While it’s never pleasant to see a scorpion in your home, some scorpion facts are pretty interesting. For instance, even though scorpions are categorized as ‟stinging pests” (a category that includes bees and wasps), they are actually arachnids, making them more closely related to spiders, ticks and mites. These venomous arthropods belong to the Arachnida class and more than 1,300 different species roam the Earth.
Ancient scorpion facts
Scorpions are the oldest known arthropods on the planet, and they played a prominent role in Greek mythology. One story includes giant scorpions that were sent by Gaia to slay the giant Orion when he threatened the world. Orion’s battle with these giant creatures is depicted by two sets of constellations in the sky: Orion and Scorpius. The scorpion made its way into astrology, with the Scorpio zodiac sign representing those born between October 23 and November 22.
Fossils of scorpions have been found in the strata of the Paleozoic Era, many of them with very few differences from the scorpions that walk the Earth today. That means if you were to hop into a time machine and travel back 430 million years, the scorpions you’d see would be immediately recognizable – and just as scary. As you can see, scorpions have played a big part in human history and lore. We’ve been fascinated by these creatures for centuries.
Scorpions in the United States
Come back to modern day America and there are only about 90 species that inhabit the United States. Of these, only one species is potentially deadly – the Arizona bark scorpion. (Worldwide, there are 25 species of lethal scorpions, the deadliest of all being the Indian red scorpion.) Unfortunately, the Arizona bark scorpion is one of the four most common species of scorpions to invade homes. The other three are the striped tail scorpion, the desert hairy scorpion and the common striped bark scorpion.
General scorpion facts
Most types of scorpions are pretty small, measuring between 1 and 5 inches in length. Unfortunately, the smaller the scorpion, the more potent or deadly their venom. The largest scorpion in the world is the long-tailed African scorpion, measuring over 8 inches in length. In the U.S., giant desert hairy scorpions grow to be about 5 inches in length. No matter the size, the typical scorpion lifespan averages between three and five years, though some can live up to 25 years.
The unique body of a scorpion
Like all arachnids, scorpions have some special body parts that help them hunt and survive. The pincer-like claws that help scorpions grab their prey and defend against attackers are called pedipalps. While they can assist in walking, they’re not actually legs. Behind the pedipalps are four pairs of legs that allow the scorpion to quickly chase down its prey and scurry away from danger.
The claw-like pedipalps are powerful and serve to pass any captured prey to their chelicerae, which are the mouthparts of the scorpion. The chelicerae have pincers of their own that serve to tear off little chunks of the victim, which are then digested externally in the preoral cavity, before finally being sucked up in liquid form by the scorpion.
A scorpion’s body consists of two main regions: the abdomen and the cephalothorax. The cephalothorax is protected by the head shield (carapace), which is where the scorpion’s eyes are located. Most scorpions have between two and five pairs of eyes, arranged laterally, but some species have no eyes at all. Scorpions with no eyes tend to dwell in caves and rely on one little known scorpion fact that is common throughout the species: Scorpions have heightened senses of awareness.
Scorpion senses are tingling
This increased cognizance is due to the fact that the body of the scorpion is covered with many different types of tiny sensory hairs that help alert it to both prey and danger. Along their underside, scorpions also have a pair of organs that can best be described as sensory combs. These ‟pectines” have teeth that sense surface vibration and texture, allowing this avid hunter to be constantly aware of any approaching prey or danger.
The pectines have chemical and pheromone receptors that further enhance the awareness of this highly tuned creature. Scorpions can sense the size, shape and proximity of anything around it, even humans. This plays a big role in how they have survived on the Earth for so long – they’re the ultimate combination of deadly hunter and armored evader.
Tail and stinger
Aside from the pedipalps, the abdomen of the scorpion is probably its most distinct feature. Each scorpion abdomen has 12 segments, the final five of which (the metasoma) are commonly referred to as the ‟tail.” The tail of the scorpion bends up and over the arachnid’s head, unlike other creatures, whose tails generally bend down towards the ground, much like a dog’s.
At the tip of the abdomen is the bulbous ‟telson,” which houses the glands that produce the scorpion’s notorious venom. At the end of the telson is a curved, sharp stinger, used to puncture prey and attacker alike, delivering a potent dose of venom. The venom serves to paralyze anything the scorpion attacks, allowing the scorpion to either feed on it with ease, or scurry away to safety. In some cases, the venom is even used to subdue mates.