Thursday, September 3, 2015

A SCORPION HERE AND AN ARACHNID THERE

Arizona Bark Scorpion
photo courtesy of Wikipedia

An email from a friend arrived the other day that read, in part:

I stepped on a f… scorpion this morning and got stung.

I, of course, replied with:

Thank goodness it wasn’t an A or B or C or D or E scorpion. I understand they’re much more dangerous.

That bit of mild levity out of the way, I made sure she was okay and not in need of medical attention. It develops this is the third or fourth time she’s been stung, so she knows how her body reacts to the venom.

Or does she?

That question prompted me to do a little research on scorpions. I tried looking them up as insects, but since they have eight legs, they’re part of the arachnid family along with spiders and ticks, of all things.
These venomous, exoskeleton invertebrates live almost everywhere except in artic climes. Deserts, rain forests, prairies, grasslands, mountains, caves, ponds, seashores – it doesn’t matter to these carnivores. They eat insects and small rodents, killing in two ways: crushing smaller prey with pincers (called pedipalps) and injecting venom with a stinger usually hovering over the scorpion’s head as if ready for instant action. Most of these hunters range in size from half an inch to around an inch long and range in color from black to brown to tan to red to yellow. All predators have predators, and shrews and other scorpions are these fearsome creatures' bête noire.

According to Wikipedia and Desert Exposure and other references I consulted, there are over 1,700 species of scorpions, all venomous – to varying degrees – but only about 25 with a toxin deadly to humans (most of these belong to the Buthidae family). Fortunately for us, although the US teems with scorpions, none are known to be deadly to healthy adults. The result of a sting by a scorpion is normally similar to a bee sting, painful but usually not requiring medication. Children and the elderly and those known to have allergic reactions to such venom definitely need to seek medical attention.

Twenty-one to twenty-five species of scorpions call New Mexico home, only one of which is considered really dangerous (although apparently not classified as deadly). The Arizona bark scorpion lives in loose bark beneath cottonwood trees, under stones, and in old, abandoned buildings. It is found in only three New Mexico counties: Catron, Grant, and Hidalgo.

One of the most wicked-looking  whip scorpions is commonly known as a vinegaroon. Although a member of the scorpion family, when alarmed, this fearsome animal is reduced to releasing a vinegar-like spray as its only protection. It appears to be the exception to the rule that all scorpions are poisonous. And while my recently stung friend apparently can co-exist with the usual scorpion, she shivers at the thought of a vinegaroon’s big, dark, seriously ugly appearance and strong odor.

My friend, by the way, is okay. She was stung on the heel but it was the middle toe on her foot that turned red and got sore. But what if it had been an Arizona bark Scorpion? Or another type of scorpion with a stronger venom. Or what if she had an allergic reaction? Guess not. She’ll survive the sting okay – unless she runs across one of those nasty vinegaroons sometime soon.

Thanks for reading the sometimes strange thoughts dribbling from my mind. Not always an easy thing to do.

Let me hear from you.


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