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Desert Diary



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"Look out! Scorpion!" Such words elicit fear in many. But although scorpions abound in our desert, many people know little about them—except that they can sting. Some scorpions are venomous enough to kill a person, but although the scorpions in the Northern Chihuahuan Desert give a painful sting, they are not likely to kill a human. The sting is much like that of a bee, and only those sensitized by previous encounters are in much danger.

Scorpions are most active at night—and they fluoresce in black light. If you're camping, you might enjoy turning on one of these lights to see them glow! They may seem to be everywhere—but the mere fact that you can see them doesn't make them any more threatening. Although they usually sting to immobilize prey, they also do so in defense. Sometimes a person is careless enough to pick one up, but a more likely scenario is to meet up with a scorpion hiding in your clothes or sleeping bag. Perhaps such an encounter is almost a rite pen and inkof passage in an area so full of these unassuming creatures.

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Kodi R. Jeffery, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

scorpion image

A scorpion—preserved specimen. Photograph by A.H. Harris.



Diaz-Najera, A. 1975. Listas y datos de distribucion geografica de los alacranes de Mexico. Rev. Inv. Salud Pub., Mexico, 35: 1-36.

Jackman, J. A. 1987. A Field Guide to Spiders and Scorpions of Texas. Gulf Publishing Co.: A Texas Monthly Field Guide Series, Houston, 201 pp.

Polis, G. A. (ed.) 1990. The Biology of Scorpions. Stanford University Press, Stanford, 587 pp.

Williams, S.C. 1968. Methods of sampling scorpion population. Proceedings of the California Academy of Sciences (4) 36:221-230.

Web Resources

Scorpions from the Chihuahuan Desert Region of Mexico and the United States. A wealth of information.