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Poisonous Plants and Animals

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Scorpion
Scorpiones

This is the oldest order not only among Arachnids but also among all land Arthropods. They are supposed to have existed since the Silurian period. 



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Scorpions generally prefer the hot climate but some species survive cold winters in the mountains or in moderate regions. Also, they may be often seen in the houses, there is even an African saying: “A scorpion in the shoe early in the morning.” 

Yellow flattail scorpion (Androctonus australis)The body consists of 18 segments and is usually 5-10cm long but some species (especially Pandinus imperator) can reach a length of about 20-30cm. The sting or stinger, also called a telson, is located at the very end of the post-abdomen of the scorpion. A pair of glandular sacs produces and stores the various components of the scorpion’s venom. Scorpions use their stings for a variety of purposes: in prey capture, in defense and during mating. Scorpion’s time of activity is the night. They feed only on living creatures: spiders, insects, larvae, sometimes even small lizards and mice. 

All species of scorpions are poisonous for their preys (mostly insects, for which they are always deadly) but a very small number of the over 1050 known species can be dangerous to humans. The scorpion’s venom is comprised of a variety of compounds, most of which have not been investigated. The venom from a single scorpion may include several neurotoxins, histamine, serotonin, enzymes, enzyme inhibitors, and other unidentified compounds. Each neurotoxin is believed to target specific kind of animals. 

Buthus occitanusThe onset of the local reaction of the human poisoning is immediate. Intense pain normally subsides within one hour giving way to numbness, tenderness, and tingling at the site of the sting. 

Later can occur pain that radiates towards the body, agitation or anxiety, increased body temperature, swelling of the face, tongue and throat, pain or tightness in the chest or back.

Some scorpion species (Pandinum imperator, Leiurus quinquestriatus, Buthus occitanus, Androctonus australis, etc.) are capable of injecting relatively large quantities of highly toxic venom. In these cases the poisoning leads to fever, excessive salivation, involuntary tearing, nausea or vomiting, confusion, coma, convulsions, increased or decreased heart rate, body temperature disregulation, and pulmonary edema (wet lungs). There may be expected a lethal end due to heart or respiratory failure.

However, one should remember that the victim’s chances of actually dying, even from a highly venomous species, are relatively small. The primary risk factors appear to be the following:

  • the toxicity of the venom of the scorpion involved; 
  • the quantity of the venom injected (this is voluntarily regulated by the animal); 
  • the size of the victim and 
  • the general medical condition of the victim. In many countries in those severe cases is used scorpion antivenin. Unfortunately, children, because of their small size, are at greater risk of more severe envenomation than the adults. 
Preventive measures:
  • Be careful in areas known to be swarming with scorpions and in places you cannot see well!
  • Remember, if you find one scorpion, there are many other around. 
  • Check your boots, clothing, and bedding for scorpions. 

  • Spray all parts of the housing you inhabit
Anyway, in case of an accident, the best you can do is to transport the patient to an emergency medical facility as soon as possible. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center also recommend cleaning the site with soap and water, cool compress, elevation of the affected limb to approximately heart level, and an analgesic as needed for minor discomfort. 

There are many home-remedies and homeopathic treatments for scorpion envenomation. Most are probably not harmful but probably don’t help either. Occasionally, certain plants are believed to have curative powers. Parts of these plants may be applied to the wound, eaten, or worn around the neck. Scorpions are sometimes placed into a variety of oils, which may then be used as antidotes for envenomations. It is common in some places to drink a “tea” made from the offending scorpion. In other areas, the scorpion is eaten, either cooked or raw. I have even read of customs in which the scorpion’s stinger is removed and “surgically” implanted beneath the skin of the victim. This treatment seems ill advised. 

Since the remote past scorpions have always been objects of disgust, mystical fear, and horrifying legends. They take part in the ancient Egyptian and Greek mythology, in the scripts of the medieval alchemists, in the astrology and in the typical fauna of the Christians hell. Scorpions are believed to be capable of committing suicide by stinging themselves in order to avoid an agonizing death. This is not true, of course, (they don’t sting themselves at all) but scorpions are really able to fall into a deep numbness or a fictitious death. In that condition they really may die without feeling anything but also they can “resurrect” after the danger has disappeared. And some people still believe that scorpions appear in the night looking for a sleeping person to sting. In the lands inhabited by many scorpions, these insects are common night visitors of the humans’ homes and even beds but this is not a special hunt for people. 

Although most of the myths about scorpions have already been dispelled, these creatures are still intriguing and exciting.