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Scorpion Control and Shipping Scorpions

Kari J. McWest
Canyon, Texas

Scorpion Control In Your Home

New Blacklights Page!

NEW: Scorpions known to invade homes:
In the Southeastern US, the common scorpion is
Vaejovis carolinianus
In the central US:
Centruroides vittatus
In New Mexico and Western Texas are:
Centruroides vittatus
Vaejovis coahuilae

First and Foremost: scorpions essentially can NOT be controlled by passive means, i.e., insecticides, chemicals, etc. It is not that they are immune to these methods, it is simply due to their life style, i.e., they do not nest, so laying poison or boric acid everywhere will merely kill the ones coming in, and does so slowly. They might live several days before succumbing to the chemicals. By then they might have already stung someone by falling from the ceiling into a bed or crawled into clothes which were put on without inspection.

Unlike other household pests like the cockroach, which not only nests but lays egg cases just about anywhere that hatch in only several days, scorpions give live birth and have a very long gestation period, up to 9 months for the usual suspects of home invasion (below)! Therefore, it is not really true that if you see one scorpion a hundred others are around “in the woodwork” (like with German cockroaches).

The only “danger” scorpions exhibit when invading your home is that of being stung by one. Scorpions do not carry or transmit diseases, they are scrupulously clean.

Who Gets Scorpion Pests and Why Do They Come In?
Again, scorpions do not "nest," some do burrow. The species that commonly invade homes in the American Southwest are (1) the common striped scorpion, Centruroides vittatus, a common pest particularly in central and east Texas, much of Oklahoma, and eastern New Mexico (it occurs in other south-central states); and (2) the Arizona bark scorpion, Centruroides exilicauda, formerly known as Centruroides sculpturatus, invades homes in Arizona, particularly rural areas near Phoenix and Tucson. Both are medically important species and at least the Arizona bark scorpion has been confirmed for causing deaths, though not in many years. Cats are presumably immune to their venoms, but dogs may be sensitive.

These scorpions are wanderers, "opportunists," and will hide under anything that suits them! Folded laundry, towels in linen closet, pants, shirts, shoes on the floor, dirty clothes piled up on the floor, etc.... folded grocery bags.... even bread boxes! Outside they love wood, rocks, lumber piles, fire wood stacks, palm fronds, virtually anything they can crawl into, squeeze into, crawl under, you name it.

The Main Idea
Perhaps the best thing to do for scorpion control is to put a serious dent in their population. One thing that makes this easy is the amazing fact that scorpions fluoresce under longwave (around 480 nanometers) ultraviolet, i.e., black light (the jury is still out on the "why"). Get a portable, battery-powered fluorescent lantern and insert blacklight tubes, or buy one equipped with blacklight tubes from any number of biological/scientific supply houses or Bass Pro Shops. Blacklight “Party Bulbs” that screw into ordinary household lamps do not work in the least.

FYI, other arthropods that fluoresce include certain types of millipedes, solpugids (sun spiders, wind scorpions, solifuges, camel spiders, etc.), and sand crickets. The legs of some millipedes “glow” intensely bright; solipugids and sand crickets are merely noticeable and are green to blue. Most scorpions “glow” a bright chartreuse (yellow green).

What To Do
Go out every night beginning with the first 70 degree F day (or 49 degree F at dusk) with no moon or dark night and collect every night, especially during the two weeks around the New Moon until you actually run out of them. Go everywhere around and in the house, under the house if you dare (beware of Black Widows and recluse spiders) blacklighting. Also set up a scorpion "trap" by laying out sheets plywood (easiest to move around) away from the house and keep them moist (not "wet", except for rain) and they will find their way to it and you can gnab them that way. The plywood acts kind of as a barrier to keep them away from house if you lay them out systematically.

Shipping Scorpions For Research or Identification
First of all, the United States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), and Federal Express (FedEx) will send live scorpions within the US. If potentially dangerous scorpions are sent the package must be labelled as such, and it is my suggestion to clarify how with the local Postmaster. “Loose” quantities of alcohol are not accepted by the USPS (if known) because of the fire hazard. Alcohol damp paper towels or cotton, enough to keep the specimen(s) moist and to prevent drying, are acceptable as long as the immediate container is contained/wrapped in multiple layers.

Live scorpions of certain genera, especially Centruroides, can be sent "in bulk" in something like a Gladware container with paper towels (dry) to hold them all together to keep from being shaken around in the mail. Do not mix species or sizes of scorpion (big ones Can, Will, and Do eat little ones). Several Ziploc bags with paper towel wadded up and into one container works well, too. Then pack the container, with few very small holes to help prevent heat buildup, not for air, tightly in newspaper, packing popcorn, whatever, for good insulation. **NO WATER** especially during warm periods. Just give them some water in advance for them to drink: mesic species, especially. If you can ensure coolness by really insulating well, then it is OK and even advisable to mist the paper towels in with the scorpions. Make sure there is *no movement* of the container in the box. Make sure the box is big enough to allow at least or about 2-3 inches from each side of the container.

Dead scorpions should be *immediately* placed in alcohol (good ol' rubbing alcohol, 70-80% isopropyl or ethanol, tequila, mezcal, overproofed rum, etc, no beer ;) with a pencilled label stating where, when and who collected the beast(s), separately if possible to each locality (except for "your house" then you can include a lot and say (for example, I know I'm not accurate ;)

TX: Hays Co.
US 290, 2.5 mi E Dripping Springs at Cottonwood Way
in sink in house
20 June 2001
Leg: D Schaffer, G Schaffer

Essentially, the Extra-Thorough Data Label consists of (minimum: 1, 2, 5, 6):

1) Country: State: County
2) Town or distance in 0.1 mi or km from nearest town or major highway intersection or stream, etc.;
3) Specific locality or microhabitat (under rock [limestone, granite...], under bark, in shoe, live oak community....);
4) Weather Conditions, if you like; e.g., seen with UV, new moon, 72 F, light wind, low humidity, recent rains...);
5) Date: Day Month Year (explained below) -- 21 Jun 2001 or 05 Nov 2001. Or Date Range: Summer 2001, May-Jul 2001, 21 Jun --2 Jul 2001, etc.;
6) Collector(s): this includes the following situation
Little 2 1/2-year-old Mackenzie is outside and turns over a rock: runs to tell daddy, "Scorpion!!! Come Look!!!" You "collect" it; but she really found it all by herself and y'all weren't on a collecting spree:
"Leg: Mackenzie Schaffer"
"Leg: " is for Legare (Latin for collector, really. “Col” is also used). If Diana and George are down the road (i.e., at one locality) looking for critters and a hole bunch are found and thrown in together,
"Leg: Diana & George Schaffer" or vice-versa (flip a coin) or "D. & G. Schaffer"
If you have been picking them up in the house, just drop them all together with locality data "in house" Date as "Jun-Jul 2001" or "Summer 2001" or whatever works, and heck include the whole family, even baby Grant!

Sometimes three or more in a collecting party will be referred to like "G. Schaffer, et al." in a publication. Et al. meaning Et alumni, meaning "and others". But it is always a good idea to list all in your collecting party.

Date Format, Suggested by Erich Volschenk of Australia
Those of you in the United States may be wondering, "Why put the Day before the month?" Well, it just so happens that the USA is backwards at many things, including date format. Logic usually makes one list things or describe things in order of importance or size, not so with the Date Format of the USA, which is Month/Day/Year. We don't say 45:12 when it 12:45 now do we? No. We don't address each other as Smith John, either. I live in Canyon, Randall County, Texas, USA. There is a particular order to things and in every other country in the world the Date Format is Day/Month/Year.
Because of this difference, it is very important that one writes the Name of the Month on the data label: when someone in Australia sees a data label with 8/12/1999 it is perceived as "08 December 1999" and someone in the USA thinks "August 12, 1999". This can be important as the dates reflect totally different seasons, very important to researchers when gathering data.

Shipping With Alcohol
1) No live ones mixed in the box
2) No "loose" alcohol (illegal, although I recently received such a package! ;) Instead, place specimens in very leak-proof jars (plastic is bad) and cover tightly, without damaging specimens, with cotton balls or paper towels: then fill with alcohol, the cotton will absorb most of it and keep contents from shaking. They just need to be alcohol-moist and immobile. Pack jars as you would expect them to be handled by our esteemed USPS, you know what I mean ;) FedEx and UPS have few problems with poor handling of packages and can be tracked. But the costs involved are high for what can be done with USPS Priority.
*I* occasionally place specimen(s) with pencilled data label in a Ziploc (alcohol does not immediately eat Ziploc plastic! imagine that), a bit of alcohol to keep them covered, squeeze out air (easy to do with alcohol), place all together in leak-proof jar or Gladware inside larger Ziploc bag. Pack tightly in box as described above.

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