When you come to the desert for a camping trip, you can look at its most common wildlife as something to be scared of and avoid or as a focus of interest, learning, and discovery. Whether you find things like spiders, snakes, and scorpions creepy or fascinating, you’ll want to know about how to interact with them on your desert forays.
Overall, there are about 1,500 species of scorpions known worldwide; of them, only 25 are considered “dangerous” to humans. While all species of Mojave Desert and Death Valley scorpions have the ability to inflict a painful sting, only one variety – the Arizona Bark Scorpion – is a serious threat to humans. Its sting injects a venom that will make you pretty sick for a few days, but is usually only life-threatening to young children, older adults, and pets.
The real purpose of a scorpion’s sting is to immobilize its prey. Those are normally things like beetles, spiders, crickets, cockroaches, and other insects. Some species of scorpion are also known to be cannibalistic.
Scorpions are out and about hunting nearly exclusively at night. During the day they hide under rocks and in holes to stay out of the sun and avoid predators that would gladly eat them.
The number one preventive measure for you to avoid a scorpion sting is never putting your hands anywhere you haven’t looked first – day or night.
Hey to you desert geocachers! No reaching behind a rock or into a hole in a cactus to extract a geocache without checking it out first!
This advice is a great cross over prevention caution for bites from snakes and spiders, too.
Never go barefoot in scorpion country – especially little kids and especially at night.
Always turn over your shoes and boots in the morning and give them a good shake. Way up in the toe of your boot is the perfect kind of daytime hidey hole for a scorpion. Same goes for your clothes if you left them on the floor or ground overnight. In camp, it’s best to hang your clothes, including footwear, whenever you can.
It’s a cool fact of the natural world that all scorpions “glow” when you shine a black light on them. There’s something in the tough layer of their exoskeleton the shines blue green under the black light. This makes scorpion hunting in the desert night eerie and fun. Three rules apply though:
#1 Look but don’t touch!
#2 Always were footwear that covers and protects your feet – boots or trail shoes, not flip flops or sandals.
#3 Remember, most everything in the desert is out to prick, bite, or sting you. Don’t get so caught up in your search for scorpions you walk right into a cactus. OUCH!
Go to the desert. Check out its varied wildlife. Have fun. Just take these precautions and you’ll greatly reduce the risk of painful kinds of encounters.