More than 1,400 scorpion species have been documented around the world, the most dangerous of which inhabit African and the Middle East. In Arizona, somewhere between 40 and 60 scorpion species have been documented, but many species remain undescribed due to the difficulty in differentiating between morphologically and genetically similar specimens. Scorpion species in Arizona are not considered dangerous to humans, with the exception of bark scorpions, which produce potentially lethal venom. While bark scorpion stings are tremendously painful and often result in swelling, and in some cases, convulsions and breathing difficulties, fatalities are virtually unheard of in the state due to the wide availability of emergency medical services and antivenom therapy.
Among bark scorpions (Centruroides sp.), the Arizona bark scorpion is considered the most dangerous species in Arizona, and today, many experts consider this species’ official name to be C. exilicauda. Until recently, however, this species was known as C. sculpturatus, and in between 1980 and the late 1990s, C. sculpturatus and C. exilicauda were considered to be the same species. Today, some research articles state that C. exilicauda and C. sculpturatus are two separate species in Arizona, and the only two species that can be fatal to humans. Other research articles state that C. sculpturatus does not exist, and that C. exilicauda is the only potentially fatal species in Arizona. The taxonomic debate over these species continues today, as the most up-to-date research publications continue to mix and match these species, or deny one’s existence altogether.
Researchers collected data on bark scorpion sting incidents that had been reported to poison control centers in Arizona during a two year period, and they found that most sting incidents occur during the summer and fall seasons in the state. Surprisingly, the month of October sees a greater amount of bark scorpion sting incidents than the month of July, and November and April see a near equal amount of sting incidents. Individuals aged between 16 and 60 accounted for the vast majority of sting victims, but a few infants below the age of one also sustained stings. When it comes to adult sting victims, the study showed that most bark scorpion stings can be adequately handled outside of a hospital setting, but nearly all children below the age of five sought medical attention in response to severe reactions to bark scorpion stings. Arizonans also sustained scorpion stings during December and January, but reported envenomations during these months were few in number.
Have you ever spotted a scorpion during the winter season?