Bug Blog

How Do Scorpions From The Middle East Inflict Dangerous Stings On Individuals In The Northern US?

Scorpions are well known for being fierce creatures that can inflict medically significant and venomous stings on humans. However, people living in regions where scorpions are not native have no need to fear the arachnids, right? As it happens, scorpions that are native to far away regions have inflicted stings on people living in areas where scorpions are not native. This happens when people return home from an overseas vacation only to find an exotic scorpion within their luggage. Scorpions can sometimes wind up in non-native regions across the globe by hitching rides in food shipments. In this case, exotic scorpions from South America may pose a threat to supermarket workers in Canada. These cases were once rare, but with increased international trade and travel, dangerous and exotic scorpions are inflicting more and more stings to people in regions where the arachnids are not native.

One case study describes a five year old girl in Philadelphia who sustained a scorpion sting to her foot after the arachnid emerged from luggage that she had taken with her to Israel. The girl developed intense pain, edema, erythema of the lower extremity and a rapid pulse that measured at 124 beats per minute. After treatment with antihistamines and opioids during an overnight stay in the hospital, the girl recovered. The scorpion that stung the girl is known as Hottentotta judaicus and it is native to Israel, and not Philadelphia, as no scorpions are native to Philadelphia.

Another case saw an 18 year old supermarket employee from Portland, Oregon stung on his shin after a scorpion emerged from a box of fruit that he had been unpacking. The man was transported to the emergency room where doctors noticed that the victim had edema, erythema, intense pain and numbness at the site of the sting. The scorpion was identified as Centruroides exilicauda, which is native the southwestern US and western Mexico. Although these cases are relatively minor when it comes to symptomatology, it is not impossible for a more venomous scorpion species to arrive in a non-native area where it could pose a public health threat.

Have you ever found an exotic-looking insect crawling around produce within a supermarket?