Scorpion season is here, and it’s possible that you might encounter one of these tiny critters out in the desert, or as an unwelcome visitor in your home.
Though in Tucson we tend to run across only one type of these creatures there are, in fact, many varieties. According to Britannica, scorpions are, “any of approximately 1,500 elongated arachnid species characterized by a segmented curved tail tipped with a venomous stinger at the rear of the body and a pair of grasping pinchers at the front.”
The key word here is venomous. Although the sting of a scorpion may not sound as alarming as a snake bite, it can be very painful. The bark scorpion — the layman category under which about 70 different species are lumped — is the sort most frequently found in the Sonoran Desert region, and it can be dangerous despite its diminutive size. Its venom contains neurotoxins, and in rare cases, stings have proved life threatening.
There actually isn’t a true “season” for scorpions per se, but the summer months tend to be a mating time for them, which increases the likelihood of finding one in your home. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center says that most reported stings took place after dark during the summertime, including many while someone was sleeping. Sleepers have observed that they’ve rolled onto a scorpion, which was in their bedding. In terms of unpleasant encounters, the Grand Canyon State is ground zero in the U.S., with the country’s highest number of stings reported each year. If you haven’t been stung, or don’t know anyone who has, it might be hard to imagine the trauma caused by these small critters (which, by the way, aren’t classified as insects; they are arachnida, closer in nature to spiders). If you’re a parent or grandparent of a small child, or a caregiver for someone who is elderly or has special needs, you can easily understand why preventing a scorpion incursion is critical.
Keeping scorpions out of homes, however, can be a tough assignment. A bark scorpion has the ability to climb vertically, allowing it to scurry up steps, over thresholds and into your house.
For one Arizona-based company, 95Applications, battling scorpions is a personal war. The three-year-old son of Co-founder Tony Gonzales was stung by a scorpion, and after the child’s trip in an ambulance and high hospital bills, Tony knew he wanted to help others avoid the same fate. He and his business partner Aaron Gonzales (no relation) put together a research team that developed a product called AVERZION, a glass-like coating applied around the base of a home to prevent scorpions from climbing in.
AVERZION is not a pesticide, but works in conjunction with pest control substances so that scorpions are kept in pesticidetreated areas longer. Studies have shown that scorpions die 46 percent faster when AVERZION was used with broad-spectrum pesticides.
Humans have been coexisting with scorpions for a very long time, so as you might suspect, there are home remedies for defeating these pests. Leaving a damp, burlap bag open in areas where you’ve seen scorpions can act as a trap. Just be careful handling the bag if anything slips into it! Spraying diluted solutions of essential oils such as peppermint, cedar and lavender — due to the powerful scent, which scorpions don’t like — reportedly deter these pests from entering your house, and have the benefit of being safe for pets and people. By the same token, heavily scented dryer sheets — which are claimed by some home remedy proponents to repel wasps, ants and other pests — may work if left in places where scorpions are likely to take refuge.
Whichever methods you use, it’s recommended by experts that you keep areas outside your home free of clutter (plant clippings, trash, etc.), and be especially vigilant around woodpiles, compost heaps, and stacks of rocks or stones as these are favored places for bark scorpions to chill out until nightfall, when they emerge to hunt.