I've lived in the desert for nearly nine years, now, and I've never encountered a scorpion in my home–until this past week. My mother-in-law, Tena, was visiting from out of town and announced more calmly than an Arizona native that "a scorpion came out of my suitcase." What?! I was nervous for her, but even more so for my five-year-old daughter who permanently resides in the room in which she was staying.
"Um, that's a boy job," I said, and we all looked at my husband, Big.
"Okay, I'll take care of it. Where is it?" he asked.
"It came out of a zippered pocket. A zippered pocket! I don't know how it got in there, but it crawled out, so now I'm not sure where it is," Tena explained.
Big grabbed a glass bowl and a piece of cardboard, and the three of us headed upstairs. Tena showed us which pocket he came out of. Next to her suitcase was its contents, tossed during the initial encounter. Big began pinching little corners of clothing and shaking them out. "Glad my underwear is pretty," Tena chimed in, always one to add lightness to any circumstance.
"There he is!" Big said. "Damn, lost him." He went through that cycle about five times, shaking various articles of clothing as he went, Tena and I looking on with morbid curiosity.
Finally, the scorpion was captured.
Though I've heard quite a few stories about scorpions and seen a bunch of friends post their encounters on Facebook, I've never seen one in my home. A couple of times I've had to man up and capture them in clients' homes. In fact, I have one client who asks me to do a "scorpion check" each time I come for a visit. But I've never been paranoid about them. All of that changed once we found one in my daughter's room.
So how dangerous are they, and what should you do if you see one?
Apparently, size does matter. Surprisingly, the small young scorpions are the most dangerous, carrying the strongest venom. If you are stung by one, it will hurt like hell, but as with bees, it's not particularly dangerous unless you suspect you are allergic, in which case you should capture (and kill) the buggar who stung you and take it with you to the doctor so that the correct anti-venom can be used.
There are many species of scorpion. Some are more venomous than others, but most species in the United States are not venomous enough to be deadly.
If you see one, stay calm. I was able to stay calm because Big was on the case. So I recommend finding someone else to capture a scorpion. Worked great for me. Get your husband, your wife, your mom...whomever (just keep little kids out of it).
Scorpions are usually not aggressive unless threatened, and then look out. This trait makes capturing them challenging. They move quickly when they feel threatened, or they may do just the opposite and play dead. Whether a scorpion is scurrying about or looking expired, always use a glass jar or some such thing...never touch a scorpion, even with gloves on.
Once you catch a scorpion, you'll want to watch him for a while, like we did, because, frankly, they are fascinating. Then you have two options.
1. Kill him.
2. Set him free far from your home.
Being the animal-loving types that we are, we opted for option two and released our guy in the rocky wash behind our house. We told him to tell his friends that the next one might not be so lucky.
So what do we do, now? Will there be more?
We live in a suburban area, but there is a lot of desert wildlife around. Our smallish neighborhood is divided from the next by little hills and hiking paths, so it's prime real estate for scorpions. It is likely that we will encounter another in our home considering where we live. Scorpions are very limber, despite their hard shells, so they can squeeze under cracks and small spaces under doors. Summer is prime scorpion season.
We're now shaking out our shoes and clothes before putting them on each day, and I'm doing a cursory check from time-to-time. We've told the littles to do the same. They are a little bit nervous about the whole thing (me, too), but I told them to be cautious, but not fearful. We can't live in fear.
Have you ever encountered a scorpion or been stung by one? Please tell me your story!
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