With temperatures hovering in the 100-degree range this week, many Central Texans have opted to stay indoors, where the air conditioning is. So are scorpions.
Scorpions are finicky arachnids that don’t enjoy extremely hot or cold temperatures — they need their environment just right.
When the weather becomes too hot and dry for a scorpion, it may try to claw its way into your home, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service entomologist Molly Keck said.
J&J Pest Control in Austin has seen an increase in the number of calls regarding scorpions in the past two months or so, general manager Monica Malone said. During winter and fall months, the company may receive five phone calls a day for a scorpion found in a home. But since summer started, the company has received as many as 15 or 20 a day.
The influx of scorpion reports made to the company also can be attributed to a rise in one of scorpion’s favorite foods: crickets, Malone said.
“Part of what draws them to houses is most people will leave a light on outside, and light draws food, like crickets. Crickets are apparently a delicacy for scorpions,” Malone said. “They’re coming to the light for the food, because you’re putting out a smorgasbord of food for them.”
Places full of trees are more likely to have scorpions around, she said, adding that construction zones also remain popular places for scorpions. West Austin, Wimberley, Dripping Springs and Manor have good habitats for scorpions, she said.
Recent rain in Central Texas also has contributed to a rise in scorpion reports. Rain can wash a scorpion out from a rock they’re living under, Malone said.
Scorpions can hide inside the walls of homes, in a pile of wood or debris, under rocks, stones and landscaping materials.
Along with the familiar claws and long tail tipped with a stinger, these nocturnal eight-legged creatures have two eyes on top of their heads, and up to five pairs of eyes along the front corners of its head, said AgriLife entomologist Wizzie Brown, who is based in Travis County.
“They do not see well, however, and must rely on their sense of touch for navigation and detecting prey,” Brown said. “Their bodies are flat, which allows them to hide in small cracks and under stones, bark, wood or other objects as they wait or search for prey.”
If you come across a scorpion near your home in Central Texas, it’s likely a striped bark scorpion, which is one of 18 species of scorpion found in Texas, AgriLife officials said. Striped bark scorpions are a yellow-tan color, and have two dark stripes running along their backs. They can be up to 2.5 inches long and glow in the dark under UV light.
Malone said most calls to her company are for a single scorpion found in a home with another pest. The largest number of scorpions caught by the pest control company was 18 in one house, she said.
If you get stung by a striped bark scorpion, Brown suggests applying ice to the sting and seeking medical attention if you find it hard to breathe or break out in hives.
“A person stung by a scorpion should be watched closely for several hours following the incident to ensure an allergic reaction does not manifest,” she said.
If you find a scorpion near or in your home, don’t pick it up, Malone said.
“I’ve only grabbed one ever by its tail — and that was on a dare,” she said. “I don’t suggest anyone do this with their fingers. You’re going to get stung.”
How to keep scorpions out
Turning off lights and plugging up gaps in doors and around windows can help rid your home of scorpions before needing to apply pesticide, experts say.
To avoid having scorpions drawn to your home, trim trees and shrubs, keep grass mowed, rid your house of debris or firewood, and plug up holes in walls with copper mesh, screen wire or steel wool.