Species: Striped scorpion
Scientific name: Centruroides vittatus
Claim to fame: Practically everyone has heard of scorpions, primarily because these stinging creatures have been vilified in numerous movies and TV shows. Some people don’t realize the stings of most types of scorpions aren’t nearly as potent as Hollywood has portrayed them to be. In Missouri, scorpions prefer glades and other dry habitats in the southern part of the state and can be found in this area. Scorpions are among earth’s oldest land-dwelling organisms. Fossil records show they have been around for more than 400 million years. (Dinosaurs first appeared approximately 250 million years ago.)
Species status: Although scorpion population studies aren’t done in Missouri, it is presumed numbers are holding steady.
First discovered: The first scientific description of the striped scorpion was written by the American naturalist Thomas Say in 1821.
Family matters: Striped scorpions belong to the family Buthidae, a group of 500 species commonly referred to as the thick-tailed scorpions. Scorpions are arachnids, which mean they are in the same taxonomic classification as spiders and ticks. Two of the primary identifying traits of arachnids are that they have four pairs of legs and a segmented body divided into two regions. There are more than 1,500 species of scorpions worldwide, but the striped scorpion is the type most common in the United States.
Length: between two and three inches
Diet: Scorpions eat spiders and a variety of soft-bodied insects, which means they assist humans by helping to control some types of insect pests.
Weight: not available
Distinguishing characteristics: Striped scorpions vary in color from yellowish to tan for adults. They have two broad blackish stripes on the upper surface of the abdomen and a dark triangular mark on the front portion of the head. They are nocturnal, although they can be seen during the day if roused from seclusion. The characteristic scorpions are best known for is their sting. All scorpions possess venom, which they use to hunt. The venom paralyzes their prey so it can be eaten. Scorpions rarely sting humans except when they’re cornered or pinned. Scorpion venom is geared towards catching other arthropods so the sting of most scorpions (including the striped scorpion) is about the equivalent of a wasp or bee. However, Hollywood depictions of lethal scorpion stings do have some merit. The yellow scorpion or “death stalker” that lives in the Middle East has venom that can be fatal to some humans if immediate action is not taken.
Life span: four to 25 years
Habitat: In southern Missouri, scorpions are usually found on glades or in similar dry, rocky types of habitats.
Life cycle: Mating occurs in the fall, spring or summer. Scorpions are live-bearers. Embryos are nourished in the female’s body via placental connection. Gestation is estimated to take about eight months. Broods may consist of as many as 50, but generally number around 30. After birth the newborn scorpions (called scorplings) climb on their mother’s back and remain there until their first molt (skin-shedding). After this, they disperse from their mother. Young scorpions molt six times before reaching maturity.