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The Death-Stalker Scorpion: Aptly Named.

Updated on October 29, 2010

Scorpions kill thousands every year.

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Bark Scorpion. Nasty chap, lethal for small children.  Arizona and Sonora Desert, etc.The infamous DEATHSTALKER:  World's most venomous and lethal arachnid; worse than any spider.FAT TAIL Scorpion: equally venomous and lethal as deathstalker - also found in black.  bbc. news creditFALSE SCORPION:  Ugly but completely harmless.  Up to 8 inches long.  May be able to nip with claws.  Non venomous.World's Largest Scorpion!  A bit of fun and creative photography from caver.netEmperor, or Imperial Scorpion.  World's largest.  Mild sting; claws can break a pencil! Eats termites. 8" long African.  photo by brockettsfilmfauna.com
Bark Scorpion. Nasty chap, lethal for small children.  Arizona and Sonora Desert, etc.
Bark Scorpion. Nasty chap, lethal for small children. Arizona and Sonora Desert, etc.
The infamous DEATHSTALKER:  World's most venomous and lethal arachnid; worse than any spider.
The infamous DEATHSTALKER: World's most venomous and lethal arachnid; worse than any spider.
FAT TAIL Scorpion: equally venomous and lethal as deathstalker - also found in black.  bbc. news credit
FAT TAIL Scorpion: equally venomous and lethal as deathstalker - also found in black. bbc. news credit
FALSE SCORPION:  Ugly but completely harmless.  Up to 8 inches long.  May be able to nip with claws.  Non venomous.
FALSE SCORPION: Ugly but completely harmless. Up to 8 inches long. May be able to nip with claws. Non venomous.
World's Largest Scorpion!  A bit of fun and creative photography from caver.net
World's Largest Scorpion! A bit of fun and creative photography from caver.net
Emperor, or Imperial Scorpion.  World's largest.  Mild sting; claws can break a pencil! Eats termites. 8" long African.  photo by brockettsfilmfauna.com
Emperor, or Imperial Scorpion. World's largest. Mild sting; claws can break a pencil! Eats termites. 8" long African. photo by brockettsfilmfauna.com

"Deathstalker" venom more lethal than any spider

Scorpions kill 10 times more people than do snakes.

As I have done a hub article on snakes and spiders, I thought I might as well finish the series up by having a look at scorpions, the arachnid feared by far more people than venomous spiders - and for good reason.

I lived in Mexico for 15 years and shared my quarters with many of these pincered and stinger-tailed little nasties. I only got stung once, in Michoacan, by kneeling on a small scorpion on the front seat of my car, and it was enough. The agony shot through my leg in an instant, and this wasn’t even a particularly dangerous member of the family. I got over it quickly, but memories of the pain returned every time I saw a scorpion after this and I was careful around them

Not that most are particularly aggressive, they mostly sting reflexively (such as when a 250 pound oaf kneels on one). They all have venom, and most scorpion stings will be felt, even from the ones not considered dangerous or life-threatening. There are about 1500 species of scorpion we know about, at least 50 of these can harm humans, and 25 of these have stings that are often fatal. In fact, the most deadly account for thousands of deaths worldwide each year, ten times more than die from snakebite!

The worst scorpions are found in the north of Africa, the Middle East, and Mexico, mainly in the drier regions, although scorpions are found all over the planet, except for in Antarctica and, curiously, New Zealand.

There is some argument - like that which surfaces when spider venom is discussed - as to which is the most deadly scorpion. My research says this dubious accolade probably belongs to the aptly named “Deathstalker,” although others like the “Fat Tailed” scorpion run a close second and look even more menacing. The deathstalker does have some pretty convincing statistics, though. It is another Africa/Middle East variety with a very complex neurotoxin venom, said to be far stronger than any spider’s, including the adult Sydney Funnel Web, or the Brazilian Wandering Spider, both of which have killed quite a few humans. Deathstalker is a medium large creature with a thinnish tail supporting a large curved stinger. Worryingly - or at least, strangely, these dangerous creatures can be bought from dealers and kept by anyone! There is strong advice all over the internet advising hobbyists to leave this particular scorpion well alone as it has killed several enthusiasts who were lax about it’s imprisonment. Collectors protest that the deathstalker is one of the most “beautiful” of the scorpions. My own feelings on the matter which no one cares about but which I will vouchsafe and be damned, is they should be left in the wild or kept by experienced zookeepers and their ilk in secure, locked viewing areas, and never sold to members of the public. “Go on, dad, he’s soooo cute!“

We have one scorpion which has colonized the Hebrides in the UK, I can personally do without getting a sting on the nether regions by a Deathstalker while having a shag in Epping Forest, thank you very much (should that desirable situation ever present itself again to this aging scribe).

Scorpions are somewhat more romantic over their pairing-up and breeding than spiders (or human teenagers). They engage in a ritualized dance with locked claws, and the male even occasionally injects a drop of is own poison, a-la date rape drug, and engages in oral sex with the female. “Sexetcetera” ought to film this. He then deposits his sperm and she shuffles over to allow it to enter her ovarium (I’m not going to bother you with all the technical names and jargon…that’s what Wikipedia’s for - and why the fugg is it all in Latin?). Then they separate for ever, boo-hoo. But there’s no cannibalization by the female in most scorpions, as in some spiders like the Black Widow.

Some of the really huge scorpions, like Mexico’s “False Scorpion,” a jet black monster which can grow to eight inches long, are entirely harmless. You can generally tell a dangerous scorpion from a harmless one by the size of the pincers. Lethal scorpions have weak looking, fragile claws, as they rely on their venom to slow and stop prey. The harmless varieties with a milder venom, on the other hand, have fairly powerful looking, crab-like claws as they tend to grab and capture most of their victims, only using their sting to assist, or to cause the prey’s tissue to liquefy, perhaps; or for defence. If you do really want to handle a scorpion, it is better picked up by the tail, making sure the stinger can’t twist and prick your finger, the claws can’t hurt you, but might not feel nice as the creature ties itself in knots trying to escape, or gets you a good one with an injection of healthy neurotoxin. Be prepared to scream loudly as you rush around in a circle trying to find antivenin that no one will have ready - even if one exists for the species that stung you, and is now beating a hasty retreat back into your sleeping bag.

The only dangerous scorpion in the USA is the Arizona Bark Scorpion, with several sub types. Nasty little fellow that can make you pretty ill but won‘t kill an adult human in good shape (unless he also has allergies). But they will, and do, kill a lot of under- five-years-old kids, in fact, a whopping 25% of children stung by a Bark do in fact die, a sobering statistic for those who camp out in desert spots in the American South West (and Mexico).

Note: Scorpions are among the oldest creatures on the planet. They first appear in the fossil record 440 million years ago, during the Paleozoic's Silurian period. That's 30 million years before the first spiders, a full 200 million years before beetles and dinosaurs, and 438 million years before modern man! Can there be any doubt they will survive us as well?

Notes added: Scorpions are all nocturnal and they fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Collectors often use a “black light” to find scorpions at night and they can be detected in the house by their eerie glow.

They have rudimentary brains consisting of a large mass of nerve tissue near the eyes. This receives and delivers information to the organs and to sensory hairs on the exoskeleton. They have no circulatory system as such: the heart is a long tube which pumps blood around the creature. They moult to grow and have several eyes, above and alongside the “prosoma” (head).

It is incredible for me to reflect they have been so successful for so long, outliving millions of other life forms on the planet, including all the dinosaurs, yet their brains and organs are so simply evolved.

Perhaps one of the reasons perhaps is they are really the ultimate killing and defensive machine, able to stun and devour reptiles such as lizards, small mammals, as well as the whole host of insects on which they prey, including other scorpions and spiders.

They really fear nothing much in the way of predators, although they are killed and consumed by quite a few larger birds, reptiles and, especially, Meercats who dig for then all day.

Notes:   

Scorpions are easily distinguished by their long sting-bearing tail and a pair of pincers on long arms, known as pedipalps, at the front of the body. Despite having six to twelve eyes - an obvious pair at the centre of the carapace and two to five smaller eyes on each side - scorpions do not have good eyesight. However, they can readily distinguish light from dark and appear to have excellent low light sensitivity, which helps them to both avoid harsh sunlight and to navigate by starlight or moonlight. They sense their way around using sensory hairs and slit organs on the legs, pedipalps and body that pick up vibrations and scents (mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors). They also have special organs on the underside of the body called pectines, which pick up ground textures and scents. Scorpions breathe through four pairs of book lungs on the underside of the abdomen. Female scorpions are more heavily built than males, with shorter tails. Colour ranges from dark grey to light brown or gold, with lighter coloured legs. Scorpions also fluoresce under ultraviolet light, which is a good way for scientists to find them in the field. The fluorescence is thought to serve as an ultraviolet sensitivity mechanism, perhaps allowing the scorpion to avoid damaging light levels.

I don't think they can be considered "good," nor "bad" as far as their effect on the planet is concerned.  They would seem to prey on anything small enough to be stung, paralyzed and consumed.  They would seem to have value as a great "leveler" of many species which might become a plague without their predation.  They are one of the oldest creatures still around and enjoying huge success; and they really bother us very little.  I have never know a ferocious scorpion that tries to sting man unless man annoys it first, or accidentally puts a hand on it.  They are mainly nocturnal.  Another thing I have found with very venomous creatures is that they don't always envenonate in defense more than is necessary to deter the danger.  I have even found this with wasps that will sting but not inject all their venom.  Wild creatures have a lot more savvy that many give them credit for.  If we left them alone, they would certainly repay the favor in spades.

 

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    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      Another great hub, Bob! I'm not a big fan of scorpions personally. I regard their existence as yet another good reason to live in the UK as opposed to somewhere more exotic. Why do people have them as pets? Most odd. Even your pictures of them make me shiver!

    • profile image

      Diogenes 7 years ago

      Good point, Amanda, Britain is pretty bland. But I'd take the risk of a sting or three to have my favourite tacos to hand again! I can't understand why people have any scorpions in captivity outside of zoos, especially the lethal ones like "Deathstalker." Must have a smidgin of cachet I suppose getting legless and getting him out to impress a date! You girls like to live dangerously!??

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      Not that dangerously! Friends of ours keep snakes, and I find that just as mystifying.

    • Aqua profile image

      Aqua 7 years ago from California

      Very interesting article. I used to live in Florida and occasionally we found scorpions in the house. I only saw them in the master bedroom of all places and they scared the bejesus out of me!

    • profile image

      diogenes 7 years ago

      When I was in Cuernavaca they seemed to love the bedrooms, too. They are the only creature I used to kill without compunction back then, although I might have more mercy these days.

      Thanks for comment,

      Bob

    • profile image

      Scorps Rule!!! 7 years ago

      Stop being mean to scorpions, they only do what comes natually to them! But thanks for the info on them :)

    • profile image

      skool boy 6 years ago

      thanks for gelping me with my work

    • profile image

      skool boy 6 years ago

      thanks again

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Glad I was able to "gelp," schoolboy, hope you got good marks...bob

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Glad I was able to "gelp," schoolboy, hope you got good marks...bob

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Glad I was able to "gelp," schoolboy, hope you got good marks...bob

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      I think I need some "gelp" with my computer, or how to use it, sorry for repetition, all!

    • profile image

      insomniac 6 years ago

      Useful information. I was hoping to track down the name of the specific scorpion that attacked my sister when she was 13 years old.

      I know it was a deadly variety and put her in the hospital for almost a month with little hope. All we can remember at this point is that it might have come from Mexico (we live in AZ)and was referred to as albino. Since then she has been told that she was lucky to survive.

      Now she is suffering nerve damage issues 30 years later and is having difficulty finding the name of the culprit that caused all this.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Might have been a "Bark" scorpion, the only really deadly ones in the USA. They kill too many children and 25% of the victims do die, which is why the hospital said she was "lucky." It wouldn't have been Deathstalker, etc., as they come from the Old World.Sorry to hear of recurring problems so long afterwards...Bob

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Happy to find this hub, have had an unusual fascination with these creatures as long as can remember; even named my boy scout patrol after them; 'I know, weird'.there were a kind of them with small claws in the N.Georgia Mts. and S.C. foothills but oddly no farther north.Again excellent hub.

    • profile image

      diogenese 6 years ago

      The Scout patrol were the "Scorpions,?" Great Name.

      They fascinate me, too, because of their great age - nearly twice that of spiders. Extremely successful creature...Bob

    • profile image

      mike 6 years ago

      Informative Hub. However your comment that scorpions kill more people worldwide than snakes is incorrect. Even the most lethal scorpions would have a hard time killing a healthy adult unlike Mambas, Cobras, Taipans and several in the Viper family. India alone has around 50,000 snake bite fatalities per year and there are several thousand deaths reported over Asia and Africa.

    • profile image

      diogenese 6 years ago

      You appear to be both right and wrong. Although it's hard to get accurate figures, especially for scorpions, both snakes ans scorpions definitely kill thousands of people world-wide. It would seem logical that there are more snake venom fatalities, but accurate figures are still hard to get. Thanks for interest. Bob

    • profile image

      mike 6 years ago

      These are the numbers from WHO. Worldwide snake bite fatalities-20,000 to 94,000 per year. Worldwide Scorpion fatalities-3,300 to 5,000 per year. You are right that these numbers are estimates. The lethality of snakes versus scorpions is the volume of venom the animal can inject into a person. I'll use an African snake/scorpion as an example:

      Leiurus Quinquestriatus(Deathstalker) LD50 .25mg/kg SC average venom yield-.62mg.

      Dendroaspis Polylepis(Black Mamba) LD50 .32mg/kg SC average venom yield-100 to 120mg(maximum 400mg).

      Even though the scorpion is slightly more toxic, the Mamba injects over 100 times the amount of venom. Also, studies show that 3% of untreated Deathstalker stings are fatal. Nearly 100% of untreated Black Mamba bites are fatal.

    • profile image

      diogenese 6 years ago

      Thanks for that...Bob May I add this info to my hub?

    • quester.ltd profile image

      quester.ltd 5 years ago

      Wow - up, useful and interesting.

      I was stung once and your are right, that is enough.

      thanks,

      q

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hi Q: Thanks for comment on this old article...Bob

    • Offtrackmtb profile image

      Offtrackmtb 5 years ago from Top of a mountain

      We have tons of those nasty little bark scorpions here in Arizona, and if your house is on rock, for some reason they are everywhere, I have been stung six rimes, and every one is hideously memorable. I am only glad they are not deadly to adults, because YIKES! Do I ever loathe them. Great article, thanks.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Wow! That's not good! A few more times and you will become immune maybe. They can be fatal, especially to youngsters.

      Thanks for comment. Bob

    • profile image

      lavender3957 5 years ago

      Wonderful hub, very useful information. I had no idea that these things were that dangerous.

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Like the worst snakes, crocs, spiders and the rest, scorpions usually kill people in areas far from medical help and anti-venine. But they can make you very ill even when you do get speedy care...Bob

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 4 years ago from North Texas

      We have these horrid critters in North Texas, but not usually the deadly ones. There are deadly ones in Southern Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. Just another reason why Mexico doesn't appeal to me . . . enough nasty critters right here where I live! Have seen the ones that can puncture tires in Utah, and they get pretty big. The ones we have here in North TX are fairly small, but still wicked.

      Excellent hub! Voted you UP, interesting, useful, and awesome!!

    • diogenes profile image
      Author

      diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Hello Ducks. The scorps that puncture tyres (tires) are on loan from Hollywood, or have been run over and a sharp part of the exoskeleton has been forced into the tire.

      It's not the scorpion's sting keeping you out of Mexico.

      Hehhehheh.

      The Alacran Man x

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