Friday, July 15, 2016

Hunting Bark Scorpions: A Completely Non-Political Post

Living in the Arizona desert, I get used to the fact that nearly every plant and every bug has some kind of spike, bite, or stinger.

The worst of the lot, in my view, is the bark scorpion. They are arachnids indigenous to Arizona and New Mexico. They especially thrive in the Sonoran Desert, where there is sufficient water. (Yes, even scorpions need water. At the very least, they need juicy bugs that need water.)

Bark scorpion stings are quite painful. I've been stung a couple of times. Other than the throbbing pain, I don't seem to suffer any ill effects. Some folks (like my across-the-street neighbor) can have an allergic reaction which can cause breathing problems, dizziness, a racing heart, and painful stiffening of the joints.

These critters love the cinder block wall surrounding my back yard. (They thrive on the random bugs and the plentiful water.) They are nocturnal predators. During the day, they hide just about anywhere they can find to get out of the hot Arizona sun. Mostly, they crawl into the cinder block fence and sit around (either playing pinochle, or more probably planning my demise) until the sun goes down.

Bark scorpions are highly resistant to chemical pesticides, so are difficult to control. Some folks have success spreading diatomaceous earth around the base of their walls and fences.

The only thing I've found to keep the scorpions at bay is to hunt them down at night using a black light. Bark scorpions fluoresce under a black light, glowing a brilliant green. Seriously. Usually they are incredibly difficult to detect, being masters of camouflage and with the ability to flatten themselves into the tightest spaces. (Hence, they can easily crawl under the seals at the bottom of the door.) Under the beam of a black light, they glow from dozens of feet away.

I go out scorpion hunting several nights a week during the summer. I take along my trusty "Slipper of Mighty Slaying" (an old rubber-soled slipper repurposed as a champion scorpion squisher). I also take along a putty knife, dedicated to the task of cutting scorpions to bits when they crawl into tight cracks or crevices.

I find scorpion hunting oddly relaxing. I can take out my testosterone-induced aggression against a foe that would otherwise sneak into my bed and sting me, or at least eat crackers. (Scorpions have no sense of honor.) It's far better to keep the predators at bay, far away from the edges of my home.

If you come out to visit, be sure to join me in the hunt. It's an inexpensive but satisfying hobby.