Are All Scorpions Poisonous?

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Are All Scorpions Poisonous?

If you just encountered a scorpion, you may wonder whether all scorpions are poisonous. While every one of the nearly 2,000 scorpion species worldwide is venomous, just 30 to 40 species are potent enough to be deadly to healthy adult humans. In the United States, the deadliest scorpion is the Arizona bark scorpion found throughout the Southwest, particularly in Arizona, Nevada, southeastern California, and parts of New Mexico. Due to medical advances and the accessibility of antivenom, deaths from the Arizona bark scorpion are rare.

Scorpions are fascinating creatures that thrive in a vast range of habitats, from desert wastelands to lush tropical forests. Although most often found in deserts and dry grasslands, scorpions live on every continent but Antarctica. Let’s delve into these fascinating, fearsome-looking critters and answer your questions. We’ll consider how poisonous scorpions are, how their venom works, and just how deadly scorpions like the Arizona bark scorpion actually are.

How Deadly Are Scorpions?

All scorpions are very deadly — to their preferred prey. Most are not fatal to humans, though their sting is no joke. A healthy human without allergies is still likely to experience the following symptoms from the single sting of a non-lethal scorpion:

  • Immediate pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling with heat
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Muscle twitching
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

The list of symptoms indicates how poisonous scorpions are. It is typical for healthy adults to recover from within hours to a few days. However, the sting should be closely monitored. If the symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention.

Though somewhat rare, some people are allergic to scorpions and may experience a far more severe reaction, including anaphylaxis, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include:

  • Severe swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Hives or a rash beyond the bite site
  • Anxiety

Experiencing any of these symptoms following a scorpion sting is a medical emergency. Prompt medical attention is essential and may involve the administration of epinephrine, antihistamines, and corticosteroids. Due to their smaller body size, children and pets are more vulnerable to scorpion venom. Even if the initial symptoms appear mild, seek prompt medical attention for any child or pet stung by a scorpion.

So, answering the question, “How deadly are scorpions?” is a bit of a catch-22. Most scorpions won’t kill a healthy adult unless the adult is allergic to scorpions. And, of course, you wouldn’t know you were allergic to scorpions until stung.

How Scorpion Venom Works

Technically, scorpions aren’t “poisonous” at all! They contain venom rather than poison in their stings. The difference is a matter of molecular size and use. Poisons have small molecules that can be absorbed through the skin. It is a defense mechanism. Venom, however, is all about offense. Venom molecules are large and require an open wound so the venom can directly enter the victim’s bloodstream. A way to remember the difference is that if you bite something and get sick, it is poisonous. If it bites you and you get sick, it’s venomous.

So, the question,” How poisonous are scorpions?” should really be, “How venomous are scorpions?” And the answer is: “Plenty!” The scorpion’s venom is an offensive weapon that quickly immobilizes and kills their prey by shutting down the victim’s nervous system. Scorpions also use their stings for self-defense against would-be predators, larger animals, and rival scorpions in territorial disputes.

Most Scorpions Are Mild Stingers

While all scorpions are venomous, only 30 to 40 species worldwide are considered deadly to healthy adult humans. Only one of those species, the Arizona bark scorpion, lives in the U.S. Most scorpion stings affect humans like a sting from a bee or wasp. However, responses vary among individuals, even those who are not sick, elderly, or allergic to scorpions.

Meet the Deadliest Slayers

Knowing the risk factors involved with scorpion venom, what are some of the deadliest? Let’s meet a few.

Arizona Bark Scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus)

Arizona bark scorpion crawling up bark

  • Location and Habitat: Found throughout the Southwest U.S., particularly in Arizona, Nevada, southeastern California, and parts of New Mexico. Prefers desert and semi-arid regions.
  • Venom Potency: Highly venomous; its sting can cause severe pain, numbness, convulsions, and, in rare cases, death in humans.
  • Physical Characteristic: Adult Arizona bark scorpions grow up to 3 inches long, with slender tails and pincers.
  • Behavior: These nocturnal hunters can climb trees.
  • Cool Facts: Like all scorpions, the Arizona bark glows in the dark when hit with UV light. We don’t yet understand why this glowing evolved.

Deathstalker (Leiurus quinquestriatus)

Deathstalker scorpion on red stone among desert mountains in the background

  • Location and Habitat: Commonly found in North Africa and the Middle East, inhabiting dry and desert regions.
  • Venom Potency: Contains a potent cocktail of neurotoxins. This dramatically nicknamed scorpion is one of the world’s deadliest, with extremely painful, potentially fatal stings.
  • Physical Characteristics: Yellowish, with a slender body measuring 2-3 inches long.
  • Behavior: Aggressive when threatened, this scorpion hides under stones and in crevices.
  • Cool Facts: Deathstalker venom is being researched for potential medical applications, including treating brain tumors and diabetes.

Brazilian Yellow Scorpion (Tityus serrulatus)

Image of brazilian yellow scorpion in the wild among twigs

  • Location and Habitat: Widely distributed across Brazil and other parts of South America. Thrives in urban and suburban areas.
  • Venom Potency: Its sting causes severe pain and inflammation and can be deadly, especially to children and older adults.
  • Physical Characteristics: Yellowish brown in color, growing up to 2.5 inches long.
  • Behavior: Highly adaptable, this scorpion is moving into Brazil’s big cities and urban environments.
  • Cool Facts: This scorpion has been known to display parthenogenesis, where females can produce offspring without mating.

What To Do if You Encounter a Scorpion?

What to do if you encounter a scorpion varies, depending on where you find it. While all scorpions are venomous, they generally avoid people, and most are not deadly to healthy adults. Wear protective clothing like closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, and long pants if hiking or camping in scorpion country. Avoid rocky areas, fallen logs, and dense vegetation. Clear a wide swath of brush, rocks, leaf litter, sticks, and debris around your campsite. Use a tent with a built-in ground sheet, or sleep on a raised cot. While you deserve to enjoy the outdoors, you’re stepping into their natural environment where their role as both predator and prey is important.

If you encounter a scorpion in your yard, don’t panic — just avoid contact. Scorpions are notoriously hard to catch or kill, and attempts to do so can antagonize them into stinging you. You can try to scoop the scorpion into a box using a trowel or shovel, then discard it or release it well away from your property (or your neighbors’!). Then, be on the watch for more, with special care if you have pets or small children.

If you spot a scorpion in your home, set out sticky traps and follow our home hygiene tips to prevent pests. Call the pros for scorpion exterminator services if you have a scorpion infestation in your home or on your property.

Why Scorpions Are Becoming A Problem For Homeowners

Scorpions are typically shy of humans and are only interested in survival. They enter our property and homes only when their need for suitable shelter, food, or water cannot be met outdoors. As urban expansion encroaches on habitat and climate change alters the availability of standing water, scorpions and other pests are a growing problem for homeowners. In need of a home pest inspection for scorpions? We can help here.

How Do I Get Rid of Scorpions?

The best way to get rid of scorpions is not to attract them in the first place. This means doing all you can indoors and out to control insects — their food source — standing water, and their preferred shelter. Remove brush piles, leaf litter, rocks, stacked wood, and other debris from your property. Trim shrubs and trees so no foliage is in contact with your home’s exterior, providing a handy bridge. Then, use caulk to seal all cracks and crevices in your home’s foundation and walls. Repair screens and fix any leaks indoors or out. Use yellow light bulbs in exterior light fixtures to keep from attracting insects.

Professional pest control services efficiently prevent scorpions from moving in. Scorpions won’t move to or stay where there are no insects to eat.
Trust Mosquito Joe®’s pest control. The Neighborly Done Right Promise™ backs all our work because the job’s not done until it’s done right. Request a free quote today. Let’s make your outdoor spaces fun again!