ST. GEORGE – Due to recent increases in rainfall, local residents may also be seeing a deluge of Mother Nature’s creatures coming out from hiding. In particular, those hardy arthropods known as scorpions tend to surface in greater numbers after a lot of rainfall.
“Anything that lives underground,” Tyler Alldredge, service manager at Morgan Termite & Pest Control, said, “once the rain starts coming down, the groundwater raises.”
Keeping scorpions out
To escape rising groundwater, creatures like scorpions will surface and move to higher ground, and this may inevitably find them moving right into homes if there are gaps available to them.
“If (there is a gap) about one-sixteenth of an inch, a scorpion will get through that,” Alldredge said.
Scorpions have an exoskeleton that compresses, enabling them to enter buildings through very small openings.
To test whether a scorpion or other unwanted pests can get under a door or through a gap, lay a nickel on its side, he said; a nickel’s width is all the room they need to get in.
“Preventative measures help a lot,” Alldredge said.
To keep scorpions out, residents should do something called “exclusion,” such as the following preventative actions:
- Install door sweeps on exterior doors, including garage doors that don’t close all the way, to keep scorpions out
- Seal gaps in windows, thresholds and other places that could allow a scorpion to gain entrance to the home
- Remove debris and clutter from around the exterior of the home, including piles of firewood, yard supplies, vegetation growing close to the house and anything else that would provide a hiding spot and hunting ground for a scorpion
“They like to forage in that kind of stuff, look for insects to eat,” Alldredge said, “so that’s something that would keep scorpions down.”
In the case of an actual scorpion infestation – the most venomous scorpion in the United States, found in Southern Utah, is known to hibernate in packs during the winter – homeowners should not take matters into their own hands.
“If you have a scorpion infestation, don’t try to deal with it yourself,” Alldredge said. “That is a case to call a professional.”
An exterminator will treat a scorpion infestation in the evening or after dark, locating the scorpions with a black light as their exoskeletons glow under ultraviolet light. The exterminator will spray them with a pesticide concentration, and then remove them from the property.
Dangerous or not?
Of the almost 2,000 known scorpion species existing in the world, only 40 are poisonous, according to National Geographic. Of those 2,000 species, only two are common to Southern Utah: the desert hairy and the bark scorpion. One of these scorpions is the largest in North America, and the other is the most venomous in the United States.
“All scorpions, all spiders have venom – it’s just to what degree,” Alldredge said.
The desert hairy is the largest scorpion found in North America, but despite its large size, it holds a small danger factor for humans.
“The venom on it is very light,” Alldredge said.
Like a bee sting, a desert hairy’s sting is only dangerous to someone who is allergic to its venom.
The bark scorpion, on the other hand, is much smaller. According to information from the National Park Service, the bark scorpion fully grown measures 2 1/2 inches. Its venom is much more potent than the desert hairy.
“The bark scorpion is the most venomous scorpion in the U.S.,” Alldredge said.
A bark scorpion’s sting can be life-threatening, according to the Food and Drug Administration, and its venom is particularly dangerous for infants, small children and frail or elderly adults.
Treatment for a scorpion sting
According to information from the FDA, most scorpion stings to healthy young adults can be managed at home with basic first aid and should be treated by:
- Cleaning the site with soap and water
- Applying a cool compress
- Elevating the affected limb to the same level as the heart
- Taking aspirin or acetaminophen as needed for minor discomfort
However, if the person stung has a known allergy to scorpion venom or begins experiencing allergic symptoms, they should seek medical attention immediately. Some allergy signs to watch for are swelling of the throat and tongue, Alldredge said.
“It’ll affect your respiration,” he said.
When in doubt, it’s best to err on the side of caution after a scorpion sting and seek medical attention, Alldredge said. Don’t try to identify the scorpion yourself and determine if it was the mild desert hairy or the more dangerous bark scorpion that administered the sting – just head to the emergency room.
“A lot of times if you do get stung, it’s good to take what you were stung or got bit by with you,” Alldredge said. “Kill it, and then … take it with you.”
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- National Park Service – “Ancient Assasin: The Life of a Bark Scorpion”
- National Geographic
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