Monday, September 27, 2010

Striped Bark Scorpion

My husband and I took a short weekend vacation to Harry S. Truman State Park in Warsaw Missouri this past weekend. We arrived and sat up our campsite on Friday and then decided to take a hike on one of two walking trails located at the park. This particular trail is called the Wallflower trail and runs through a rocky glade overlooking Truman Lake. It is a nice walk, if a bit treacherous with all the loose rocks and small boulders to step over. I immediately started turning over stones to see what would be underneath and it wasn't long before I found a Scorpion.


 Missouri is home to one native scorpion and that is the Striped Bark Scorpion (Centruroides vittatus). These are small scorpions that measure up to 1 3/4 inches. They are golden yellow or tan, some specimens may be almost white. There is a distinctive triangular marking on the head and two broad stripes down the back.

After locating this particular individual I realized I did not have a container to put it in. I was reluctant to carry it around in my hand while we finished the hike, so my husband came up with a suggestion. We had a copy of the trail map with us, he said roll it into a tube and clamp down the ends. It worked like a charm for a makeshift container. I took it back to our campsite and showed the children in the next campsite over from ours. They thought she/he was pretty cool, and I had to agree. This scorpion is now at home in my office at MDC. It will make a great exhibit specimen to show visitors who might not realize we even have scorpions living in Missouri.

Scorpions are often associated with warm, arid regions like the deserts of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Missouri has a more temperate climate and therefore not usually thought of as a home for a creature like this. I think that is what makes it even more remarkable.


Most scorpions in Missouri are located in the Central to Southern regions of the state. Although there are a few isolated populations found in some Northern counties. These are secretive creatures that hide out during the day under rocks or in crevices protected from the heat of the day and prying eyes of would-be predators. They are active at night and hunt for various insect prey to feed on. Creatures like raccoons, armadillos, opossums and lizards all feed on scorpions. So being secretive and shy helps them survive. They will sometimes end up in homes and are often found in basements, cellars and garages. Many people want to know if they are dangerous, sure, they can be. The sting is extremely painful, and the venom contains a mild neurotoxin that can cause a severe reaction in individuals who are sensitive to the venom. This would be people who are allergic to bee venom. People with these kinds of reactions may require hospital care, hence my hesitation in carrying it.

Mating occurs in the fall, spring or sometimes early summer. After engaging in an elaborate courtship ritual the male will deposit a sperm sac on the ground. He will then drag the female over this sac, at which point her body will take the sperm sac with a special organ located on her abdomen. The young will develop inside the female with a placental connection, and after approximately 8 weeks the young will be born. She may have up to 50 young at a time. These newly emerged offspring will ride around on their mothers back until their first molt, at which time they will desperse to live independent lives.

A cool feature about these and all scorpions is their ability to "glow" under iridescent light, such as a black light. This makes them easy to spot at night.

I found many interesting creatures during our weekend stay, and I will try to post a new one daily.

14 comments:

  1. What in the world would make you even consider showing a Bark Scorpion to children?!

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  2. This particular species of Bark Scorpion is not considered dangerous, in fact it's sting is no more dangerous than a Honey Bee. If you are allergic to bee stings then a run-in with this species has potential medical ramifications. I think perhaps you need further education on scorpions. I believe the species of bark scorpion that you have heard of as being dangerous is Centruroides sculpturatus, this species resides in the Southwestern United States, and they go by the common name of Arizona Bark Scorpion. It is considered the most toxic of all scorpions in the United States. The species I showed these children is a distant cousin to this species and is basically harmless.

    I am a naturalist and teacher and lover of nature. I never pass up an opportunity to pass along valuable knowledge to children or adults. These kids now know what a scorpion looks like, and know that it has the potential to sting and will most likely not handle one. I did not handle the scorpion and would not ever put a child in danger. Children are curious by nature, and to not feed that curiosity is doing them a disservice. Should they happen to flip over a rock and find one of these little creatures they now know what it is, and to be respectful but not afraid. I think it is terrible to instill unwarranted fear in our children. I see so many children petrified by spiders, and snakes and various other creatures. This fear is fed to them by their parents and causes them distress throughout their whole lives. Why not educate children properly, and ease those fears? We can respect mother natures wild creatures without instilling fear in our children.

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  3. Well, "anonymous", let me turn this around. -- My question to you would be "Why in the world not? Of what value is it to hide children from the natural world, and not to teach them the truth about it? Do we not want children to know what is safe and what is not out there? Do you assume that the children were encouraged to handle scorpions carelessly, simply because they were shown it and given some interesting natural history information about it? Certainly NOT! What harm do you possibly envision from children seeing this animal in a safe and enlightening context as it was?

    Children are very curious about nature, but sadly, often grow up entertaining unfounded notions about the dangers in the out-of-doors, imposed upon them by the ignorance of those among whom they grow up.

    Ms. MoBugs is a highly knowledgeable naturalist and experienced handler of animals of all sizes, and I have no doubt she showed the children this animal in a safe and sensible manner. What better person safely to introduce children to this little known, rarely seen, but amazing component of Missouri's natural world?

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  4. Well said James and Thank you for the vote of confidence. These children were extremely excited by all the creatures I was able to introduce them to,and I have no doubt that because their first camping trip and overnight experience outdoors was made to be exciting and fun, it will be an adventure they won't soon forget. I suspect we have future nature lovers in these children. My job is always made more enjoyable by the excitement the children exhibit at new discoveries.

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  5. When I was growing up my father felt it was his responsibility as a parent to instill in me a love of and for nature. It was very important to him to wake me in the middle of the night to show me a glowworm or the Aurora Borealis or fireflies. He pointed out constellations and stars to me and garter snakes and ballooning baby spiders. I remember that he brought branches inside to an unheated porch in the fall so that I could watch and wait anxiously for a fantastic creature to emerge from its cocoon one day. He dismissed idly my fear of spiders and hornets and taught me to respect all living things, even the smallest insect. But he also warned me that some things are dangerous in nature and taught me what to be cautious about. His love of nature was one of the greatest gifts a parent could give to a child. It is SO important and children DO want to learn. Had I been shown a Striped Bark Scorpion when I was a child, it would have been one of those experiences of a lifetime and something I’d remember always as exciting, educational and with the highest respect for it and the person who introduced me to it.

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  6. CS thank you so you so much for telling us about such wonderful experiences you and your father shared. He sounds like a special man who had the right idea about nature and passing along its mystery's and wonders to a you as a child. Children are sponges just waiting to soak up information, and if the right information is fed to them in the right manner they will grow up to be stewards of this big wonderful world of ours. My grandfather was very similar to your father, in that he thought it was very important to show me everything outside. Whether it was slugs crawling across the sidewalk or an errant snake that made its way into the yard. I remember him finding a large spider in the basement once....he had no idea what kind it was, he only knew it was beautiful and fascinating. So he took it to the local University and showed it to one of the professors who assured him it was a wolf spider and that they were harmless to humans and that it would eat numerous bugs that might show up in the basement. He came back home and got me and we "secretly" let it go in the basement again. He told me we must not tell grandma or she would have a heart attack. So we shared this very special secret for many years and grandma never knew that large arachnid lived in the same place she was doing laundry. Good thing to, or she might have quite washing his boxers if she ever found out what he did....LOL

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  7. I saw scorpions in our house when I was a child. My parents didn't freak out or instill fear in me..They assured me that while they looked scary they were more afraid of me than I was of them. Seriously doubtful, as I am utterly and completely terrified of these hideously nasty things. I don't mind snakes. Spiders don't scare me... I've caught lizards, beetles, and about every other kind of bug you can imagine. But just seeing a picture of a scorpion makes me shudder and tremble. So I agree with both.. show them to children.. educate them.. and then teach them how to safely squash the suckers. If ever there were a species that needs to be extinct, this is it. *shudder*

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  8. Shame on you "Anonymous" for wishing death upon a creature who can not kill you! Shame on you for wishing for this species' extinction when it has never come close to making anything else exitinct (unlike your species)! It is attitudes like yours that need to become extinct!
    We can not keep living in a world where we think we can just exterminate anything and everything we don't like. Every living thing has a purpose in nature. Scorpions keep other insect populations from going out of control. The extinction of any organism creates a huge ripple effect throughout the natural world, one which we have only just begun to understand!

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  9. Great blog you've got here! As a teacher and naturalist, I am right there with you. Still, I would have released the scorpion safely back into nature ;-)

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  10. I have only seen these once when I was young. I was in Boy Scouts and we found them on a hiking trail in Jefferson County. Are they a protected species, or is it ok to keep one as a pet if you find it?

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  11. As far as I know they are protected. They are usually found in very specific habitats like glades. I found this one on a rocky glade at Truman Lake State Park.

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  12. i love scorpions and have 4 myself. that particular specimen is one of the nicest ive seen. beutiful pictures.

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  13. I was not even aware MO had scorpions/ My neighbor told me she found one yesterday under a rock in her yard..i was like yea whateva..lol...WOW thank you for this informative information and sharing it

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  14. just found one in our living room, googled it, and ended up here. very informative, very idealic for a google search to end at. thank u for all the great info, me and my kids can stop having goosebumps when we look at him, really a spectacular little creature. even more excited now that i know it could just result in a bee sting. i do have one question. this one is in effect playing dead. when we get loud or near it in the big bowl, it rolls over and curls up, and stays still other than a slight twitch of its tail sporadically. is this normal behavior or is something wrong with it

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