By Russ and Tiña De Maris
We get a lot of requests from readers for information about desert scorpions. Usually these queries come from folks who’re planning their first trip to desert country. People want to know things like, how likely are we to run into them? How poisonous are they? What do you do if you get stung by a desert scorpion? How can we protect ourselves?
A little “paw holding” about bark scorpions
We’re happy to talk about scorpions, as they thrive in the Quartzsite area. But first, let’s do a little “paw holding” and tell you it’s not as scary as it sounds. We’ve been “doing the desert” for about a quarter century. In all our time we’ve seen a few, and only once (hold your breath) have we had anyone we know stung.
Of the desert scorpions most likely to be found in the Quartzsite area is the bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus. Not the kind of critter to make it into a sci-fi movie on account of size, the bark scorpion is rather small. Males can measure in at a smidge over 3” in length, while females only 2 ¾”. Mind you, that includes that impressive tail, wherein the stinger dwells, and the forelegs. They’re typically light-brown, but as you travel to Northern Arizona, you may find a bark scorpion with stripes.
Perhaps what frightens folks about scorpions, aside from their stings, are their habits. Like all good creatures of nightmare material, they’re nocturnal. At night they come out from their hiding places (plant bark and rocks are favorites) and head out for their daily snacking routine. They’re not looking for you—they prefer insects, spiders, and, perish the thought, even other scorpions.
Before we get to the “tail” of this tale, let’s chat about some interesting facts about bark scorpions. After mama and daddy scorpion have a brief tryst, the eggs incubate for several months. But when they’re born, the mother scorpion takes a definite maternal interest in the young ones. She gently guides the little guys—up to 35 of them—up her pinchers and onto her back. There, the newborns hang out until they molt—a period of several weeks. Desert scorpions are good mommies!
The bark scorpion can live up to six years. They’re quite resilient, designed for dry Arizona desert living. They’re so durable that scorpions found at a desert nuclear bomb test site were found to have been unaffected by nuclear radiation.
Tale of the tail
We hear you: “Get to the point!” Ah, yes. That point at the end of the tail. The dispenser of venom. Sad to say, of all desert scorpions, the bark scorpion does in fact have what is considered the most powerful venom of all. An RVing friend of ours had an unfortunate firsthand, or, should we say, “first leg” experience with this. A little scorpion crawled up her pant leg one night while sitting by the fire. She didn’t notice—until the thing got concerned and nailed her. Happily, the worst part of her experience was the pain. Described as “extreme,” it took several days for it to go away. Six months later she still complained of pain.
In worst-case scenarios, the venom of the bark scorpion can do worse. A short-term loss of breath is possible. Get stung on a limb and you could experience “temporary dysfunction” of the affected area—immobilization, or even convulsions. Death, luckily, is a rare outcome of a bark scorpion sting. Arizona has recorded only two deaths in the last 53 years due to stings.
Prevention is best
Ounce of prevention is the best solution. Since scorpions like to hang out in rocks or around wood, stuffing your hand into their environment could lead to problems. Mama scorpions are extremely defensive and tend to get rather riled when carrying offspring. But how would you know, unless you saw her toting those little children? You wouldn’t! So, best advice, don’t go handling firewood without gloves on, and don’t casually stick your hands into rocky cracks. Put down a carpet outside your RV? When you go to pick up the carpet or a mat, you may find that scorpions have found a great place to hang out. Wear gloves!
Since scorpions are more active at night, it would be good if you could see in the dark. You can’t? Well, here’s where modern technology can help. Scorpions, when hit with UV light, stand out, as they say, like a sore thumb. Here’s a “black light” flashlight sold on Amazon that runs on AA batteries. Fire it up, and scorpions within six feet will shine with a brilliance that will astound you. Provided they’re not the babies—they don’t fluoresce until after they’ve molted. But since they hang out with mom until then, you should see her toting them.
First aid for scorpion stings
But what if it all fails, and you get stung by one of these desert scorpions? Here’s the first aid regimen:
- Clean sting site with soap and water
- Apply a cool compress (cool cloth)
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for local pain and swelling
If you should develop other symptoms, call the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. Yes, there is an antivenin (antivenom), but not all hospitals are up on it. When our friend was stung, we called down to the nearest hospital in Blythe and got a casual “shrug of the shoulder” response. They weren’t even sure if they ever had the antivenin on site.
If you made it all the way to here, stop shivering. One thing to note is that desert scorpions tend to be seasonal creatures. January and February happen to be their “vacation season.” The cool weather tends to cause them to hunker down in whatever hideout they have, so the likelihood of running into a bark scorpion this time of the year is significantly reduced. Even so, it’s best to act like they’re everywhere, because the one you see might not have read this article.
The weekly statistics
How many folks in Quartzsite? It’s impossible to accurately gauge. We’re using the census count from the Hi Jolly Short Term Visitor Area as a gauge.
|Last Week||This Week||Change|
We put a disclaimer on this one. Trying to assure an accurate count of the number of rigs at Hi Jolly is nearly impossible. RVs are crammed into every possible location, singly and in huge groups. We have to count the old-fashioned way—from the ground. Anybody got a drone that takes photos?
Fuel Costs (Average)
|Last Week||This Week||Change|
|Propane||2.833||2.868||1.24% increase (Best price, Pattie’s RV Park at $2.73. Worst, RV Pit Stop $3.00)|
|Last Week||This week|
|Verizon Mobile||2.08D/1.07U 3:50 PM
0.55D/2.71U 9:09 PM
|1.12D/1.30U 1:49 PM
0.26D/2.06U 7:04 PM
|ATT Mobile||1.73D/3.81U 3:51 PM
0.54D/3.73U 9:09 PM
|4.77D/3.86U 1:49 PM
0.85D/2.81U 7:04 PM
Our “face mask count” is based on numbers of folks at three locations: a popular grocery store, the post office, and a “dollar store.” The count is the total number of folks present and those who are masked up. The percentage given is the percentage of mask-wearers. We are changing our COVID patient count methodology. We’re including new cases within the last week, and comparing the percentage of change from two weeks back. The data is provided by the Arizona Department of Health.
Face Mask Count [Total people counted/masked (% masked)]
|Last Week||This Week|
|106/26 (26.4%)||116/27 (23.3%)|
COVID Patient Count
Our statistics are from the Arizona Department of Health, as presented by Arizona Central. They are:
Quartzsite average daily cases in last week: 4
Quartzsite average cases per 10,000 people: 10 (week prior: 6)
Change in number of cases from two weeks ago: 288% higher.
With the huge increase in the number of folks crammed in Quartzsite, we can only project that these numbers will increase even more. Stay tuned.
Want to know more about Quartzsite? Have something to share? Here’s what to do. Fill out the form below and include “Quartzsite” in the subject line.
Discovered one on the kitchen floor in Arkansas in a brand new apartment complex. Local pest control company stated they are very common in brand new virgin “ground never previously disturbed”. They also stated being stung by those in Arkansas was nothing more than a wasp/bee sting. Sure relieved my fear of horrible consequences seen in movies !
Got stung a couple years back, on my big toe, not in Quartzsite but not too far away. Hurt like a wasp, not too bad. Called poison control (’cause I’m old) and they said no worries. It was interesting to feel the numbness spread from my toe to my leg and on up until my lips felt like at the dentist, then back down again, took about 8 hours. No lasting effect.
Spent 2 1-2 years in the Air Force stationed in the Mojave desert. Walked thru the desert and worked outside thru out the base. Never remember seeing any scorpions or hear of anyone getting bitten.
Living in a small city in Californias Mojave desert for 19 years I have seen 4 scorpions, 1 outside, 1 in family room and 2 in our bed when getting ready for the night sleep. Luckily my wife noticed when she pulled back the blankets, sucked up with vacuum then completely tore back all the sheets and blanket and made darn sure there were no others. Could have been one heck of a night. On another note, on the phone with my brother one night, who lives in Arizona, all the sudden let’s out a yelp…standing on his back porch with the lights off, yep scorpion got him. He said it was painful but luckily had no other reactions. Lived to talk another day.
As a 6 year old living in Nigeria, I used to play with scorpions. I’d knock their stinger off with a rock, then they were harmless. I’d tie a string around their tail and swing it around overhead. The African ladies in our compound would run screaming!! My parents must have been horrified when they found out how I amused myself. I did get stung once on the outside of my foot. I was raking leaves while wearing sandals. It hurt like heck and I thought I was going to die, but the pain wore off after a day.
I was stung by a scorpion when I was a kid. Right in the arch of my foot. It was like getting stung by a wasp. Thought I was going to die, but didn’t. Couple hours later I had forgot about it. I’ve also been snake-bit. Rattlesnake right on my walkway.
Thank you for this very informative and fear-dispelling article. I think what is the most “comforting” fact was reading how few you have seen and how few bites you know of in all of your many years spent there.