Scorpions belong to the arachnid family. They have a crab like appearance, bearing multiple pairs of legs, and two pincers. They come in all shapes and sizes, and are equipped with a deadly weapon, a venomous stinger, positioned atop a coiled tail, made for striking their prey.
All scorpions have a venomous sting, but depending on their venom toxicity, they do not always present danger to humans. Key identifying traits can aid in determining what kind of scorpions are living in your area. Having a better knowledge of these creatures, can help prevent them from entering your home or help assess the potential culprit of a sting.
The types of scorpions most commonly found in America, reside in the deserts of the Southwest. This range is from southeastern California to Texas, going up north as far as Montana. Although scorpions are downright freaky, understanding where they live, and knowing how to identify them can help put some of your fears to rest.
#1 – The Arizona Bark Scorpion
The Arizona Bark Scorpion, commonly known as the Bark Scorpion, is the most poisonous scorpion in North America. A sting from one of these critters is likely to send you to the hospital seeing as their venom can last 24-72 hours in the bloodstream. Their stings cause searing pain around the site, swelling, numbness, and sometimes vomiting. Though their stings cannot kill a healthy adult, serious symptoms such as convulsions, shortness of breath, and frothing at the mouth can occur. It is imperative to seek medical attention for a sting from a Bark Scorpion, if the victim is a baby or young child, elderly, or ill.
The Arizona Bark Scorpion is one of the few species that travels in packs, so it is important to know, that if you ever spot one of these creatures inside your home, there are likely more, in or around the area. In the winter months they have been found traveling in packs of 20-30, and females typically birth 25-35 new babies at a time.
How to identify an Arizona Bark Scorpion:
- Subaclear Tooth– The Bark Scorpion has a defining “bump” directly under their stinger, which almost looks like a second stinger. This is unique to this species, and is very small, a magnifying glass may be needed to see it.
- Thin Tail & Pincers– Bark Scorpions have a thin tail and thin pincers compared to other types of scorpions, and have an overall more slender appearance.
- Tan, Yellow, or Orange– This species is typically lighter in coloring and depending on the last time molting occurred, these scorpions will range from a tannish yellow color to a darker brown or orange color.
- Length– Bark Scorpions don’t grow very large; though they are the smallest type of scorpion, their stings are the most lethal. Adult bark scorpions range from 2.5 to 3 inches long (tail to pincers) but babies can be as small as a black bean.
This species is most commonly found throughout Arizona and southern California, but can also be found in the states of Nevada and New Mexico.
#2 – The Striped Bark Scorpion
Not to be confused with the Arizona Bark Scorpion, the Striped Bark Scorpion is far less threatening in terms of their venom toxicity. Although medical attention should still be sought for those in the higher risk category, a healthy adult will not require a hospital visit from a sting of the Striped Bark Scorpion. Symptoms of this scorpion’s sting include numbness, tingling, and pain around the site.
These scorpions fall under the umbrella term of “bark scorpions” due to their preference in habitat. They are drawn to dead vegetation such as logs and fallen trees (hence the term ‘bark’) to provide them shelter. They are drawn to anything moist and dark, making attics and basements their main target when entering our homes. The Striped Bark Scorpion differs from their cousin, the Arizona Bark Scorpion, because they can be found in places outside of the desert, such as woodland type environments.
How to Identify a Striped Bark Scorpion:
- Two Tone Coloring– The Striped Bark Scorpion bears a pale, yellow colored tale and pincers, with a contrasting dark brown abdomen. For this species, the older scorpions will have two dark markings on their backs running parallel to their legs, with a dark triangular marking near their head.
- Long Slender Tail– A key identifying trait of the Striped Bark Scorpion is a long slender tail. Though they typically grow to be about 3 inches long, their tail makes up for almost half of that length.
- Black Stinger– At the top of their long tail, lies their infamous weapon. This species in particular, can be spotted by a black stinger.
The Striped Bark Scorpion is the most common type of scorpion found in the state of Texas but are also native to Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming.
#3 – The Giant Hairy Scorpion
The Giant Hairy Scorpion, also known as the Arizona Hairy Scorpion, is the largest species in North America. They are twice the size of the Bark Scorpions and tend to travel alone and dwell in dry, sandy areas. Utilizing the sand, The Giant Hairy Scorpion burrows into the ground, to escape from the extreme temperatures of the desert.
Despite their abrasive appearance, they have a docile temperament and people actually house these creatures as pets. The Giant Hairy Scorpion is actually the “giant teddy bear” of the scorpion family. Like its relatives, this species has a stinger, but is surprisingly hesitant to strike. In fact, when faced with danger, the Giant Hairy scorpion is likely to scurry away from confrontation rather than brace itself and fight. When cornered or provoked, the Giant Hairy Scorpion will sting, and this wound will cause some pain and swelling, however the venom is considered weak to mild.
How to Identify a Giant Hairy Scorpion:
- Size- They don’t call it giant for nothing. This scorpion can grow up to be 7 inches long, and its not dainty either. Unlike the Bark Scorpions with their slender build, the Giant Hairy Scorpion is hardy and robust.
- Hairy- This well-named creature has easy to spot hairs around its stinger and on its legs. This is a trait unique to this species.
- Coloring- Or lack thereof, the Giant Hairy Scorpion can sometimes appear colorless and see-through, although some have pale, colorless legs with a dark colored abdomen.
The Giant Hairy Scorpion is native to Arizona, California, Nevada, and Utah.
#4 – The Stripe Tailed Scorpion
The Stripe Tailed Scorpion is the most versatile species when it comes to their choice in habitat. Besides the typical desert type landscapes, this scorpion also dwells in the mountains, shrub lands, woodlands, and grasslands. The good news is, they aren’t typically found in homes, however be cautious when camping. These scorpions like to burrow, so shoes and sleeping bags make for great shelter.
The Stripe Tailed Scorpion is fast and aggressive with a very painful sting, however the venom toxicity is low and a sting is considered medically insignificant. In this case, the bark is worse than the bite, the initial pain is far worse than the danger to humans with this species.
How to Identify a Stripe Tailed Scorpion:
- Tail Stripes- This scorpion is named after its most identifiable attribute, the stripes on its tail. The Stripe Tailed scorpion has a clear tail with brown stripes running the entire length from abdomen to stinger.
- Enormous Stinger- Besides the venom, the reason this scorpions sting is so painful is due to the sheer size of the weapon. The stinger on a Stripe Tailed Scorpion is considerably large for the size of its body.
- Size- The Stripe Tailed Scorpion doesn’t get to be very big. An adult will grow to be around 1″ to 2.5″ long.
- Coloring- This species can vary depending on the elevation of where it is found. They have a two-tone coloring with pale pincers and legs and a dark abdomen. The coloring typically gets darker in higher elevations.
The Striped Tailed Scorpion is commonly found throughout Arizona but is also native to New Mexico.
Know Your Facts
Luckily, a scorpion’s name says a lot about them, and can help with the identifying process. Bark scorpions are found living in or near dead vegetation such as logs and trees, the Giant Hairy Scorpion is the largest in North America and has tiny hairs around its stinger and legs, and the Stripe Tailed Scorpion can be identified by the brown stripes on its tail.
In order to effectively prevent scorpions from entering your home, or suffering a painful sting, you must first, be informed. Knowing what you are dealing with and being able to identify these creatures can help with eradicating them. You must know what you are going up against before you can begin the extermination process.
Depending on the species, the medical attention for a sting could be very different*. Also, knowing the type of scorpions that live near you, can help in the process of elimination when determining the culprit of a sting, or figuring out how to begin the eradication process.
If you have any questions or tips and important facts that you would like to add about these arachnids, please feel free to leave your comments below.
*When in doubt, always seek advice from a medical professional.