Picture of A Bark Scorpion
Bark Scorpion
Creative Commons

Scorpions are very scary. That’s for sure. They are all venomous and can deliver a painful sting. There are about 1,400 scorpion species in the world existing on all continents accept Antarctica. Only about 90 species exist in North America and the USA. Of those, only the “Bark Scorpion” is considered dangerous to people. Although they are the most venomous and can deliver a sting that usually requires medical attention, reported deaths are rare.

Identification of Scorpions

Scorpions are arthropods in the class of arachnida. They are related to spiders and ticks. Varying is size from about an inch to several inches long, they have four (4) pairs of legs, two (pincers) that are lobster-like, and a long, segmented tail with a stinger at the end. A venom bulb is located behind its stinger.

Scorpions have two (2) eyes in the center of the head and some types have 2-5 more eyes in the sides. Regardless of having multiple eyes, they do not see very well and rely on touch and vibrations to detect prey and danger. Their tails are curved upward and pincers are outstretched most of the time.

Where Scorpions Are Found in America

Although scorpions do exist in Southeastern and Mid-Western states, they are low in concentration. The highest number of scorpions are found in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the desert regions of Southern California. Scorpions are usually found roaming the arid desert areas. It is extremely rare to find them above 7,000 foot elevations.

Most Common Types of Scorpions

The most common types of scorpions are the Bark Scorpion, Arizona Hairy Scorpion, and the Stripe-Tailed Scorpion.

  • Bark Scorpion. It is the most venomous of scorpions found in America and is the most dangerous. Although deaths caused by its sting, its venom can be lethal. Adults can reach 3 inches long. It is very light brown, almost a beige in color. The Bark Scorpion ranges from Arizona, Southeastern California, and Southwestern New Mexico. It is also prevalent in Sonora and Baja Mexico. This is the one you do not want to mess with.
  • Arizona Hairy Scorpion. This is the largest scorpion in America. Some call it the Desert Scorpion. Adults can reach up to 7 inches long. Yellow on its under side with darker coloring on the top with brown hairs is its distinguishing marks. It is mostly natural to Arizona and Southern California. The venom of the Arizona Hairy Scorpion is not very potent but can cause pain much like a bee or wasp sting. As with all scorpions, some people can experience dangerous allergic reactions.
  • Stripe-Tailed Scorpion. Its prominent range is Arizona and Southern California. The size of the adult is about the same as a Bark Scorpion, maybe a bit smaller at about 2.5 inches. It is also light brown in color resembling the Bark, but has darker brown stripes on its back side. Unlike the Bark, its venom is not considered dangerous.

Characteristics and Habits of Scorpions

Scorpions usually exist in arid to semi-arid areas but they seem to be attracted to wet, moist and dark areas. You’ll most of them in nature hiding under rocks, wood, palm tree fronds, decaying logs, tree bark, climbing vines, and most anywhere that is dark and gives them safe harbor. Some scorpions will burrow under ground.

The Bark Scorpion is the only species that climbs which is why this type is the most likely to find in homes. They climb stucco and brick walls and will enter through air conditioning ducts and any crevices around plumbing and electrical conduit. Scorpions only need a very slight opening to get into houses and places of business.

When inside homes they will hide in crawl spaces, air conditioning ducts, attics, garages, closets and loose boards. They like moisture, so you may find them under sinks and in cabinets near bathrooms and kitchen areas. Most are nocturnal and look for prey at night when most people are sleeping.

Since they prefer dark, cool areas, they will climb into shoes, so it is a wise idea to check shoes before slipping into them. Many stings are reported by victims while putting on shoes. As night feeders, you will find scorpions where their primary food source (insects) hangout such as lights around patios that attract insects.

The Scorpion Sting

All scorpions sting and will inject venom. Only the Bark Scorpion has venom potent enough to inflict serious harm to humans. The most vulnerable victims are infants, the very old and those with medical problems and weakened immune systems. Recorded deaths are rare, but the venom of the Bark Scorpion can be lethal. Stings of other species of scorpions are usually no more serious than a bee sting.

The Bark Scorpion sting will usually cause severe pain and swelling at the sting site. Numbness, difficulty breathing, and convulsions can occur. Remain calm, apply pressure with an ice pack and keep the affected limb above heart level. If possible, collect the scorpion and take it with you to the emergency room to verify identification. Immediately head to a hospital emergency room where they generally will have anti-venom for Bark Scorpion stings.