411 on Scorpions
Posted by Erin on May 28, 2020, 2:06 pm
I came across this today and found it very informative |
GENERAL INFORMATION REGARDING VENOM POTENCY OF SCORPIONS
A common myth says that it is possible to know whether you are facing a scorpion with strong or weak venom by its colour or size. This is nothing but a myth, most scorpion families have members of different colours. Only if you know the specific scorpions which live in your area you can make a rule that applies for your specific area.
There is one aspect though that can give you a rough idea if the venom of the scorpion you are facing is rather weak or strong: comparing the size of pincers with the size of the tail. If the tail is thicker than the pincers it is most likely the utensil it uses more for hunting and therefore the venom most likely more potent. It does not mean that the venom is potentially lethal for a human being. Conversely the animal having thicker pincers than a tail usually means that its venom is rather weak and can be compared with the venom of a bee (an exception of the rule is the scorpion family Nebo living in the Middle East which is therefore not relevant for people living in Mexico)
In total around 2300 species of scorpions live on this planet of which around 25 are potentially lethal to humans. Of those only one family can be found in Mexico (the family called Centruroides). The sting of some of its members can be lethal for humans, the majority is not to be considered potentially lethal though. The species which live on the Yucatan peninsula (Centruroides gracilis and centruroides ochraceus) for example do have painful stings but are not to be considered lethal. According to my knowledge the last reported fatal case of a Centruroides gracilis sting was an elderly lady in the 60s of the 20th century, fatal outcomes of Centruroides ochraceus stings are unknown.
Less than 10% of the scorpion species that live in Mexico can be dangerous for humans, the others are not potentially lethal.
HOW TO AVOID GETTING STUNG
A scorpion has no interest to sting a human. Producing venom takes a lot of time and energy and the scorpion prefers to use it for the hunt as intended. Using it to defend itself is a measure the scorpion tries to avoid in general but if threatened it might decide to use it for that reason as well. Scorpions do not sting any being because of malignity, that is purely a human attribute.
Most scorpion stings happen when the scorpion finds itself cornered or is afraid to be squished. Scorpions love tight hides with a little bit of moisture. Which quite frequently leads to them getting into a humans shoes which can lead to unpleasant incidents the next morning.
To avoid those there are two general rules:
Always bump the shoe onto the floor with its heel so a scorpion, that has chosen it as its new home falls out and can be caught easily (with a plastic box or cup, see below)
Scorpions can not scale glass, plastic or smooth metal so a shoe rack made of metal prevents scorpions from getting into shoes. Controlling the shoe before putting it on as described above is nevertheless a good idea.
Additional to that it can happen that a scorpion chooses clothes or the space under your bed sheet or pillow as its new home. Therefore shake them properly before use and avoid unwanted confrontations this way.
Also corners inside and outside of your house that attract insects the scorpion likes to eat are prone to be inhabited by scorpions. Therefore cleaning out those corners carefully is a good idea, just be careful that a scorpion will not be touched unintentionally or feel cornered. Have a catch cup ready to catch the ones you find.
If you live in an area where scorpions find their way into your house frequently installing bottom door seals can help to keep them out.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A SCORPION
Scorpions have a very important role in the ecosystem as they prevent the population of other insects from increasing more than they should. Therefore killing them is a bad idea. As you most likely no not like to have them living in your house rehoming them is an easy solution to the problem.
As scorpions can not scale glass or plastic it is very easy to capture and rehome them. Capture the scorpion by placing a plastic cup or box (preferrably a transparent one) over it. Slide a piece of cardboard in between the floor and the scorpion and slowly flip it over. Now the scorpion can not escape and you can bring it to a safe place. Most suitable are places where the scorpion can find a nice new home with hides and potentially lots of insects to eat. This way he will be motivated to stay there and will not come back to your house.
SCORPIONS WITH POTENTIALLY LETHAL VENOM
Getting stung by a scorpion with potentially lethal venom is far from being a death sentence. A healthy adult has good chances to survive getting stung. Children as well as old and sick people are far more at risk.
In their paper of 1963 Mazzotti und Bravo-Becherelle wrote that most fatal scorpion stings happened in Colima, Guerrero, Nayarit and Morelos and that the ¾ of the deceased were children under 3 years of age.
Additional to that it should be considered that many scorpion stings are so-called dry stings. The scorpion stings whatever is threatening it with the intention to put it to flight but does not use venom as it can reach its goal without wasting precious venom.
The scorpions which live in Mexico and whose stings have had fatal outcomes in the past are the following members of the Centruroides family:
Guerrero, Michoacán, Jalisco, Colima und Nayarit.
Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacán, Guanajuato y Zacatecas.
C. limpidus limpidus
Michoacán, Guerrero, Estado de México, Morelos, Puebla und Oaxaca
C. limpidus tecomanus
Guerrero, Michoacán, Colima y Jalisco
Jalisco, Nayarit y Sinaloa
Sonora, Baja California
C. suffusus suffusus
Sinaloa, Durango y Nayarit.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN STUNG
In general it is safe to say: the more you know about the scorpions which live in your region, the better. As described above the venom of over 90% of the Scorpions living in Mexico are not potentially lethal. If you can already tell thanks to your knowledge that it has not been one of the dangerous ones the stress level will drop a lot. If you are not sure but the scorpion is still there it is a good idea to capture it or at least take a photo to help the Dr to figure out what stung you.
If medical help is available and you are in raging pain go to the Dr, if not you might have only gotten a dry sting or the scorpions venom is simply not very potent.
In case help is far away you can destroy the enzymes of the poison by heating them up. Bathing the place you have been stung in a 65°C water bath can help. If not available also heating up a piece of metal with a lighter and pressing it onto the spot you have been stung can help. Make sure you do not do more damage by using something that is too hot.
If you are living in an area where scorpions are present, make sure you find out which ones you can encounter, which ones of them are potentially dangerous and how to differentiate them.
A non scientific but nevertheless helpful page is http://www.inaturalist.org/ Just place the map onto your region and search in the map. You can find more information about potentially dangerous species here: https://www.redtox.org/lo-que-debes-saber/ejemplares-venenosas/alacranes?limitstart=0
If you want to find scorpions easily to rehome them using a UV light can be very helpful. All scorpions glow under UV light and this way they are easy to find at night.
Further links and literature:
Scorpions of Medical Importance - Keegan 1980.
picture: Centruroides ochraceus