Learn about Utah Scorpions
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Scorpions are arthropods and scorpion-like arachnids characterized by a segmented carapace and a metasoma folded beneath the thorax. The chelicerae are large with pincers similar to lobsters, but the first pair of legs are thickened and often very large, making them look like crabs. Many species have a long segment at the end of the metasoma containing a venomous stinger, which is used to immobilize prey and defend against predators.
There are over 30 species of scorpions in the southwestern U.S. and Mexico. The most common in Utah, Paruroctonus utahensis, commonly known as the Utah desert hairy scorpion or northern desert hairy scorpion. However, Utah is home to many Scorpion species.
Scorpions are primarily nocturnal, hiding during the day and coming out at night. They can be found in habitats, from grasslands to deserts, mountains to rainforests. Because they are so diverse in habitats, scorpions can live virtually anywhere except for Antarctica and a few islands. Usually, scorpions hide in places such as under rocks or holes, but some will dig their burrows.
The Utah desert hairy scorpion is typically found under rocks, logs, bark, and other surface debris; however, they can often be found living underground debris in abandoned rodent burrows and homes.
Depending on their size, scorpions eat insects, spiders, centipedes, and other scorpions. Smaller species feed on small insects, while larger species eat lizards and frogs. The larger the scorpion is, the larger its prey will be. Scorpions are very opportunistic and will take advantage of any food source. Scorpions use their pedipalps to grasp and kill prey. They also inject venom through a stinger at the end of their tails; this allows them to immobilize their prey before feeding on it.
Scorpion Life Cycle & Reproduction
Scorpions are “viviparous,” which means they give birth to live young. The life cycle of scorpions involves three stages: the embryo, the larva, and the adult. When a female is ready to reproduce, she will release pheromones to attract males. She then mates with one male and stores his sperm until she is prepared to lay eggs.
At first, the pregnant female creates a “brood pouch” in her body that contains her eggs and embryos. The embryos develop inside their mother for about two months before hatching into larvae. The larvae are born about 1/4-inch-long and have not yet developed their stinging tails. The larvae remain under their mother’s protection until they molt (shed their exoskeleton) into nymphs.
The nymphs then enter a juvenile stage of development that lasts several months. They look very similar to adult scorpions, except that they are smaller and do not have fully developed reproductive organs. After several molts, the scorpion reaches maturity and becomes an adult. Adult scorpions can live for up to 25 years or longer in some species.
There are several hundred scorpion species worldwide, but only about 30 have venom strong enough to kill a human. The only deadly scorpion in Utah is the Arizona bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus), found in Southern Utah. The Arizona bark scorpion is considered the most venomous in the United States.
Scorpion venom may cause tingling, numbness, and localized pain at the sting site. Most scorpion stings react similarly to a wasp or bee sting. In some cases, stings can lead to severe medical problems such as convulsions or respiratory failure requiring hospitalization. If you suspect someone may react to a scorpion sting, seek medical attention immediately.