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7 Things I’ve Learned {the hard way} About Scorpions

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It was March 2010, about three months after we had moved into our current home. I was seven months pregnant with baby number two. Our nearly-two-year-old had woken early on a Saturday morning and I’d gotten up with her to let my husband snooze a little longer. Thinking he would sleep in for another hour at least (and patting myself on the back for taking the early shift), I was surprised when he emerged from our master bedroom just a few minutes later. In a daze he told me he thought he’d been stung by a scorpion. He had rolled over in bed to go back to sleep and his elbow brushed up against the wall behind our bed (where a headboard would be if we had one). He said he had a funny sensation around his elbow, like a tingling, pins-and-needles numbness that was getting more intense.

Like any good wife, I didn’t believe him for a second and thought he was completely over-reacting. After all, he wasn’t screaming in pain and hadn’t seen anything when he’d looked at the spot on the wall where his elbow had made contact. To rule out the off-chance that he wasn’t insane, we went to investigate. Sure enough, when we pulled the bed away a few inches, a huge bark scorpion was crawling leisurely up the wall, just inches from our pillows.

And then I did what has become commonly known in our family as “Sarah’s scorpion dance” (picture much frenetic arm-waving and foot-stamping). After we had captured the scorpion using a water glass and flushed it down the toilet, I calmly considered our options: 1) Move, 2) Burn down the house, and 3) Move. I don’t normally have major phobias when it comes to bugs and spiders, but a giant deadly arachnid practically IN OUR BED during a season of life when we had a roaming toddler and impending newborn just about put me over the edge.

I wish I could tell you that this was a fluke, an isolated Arizona incident we could share at cocktail parties to impress our friends. Nope. During the spring and summer of 2010 we had too many close calls to count (no more stings, though, thank goodness). One time our two-year-old came running up with something grasped in her pudgy fingers saying, “Mommy, look! A bug!” It was a dead scorpion {shudder}. Another time a scorpion crawled across our bed as our newborn lay less than a foot away. I’ve killed scorpions with my shoes, with books, by flushing them down the toilet, and once by squeezing a towel around the shower curtain when I discovered one hiding in between the curtain and the liner.

In the last two years I have learned a lot about scorpions. Although I am not a pest control professional or an entomologist, I have talked to several scorpion experts and experienced more first-hand trial and error than I care to remember. Here are seven things I wish I’d known as soon as we discovered our house was in scorpion territory…

  1. Not just in the desert – You often hear that scorpions are a problem in homes that are newly constructed, or surrounded by natural desert, or near a construction site. Our house falls into none of those categories (nor are we alone in our predicament in our neighborhood – somehow it makes me feel better that most of my neighbors are in the same boat). One expert told me that once scorpions have moved into an area, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them – you can do your best to keep them out of your home, but they’ll probably just go next door.
  2. The truth about exterminators – There are many great local exterminators. I would personally recommend ONLY calling those that specialize in scorpions. Scorpions are extremely resilient and don’t respond to pesticides the way other bugs do (according to Wikipedia, “During US nuclear testing, scorpions, along with cockroaches and lizards, were found near ground zero with no recorded adverse effects.”) so if you’re going to rely on a pest control company, make sure they have very specific tactics for spraying for scorpions. We have found a DIY option that is even cheaper and more effective (more on that in a minute).
  3. Sealing your home – Our scorpion problem proved so extreme that we paid to have our home sealed by a professional. We used Seal Out Scorpions and I was pretty happy with their service and their knowledge about scorpions. The sealing is expensive and I would say it has only been partially effective for us (no magic bullet for sure), but it is worth looking into and I do credit Seal Out Scorpions for really educating us on how to keep scorpions out as well as how to do our own pest control.
  4. DIY pest control – The most effective thing we have done to take control of the situation is to do our own spraying for scorpions. We are NOT normally a very DIY or handy family and would be happy to pay for this service, but doing it yourself is much more effective for a few reasons. We spray only outside (that’s where the bugs live and should stay, and the pesticides aren’t safe inside), and we do it once a month at night during a full moon when the scorpions are most active. Doing it ourselves allows us to be really targeted (we use a black light to hunt them down, kill them on contact and the spray the area where they were hiding) and it’s cheaper too.  Oh, and by WE I mean my husband. 😉
  5. Black light hunting – If it sounds a little scary to you to go out in your backyard and shine a black light in all the cracks and crevices of your exterior home, it is. It’s also totally thrilling. You can get a cheap black light at any home improvement store and use it to find and kill scorpions. Every one you kill is one that is not mating, breeding or coming inside your house. Let the hunt begin!
  6. Helpful precautions – While we still see scorpions outside and in the garage and very occasionally in the house, our situation has improved a ton, and largely because we don’t take any chances. We don’t walk barefoot in the garage. We don’t leave piles of stuff around outside, especially near the exterior of the house. We don’t bring anything in from the garage or outside without inspecting it first. We store things in our garage in plastic bins, not cardboard boxes. We’ve trained our kids to let us know if they see any kind of bug. We’ve learned the spots in and around our house where scorpions tend to sneak in, and we keep our eyes open. It may all sound paranoid, but it’s become just a part of life.
  7. If you (or your kids) do get stung – During the worst of that first summer in our house, I called our pediatrician to ask, hypothetically, what I should do if one of my kids got stung. At that time we had a two-year-old and a newborn. The doctor said that if the baby got stung, to take him to the ER just as a precaution because of his young age. I was told that a healthy toddler would not need an ER or even a doctor’s visit, but to give Benadryl for swelling and to monitor closely for any signs of an extreme reaction. As for my husband, he never felt much pain from his sting, but the prickly numbness radiated out from his elbow to include an area about the size of a baseball, and it lasted for a couple of days.

So there you have it, mamas. Wishing you a scorpion-free summer! Please add your stories and tips in the comments below!

Have you had run-ins with scorpions? Share your horror stories so I don’t feel left out! And if you can add to these tips, please do!

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