Are Scorpions Deadly?

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A beautiful desert hike can be lovely until you consider the many dangers out there, such as scorpions and rattlesnakes. If you live in the desert or are planning on visiting, you may be wondering how dangerous scorpions are.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics on dangerous scorpions: 

  • What Are Scorpions and How Do I Identify One? 
  • Are Scorpions Deadly?
Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

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    What Are Scorpions and How Do I Identify One?

    Scorpions are arachnids, which means that they are distant cousins to spiders. Much like spiders, mites, and ticks, they have eight legs. Their body is made up of scary pincers and a long, thin tail that ends in a barb. Their barb contains scorpion venom and delivers a painful scorpion sting that subdues their prey. Like spiders, scorpions eat insects, such as ants and cockroaches, primarily. However, they may also eat spiders, lizards, small rodents, and even other scorpions.

    Scorpions are found everywhere in the world, except for Antarctica, although they tend to prefer hot, dry climates like the desert. Scorpions are natural predators who wait until nightfall to hunt their prey. These nocturnal hunters will use their powerful stinger to subdue their prey until it is unable to move, then they will tear it into small pieces and eat it. 

    Unfortunately, scorpions are tough critters who can withstand harsh climates and conditions, making them difficult to kill. Most species of scorpions live between two and ten years, but some may live as long as 25 years.

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    Are Scorpions Deadly?

    In short, yes, scorpions can be deadly. However, it truly depends on the species of scorpion and if the individual experiences an allergic reaction. Certain groups of people, such as the elderly, young children, or immunocompromised, are at the greatest risk of complications if they are stung by a scorpion. 

    A common misconception about scorpions is that small scorpions release more venom and are more dangerous than their adult counterparts. Regardless of age, scorpions release about the same amount of venom.

    However, there are few lethal scorpions out there in the world. There are over 2,000 identified species of scorpions, and only 30 to 40 of those are currently considered deadly scorpions, which may deliver enough venom to kill a human. 

    Most lethal scorpion species live in the Middle East and North Africa. Currently, there is only one known scorpion in the United States, the Arizona bark scorpion, which can produce enough venom to kill someone, usually small children. However, hospitals in these areas are prepared and stocked with a large amount of antivenom to treat patients who come in with scorpion stings. Most people who receive immediate treatment for a scorpion sting will recover and not suffer from long-term health problems, although they may be in considerable pain for a while. 

    Common side effects of a scorpion sting include:

    • Intense pain
    • Numbness 
    • Mild swelling
    • Warmth at the sting site

    Severe symptoms of a scorpion sting include: 

    • Muscle twitching
    • Drooling
    • Sweating
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • High blood pressure
    • Accelerated heart rate
    • Restlessness or excitability (watch for uncontrollable crying in children
    • Strange head, eye, and neck movements (nervous system reactions)
    • Difficulty breathing

    If you are stung by a scorpion, we recommend immediately reaching out to poison control or a medical professional for your next steps, which in many cases will require simple first aid steps. If you are experiencing severe symptoms, it’s advised that you immediately go to your doctor, urgent care, or a nearby hospital. Even non-lethal scorpion species can cause some people to have severe allergic reactions, which can be dangerous in itself. 

    According to Banner Health, most scorpion sting symptoms usually last up to three days, with most signs beginning to clear within the first six hours. If you are experiencing severe symptoms or your symptoms are not decreasing, it is recommended that you seek medical treatment.

    There are over 2,000 identified species of scorpions, and only 30 to 40 of those are currently considered deadly scorpions, which may deliver enough venom to kill a human. 

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    The Arizona Bark Scorpion

    The Arizona bark scorpion is the most venomous scorpion in North America, making it a serious threat to many of us. Despite its name, the Arizona bark scorpion can be found throughout several southwestern parts of the United States, including California, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, and Arizona. People stung by this scorpion species describe the feeling as receiving painful “electric jolts,” and many report severe symptoms after being stung. 

    You can identify the Arizona bark scorpion by its slender body and thinner tail and pincers. They tend to be a tan to yellowish-brown color, with some having prominent striped markings running from their head to tail. Many have dark triangle markings on their heads. These scorpions are quite small, often around three inches long. Unlike other scorpion species, they will lay completely flat and “cock” themselves to their side before ambushing their prey and striking. 

    If you believe you’ve been stung by one of these Arizona bark scorpions, we recommend immediately seeking medical attention because their stings are known to be incredibly painful. Their stings can cause fatality or other severe symptoms if not treated with antivenom or other medical treatments. Many healthy adults can be treated with potent pain relievers and sedatives to help them until the pain recedes. Still, young children, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised may require antivenom to reverse their symptoms, especially if they are stung by a potentially life-threatening scorpion, like the Arizona bark scorpion. 


    Final Thoughts

    Scorpions are venomous creatures who are infamous for their painful stings. If you are stung by a scorpion, we recommend reaching out to your doctor for medical care. If you notice increasing numbers of scorpions on your property, we strongly recommend reaching out to your local pest control professional to have the scorpions taken care of. They can identify the types of scorpions on your property, and go over different treatment options, such as pesticides or exclusion techniques, to get rid of them.


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