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Many Scorpion Legs With Many Stories
The Creatures Nightmare's Are Made From
Scary Arizona creatures stand out in my childhood nightmares. It had a lot to do with finding one small scorpion inside my sock and being duly warned by parents and grandparents to shake out clothes, shoes, socks and bedding. Being always on the alert for ugly creatures who sting or bite, often were fuel for unwanted dreams of the same.
Then of course, there were the horror stories you listened to from the great story tellers of our little tribe of family. Mom (Ginn Navarre) was the one you could count on for the fun and terror type of tale you wanted to hear again and again -- no matter how gross or shocking.
Her story of Aunt Pearl's hired man running out of the out house in pain when a scorpion attached itself to his male appendage only to have prim and proper Aunt Pearl chasing after him, beating him with a broom for "exposing himself" -- didn't leave much to the imagination, except in the "how much it hurt" department. My little brother even was more impressed than I was with that tale.
In the old days when those heroes of romance and chivalry of whom we still read in history were still living, a doughty warrior who had braved every peril which he could imagine, would have immediately refused to read any further and have crept trembling to bed.
For my story of many legs with many stories is about scorpions and spiders and some other things of ill-fame, even in our own day. In former times their reputation was far worse.
Our forefathers down to Shakespeare's time and far later, believed in dragons and fire-breathing basilisks. They thought that as scorpions ate venomous things to increase the power of their own venom, so these fabulous creatures lunched on scorpions to add to the intensity of their own evil poisons.
The Old Testament teems with references to scorpions. Later, terrible tales were told. There were scorpions that stung young girls to death on sight, and caused the lingering death of women. Others ate men. Still others had feathers and few afar to their mischief.
Some scorpirons had such a hatred toward men that they would mount to the ceiling and hang, one from another, five or six deep, merely for the evil delight of inflicting a mortal wound.
The Truth About Dreaded Scorpions And Their Lives
The truth is that scorpions, spiders, and their allies, while not exactly lovable creatures are, for the most part, the victims of libel.
The one stings, the other bites. Both have poison which may make a sensitive and nervous victim ill, or even kill in an exceptional cases. The key point to remember is that these are "exceptional" cases.
Scorpions have their unpleasant aspect, undoubtedly, but it is wrong and foolish to overstate the case against them. They, like the spiders, feed upon insects and other small creatures, taking the good -- according to man's ideas -- with the bad, but having no desire to harm man.
If the order were nearly as fatal to human fortunes as these old beliefs represented, there would be no human family in existence. Scorpions are almost as old as the hills. Their lungs are quite different from the lungs of mammals and resemble in some ways the gills of a fish.
The arrangement of these organs is suggested by their name -- lung brooks. They communicated with the atmosphere through narrow openings, and are composed of a number of thin projections, like the pages of a book.
The blood circulates through these, comes in contact with the air, and so is purified. Therefore the scorpions and its allies are able to live in the same atmosphere as we do.
Like all arachnids, to which they belong, scorpions have no neck. The head is really part of the thorax. Two pairs of appendages spring from the head.
There is a small pincer on each side of the mouth called the "chelicera." Behind these is a formidable pair of pincer claws which serve to grasp prey. They then act as jaws to tear and rend it in readiness for the mouth, which suck the juices from the mangled fragments of a victim.
By contrast, four pairs of clawed legs arise from the hinder part of the chest. True insects have on three such pairs.
Old Beliefs Die Hard
Whenever we look on the dainty forget-me-not flower, it's good to remember there is an old-time name for that plant -- scorpion grass. It was anciently believed in in Europe, especially in England that if people used scorpion grass they would have no need to fear the sting of a scorpion.
Well, they were right, as far as England was concerned. Even if they did not call scorpion grass to their aid, for as far as science knows, there never were any scorpions in that country. Scorpions are fairly widely scattered about the earth, and abound in Southern Europe, as well as in parts of the United States.
Temperature, rather than light is the main requisite. Though scorpions have three of four pairs of eyes, they see but dimly, and come out to hunt only at dusk. Touch and smell are their guiding instincts, and both faculties reside apparently, in the great pincer-like claws which we call the "pedipalps."
Nothing more than two or three inches away is visible to a scorpion. Experiment has shown that the creatures will run partly over a cockroach without discovering it till its sensitive feelers touch it. Then it will draw back and eat the booty just discovered.
The great lobster-like claws are carried in front of the head. They are not used for walking, nor do they have any share in the digging of the sandy home, for this is the work of the legs, with the tail to sweep away the accumulated debris.
The pedipalps, then, sense and grip objects. If the prey is small, the calws do the whole business of slaughter. A larger victim, however, is firmly grasped and held, while the tail is curved over the back and the sting brought down and introduced. After that there is no resistance. The little monster eats his meal.
Running From Light
Generally scorpions avoid human beings, and they run anywhere for seclusion from light.
They delight in creeping into beds, shoes, and clothes -- so that when we get into a bed or put on our garments in the tropics -- we may be invading the very place, which a scorpion has chosen in which to hide away from the daylight.
Then, if we are not frightened by the threat of his angry pinchers, he applies his poison-oozing sting, causing violent pain and sickness. It used to be that only nervous weaklings died with the bite of a small snake, a scorpion, or a big spider.
Even doctors in the old days believed that it took a certain type of temperament to collapse under the shock of a scorpion bite. Hence that was the indictment of which the poor scorpion got his reputation and probably can never prove himself guiltless.
The natural prey of the scorpion consists of spiders, insects that live on the ground, and from time to time -- small frogs and even small mice.
Agile, elusive creatures all these, it will be noticed, for an assailant which does not readily detect prey at a distance. True, but the creatures caught by the scorpion are not all keener of sight than their captor. If the day's hunting proves unsuccessful, the scorpion can bear it. Northern kinds fast during the winter season, thought alive and alert as the wintering crayfish.
The Cannibal Bride
There was a famous naturalist named Henry Favre who spent many months studying scorpions. His research was the foundation of much of what the world would learn about the true life habits of scorpions. I learned a lot about scorpions from reading his results.
However, I also once knew an old Navajo man who was a naturalist, even if he probably didn't know the term "naturalist" as a part of his daily vocabulary. He once told me:
"One item of diet has to be added. It is the scorpion!"
He attributed his long and healthy life to that aspect of his diet. Now, and back then, all I can say is: "I don't think so." Not once in all my travels to strange places and particularly in Asia where you see them offered by sidewalk vendors on a stick as a treat, have I been ever tempted.
Anyway, he taught me that for the scorpion, the couritng season often ends in tragedy. Before the wedding the males woo ardently. The little male seizes a buxom female greatly his superior in size and power. With their hideous faces brought into contact, they exchange what a scorpion poet might dignify with the name of a kiss.
Then off they prance, the male grasping the female's claws. He walks backwards, leading or gently dragging his mate after him. They may promenade for hours, even for days, in this way, till finally he induces her to approach a burrow which he has made.
However the result is never in doubt. Once the female accepts the home and fortune presented by the male, the end is in sight. She enters, settles down, and dines -- on her bridegroom!
However, he is not stung to death -- merely eaten. Scorpion poison is not harmful to the scorpions. There are old tales that the scorpion sometimes stings itself to death. Nonsense!
National Geographic - Emperor Scorpions
Eight inches is the greatest length to which scorpions are known to attain. Three inches is about the average for adults outside of the tropics.
The tales of their eating men and other victims of bulk are as ridiculous as that they are winged and feathered. Even so, they have sufficient terrors for nervous folk (including this one) who find them sharing their socks.
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