Sonoran Desert Naturalist >>> Field Guide >>> Spiders, Scorpions and other Arachnids >>> Scorpion Conservation
Scorpions are among the world's most misunderstood and feared creatures. Human fear of scorpions is mainly derived from that fact that scorpions have the ability to inject toxic venom. Scorpions are, however, not as dangerous as many people believe. Out of the 1,500 scorpion species found around the world, only around 25 species are equipped with a venom that is powerful enough to be lethal to humans.
Out of the approximately 100 scorpion species found in the United States, only the Arizona Bark Scorpion - Centruroides sculpturatus - possesses venom that is toxic enough to cause human fatalities. Fatal stings are rare, however, in the United States. According to the University of Arizona, Cooperative Extension, no fatal scorpion stings have occurred in the United States in 20 years. Furthermore, according to Health24.com, less then 5% of scorpion stings result in symptoms requiring medical attention. Anti-venoms, improved medical protocols, and a greater knowledge of scorpions have reduced the chances that stings will be fatal.
Scorpions have venom as a means to quickly kill or immobilize prey. Scorpions can and do control how much venom they inject during a sting as the venom is crucial for subduing prey. If the scorpion depletes all of its venom it will take several days to restock the supply. Due to these facts, scorpions may not want to waste their valuable venom during defensive stings. Stings occur in which no venom is injected, these are known as 'dry stings.'
The most common scorpions found in the Sonoran Desert are the Giant Hairy Scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis) the Striped Tailed Scorpion (Vaejovis spinigerus and the Baja California Bark Scorpion (Centruroides exilicauda). Out of these species, only the Baja California Bark Scorpion's venom is toxic enough to cause potentially dangerous symptoms in humans. However, this species is not normally considered dangerous to healthy adults. The stings of both the Striped Tailed and Giant Hairy Scorpion are similar to that of a wasp sting.
Scorpions are not malicious creatures that stalk out humans to sting. Scorpions are also not usually aggressive creatures, but rather wary, timid, and retiring. Most people are stung by scorpions when they accidently step on them, stick their hands or feet into places that act as shelter for scorpions (such as under rocks, under debris, etc.) or when someone intentionally handles them. Taking precautions such as always wearing proper footwear outdoors and never sticking your hands or feet into places that may act as potential hides will greatly reduce the chances of receiving a scorpion sting. Common sense and caution outdoors with help alleviate confrontations between humans and wildlife.
Once people look past their fears, they can start to see scorpions as they amazing and beneficial creatures that they are. Scorpions are extremely valuable components to natural Eco-systems, as they play complex roles of both predators and prey. Scorpions also act as natural gauges for environmental degradation. When scorpions cease to turn up in habitats that should support them, it is a strong indicator that the environment has been severely degraded. In this respect, scorpions act like 'the canary in the coal mine' for certain natural habitats.
Scorpions are also valuable to medical research. The venoms of several different species are being looked at as they may be instrumental in the creation of new antibiotics and various cancer treatments, including brain cancer.
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