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Off-the-shelf bug spray: an effective foundation dressing

Arizona summers are to dread for a number of reasons. One, the weather is infernal, with daytime temperatures never dropping below 100 F from June to August. Two, scorpions come out in force at night from May to September. October has a few stragglers, and April is the ramp-up month. It was no different at our house last summer. We had to religiously check our towels, shoes, and bedsheets (although, to date, we haven’t found a single scorpion in a towel, shoe, or bedsheet) and walk around the house in flip-flops. Summer 2008 saw 33 scorpions inside, but it would have been more if not for some experimentation with cheap off-the-shelf bug spray.

I’ve always read bug spray did nothing to thwart scorpions, or that it had to be sprayed on contact, but I was proved wrong when we decided to give some generic ant/roach/spider killer a try. At around 7:30 p.m. on June 1 of last year, we sprayed the stuff generously on the foundation and up into the bottom of the interior framing of the house and waited. Within five minutes, three scorpions came stumbling out onto the wall from different areas of the foundation, barely hanging to the stucco. The spray had stunned them, and they were easily controlled from there.

For two weeks, we saw fewer scorpions in the house than we had in the weeks prior. After the two weeks were over, number of sightings went up, so I can only assume the spray had worn off the foundation. We sprayed again, and number of sightings again went down. We did this from June 1 to the beginning of August, at which time I stopped spraying.

Month Scorpions inside Sprayed?
May 8 No
June 4 Yes
July 5 Yes
August 9 Once
September 7 No

When looking at the above data, keep in mind June through August are the worst months for scorpions.


The cat is mightier than the scorpion

To date, our cats have killed 14 scorpions. They’ll eat roaches, moths, spiders — any other pest that finds its way inside — but not scorpions. Initial sniff and lick tests must tip them off to something unattractive about the scorpion, and they kill it for sport rather than food. The cats pat them until they stop moving, at which point they’re no longer playful, so the cats nonchalantly seek other entertainment.

Scorpion killed by cat

Showing off his prize

The 14 are only confirmed kills. I’ll wager they’ve killed more, but we just haven’t found where they’ve hid the remains yet.

There is a belief among homeowners that cats are immune to scorpion stings. I don’t subscribe to this, but I do believe the thick fur and skin of a cat, as well as their natural dexterity, prevent the scorpion’s telson (stinger) from piercing into a bloodstream. For all practical purposes, you might call that immunity.


Logging scorpion kills and captures

For fun, and also to determine whether there’s some pattern to where the scorpions roam, I log where I kill/capture/observe each scorpion and its approximate age when I go out hunting. I’ve kept a text log until now, but it ended up getting far too wordy.

So instead, I captured a screen shot of our parcel from Google Maps’ satellite view, enlarged it, and made a scorpion Photoshop brush in order to plot a graphic at each encounter location. I then save a dated copy and repeat the next day, etc.

Here’s the custom scorpion Photoshop brush for download. (Must follow the link to download)

It’s a high-res brush, so it can be used up to 1601px.

And here’s an example of a visual log:


Meat tenderizer as a scorpion sting soother

Although neither my wife nor I have been stung to date, we wanted to be prepared for when it does inevitably happen. At the suggestion of scorpion pedagogues online, we went to the grocery store and bought some generic meat tenderizer powder. In the event of a sting, it’s said that mixing the powder with water and applying the resulting paste to the sting area will soothe pain. Upon further research, however, not any tenderizer will do: it must contain the enzyme papain, found naturally in papayas. Adolph’s (made by Lawry’s) is one brand that contains papain. I’ve read it’s a rare find in stores, but we found a small jar at Walmart, the first store we tried, for $2.12. It’s also widely available online.

According to the Wikipedia entry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papain), papain is also found in some toothpaste (in small amounts) and certain first aid creams, such as Stop Itch. Stop Itch is an Australian product, however, and prices run around $13.95 for a 50g tube, plus shipping from the land down under.


New house, scorpions, arthrophobia

My wife and I moved to Arizona from the northeast in May 2008. By November, we had found a house we loved in the Phoenix metro, but there was just one catch — the tenants said there was a scorpion problem. Immediately, the worries flooded in and we considered moving on. The house was unique, however, and we decided a few scorpions would be bearable. We bought. Little did we know that in three months, we would have neutralized 120 bark scorpions on our property.

Our first few nights in the house were especially difficult for me. We had found several bark scorpions while cleaning out the garage in the daytime. When I wasn’t wide awake (which was usually the case), I was having nightmares of scorpions in the sheets or on the ceiling above my head, falling on me, stinging me — which had me waking straight up in bed, shaking my wife and believing I needed medical help.

It took me months to overcome my fears. Googling ‘bark scorpions’ didn’t help. The information I found was either exaggerated, thereby heightening my paranoia, or contradictory — e.g., Wikipedia states scorpions like riparian (river bank-like) zones, but we’ve also read and heard they prefer desert zones over the former.

I created this blog to chronicle our experiences with our arthropod housemates and share our methods for control. After encountering so many myths and contradictions about scorpions and scorpion control on the Web, it’s my hope homeowners and renters living with scorpions, or just the scared layman (which, until very recently, I was) will be able to separate fact from fiction here.

Scorpions Controlled From 11/2008 to 04/2012 – FINAL COUNT

August 2018
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