trail are more likely to find a scorpion hiding under a rock than actively hunting.
To find scorpions during their peak hunting hours at night, all one needs is a black light, as most scorpions have a fluorescent chemical in the skin of their exoskeleton that glows under ultraviolet light. In recent years, many hardware stores have begun stocking UV flashlights for customers in need of home pest control.
According to the National Park Service, natural predators to scorpions include birds and snakes, as well as lizards, mice and even bats.
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