There are approximately 56 species of scorpions in Arizona. All scorpions sting (they do not bite) and inject venom, but only one scorpion in the United States is classified as potentially deadly: the Arizona Bark scorpion – how fortunate for us.
The bark scorpion occurs naturally throughout Maricopa County and most of the state. It is commonly found inside homes and buildings where it seeks out a defined area in which to live. If a structure is on that area the number of scorpions finding their way inside can be controlled but can never be completely eliminated.
The bark scorpion is one of several small scorpions and is about one and one half to two inches in length. It has two distinguishing characteristics. The first is that it is the only scorpion in Maricopa County that climbs. It easily climbs any surface except clean glass and clean plastic. It can cling to the underside of a piece of wood, walk across your ceiling, climb furniture, and get into clothing and cupboards. They are most active at night and seek places that are warm, dark and damp. The second important characteristic is that it curls up its tail and lays it down flat next to its body. This allows the scorpion to become very flat and squeeze into very small and narrow cracks.
The bark scorpion’s color varies from clear, light tan, rubber band or darker golden brown. Color and size is not a good way to identify this scorpion.
Most calls to Poison Centers for scorpion stings occur from April through October.
Because children under six years of age are more likely to develop severe symptoms if stung, special care should be taken if you are visiting or live in an infested home:
• Children should be protected in their cribs/beds. To prevent the bark scorpions from climbing up, place the crib/bed legs in glass jars.
• To keep the scorpions from coming into the crib/bed sideways, move the crib away from the wall and be that blankets and sheets do not touch the floor or walls.
• To prevent the scorpions from dropping in, you need to install a scorpion shield. Hang a piece of flat plastic, or other flat smooth board that is bigger that the size of the crib, several inches from the ceiling.
Place double-sided sticky tape around the inside of the board. Scorpions will then fall onto the board and get stuck, rather than fall into the crib/bed.
• Check the crib/bed in advance of putting the child to bed.
• Shake out all clothing and shoes before putting them on the child.
• Have the child wear shoes at all times and be especially careful around hot tubs and pools in the evening.
All of the above precautions also apply to adults, particularly the elderly and those suffering with allergies or respiratory conditions.
Signs & Symptoms of a Sting
The bark scorpion sting is extremely painful, but does not usually cause swelling or redness at the sting site. Victims describe the feeling as similar to having a piece of metal heated in a fire and then stabbed into the skin.
The immediate local pain and burning are usually followed by numbness and tingling that travels up an arm or leg. This is a totally natural reaction to the sting.
If visual disturbance, difficulty swallowing and swollen tongue sensations, slurred speech or respiratory problems occur, they should be reported to the Poison Center.
A sting by one of the other 55 scorpions will feel similar to that of a wasp with local swelling and pain.
Young infants and children are at greater risk of serious symptoms. A major problem is identifying that a scorpion sting has occurred because there will not be a visible mark or swelling. The child will be hurting and upset, and then the eyes will start moving in an uncoordinated, roving manner. In some instances the child may become hyperactive with accompanying facial twitching and heavy drooling.
Call the Arizona Poison & Drug Information Center at 1.800.222.1222 to receive first aid instructions and determine if the victim needs further medical care.