Prevalent throughout the Grand Valley, scorpions are fun critters to observe
Editor’s note: “Critters” is a new monthly series featuring insects, spiders, snakes and other freaky/fun beasts unique to the Grand Valley. You know, the kinds of critters you aim to keep your distance from but love to learn about. Have a critter you want discussed? Email email@example.com.
When Ridges resident Ed Lewandowski first discovered an inch-and-a-half long, translucent scorpion stuck to a bug trap in his garage, his first reaction was complete surprise.
That’s because Lewandowski recently moved to Grand Junction from the Vail Valley, and Colorado’s mountains boast a completely different set of critters.
Another Ridges resident, June Sampson, has also seen her share of scorpions over the years, though she’s never been stung.
“They come out at night, so to see them during the day you have to be moving whatever they are hiding in, like wood,” Sampson said. “They tend to scare the bejabbers out of me.”
But, seeing a scorpion is relatively rare, she noted, and not really a nuisance for neighbors.
“Once I got over the initial shock, it was fun because it was something I’ve never seen,” Lewandowski added. “I’d like to see another one.”
Lewandowski may get his wish soon enough because scorpions, though shy, are quite prevalent throughout the Grand Valley, especially in the Redlands and in the Colorado National Monument (CNM).
According to CNM Interpretive Park Ranger Mark Abetz, holding up a black light at night is a great way to get a sense of how many scorpions are active in an area.
“If you hold up a black light, they’ll glow a greenish color,” Abetz said. “It’s a lightwave frequency we can’t normally see. They (scorpions) can’t see it either.”
And during a recent evening hike on the Black Ridge Trail near the CNM Visitor’s Center, Abetz easily found two scorpions along the way.
“They don’t like to be around people, and they’re active at night,” he said. “The body has little hairs on it, and the hair can detect movement. That’s how they find their prey,” which are a variety of smaller insects.
Scorpions also like to hide in cool, dry spots (like under rocks and boards), and that’s the best place to start looking if you want to catch a glimpse of this elusive critter.
Colorado State University Extension Western Colorado Entomology Expert Bob Hammon said he likes to keep wood boards laying around his yard so he can easily photograph scorpions in their element.
“They’re really interesting critters. They’re really easy to live with, and they tend to leave people alone,” Hammon said. “They’re another part of the natural history of the area. I just view them as adding to the diversity of life in the desert.”
“If you’re in a dry, open, natural area, look on the edges (of the area) for trash or something that’s been laying around for while,” Hammon added — that’s a great place to spot one.
The Grand Valley currently hosts two species of scorpion — the Northern scorpion (Paruroctonus boreus — a smaller, more common species that Lewandowski likely caught) and the Hairy Desert scorpion (Hadrurus arizonensis — which can grow to be 6 inches long and are common on Little Park Road near the CNM). Pseudoscorpions (or tiny arachnids with pincers) also can be found in the area. They are related to the scorpion, but are not considered dangerous as they don’t sting.
Hammon, who works with locals to identify and sometimes control local critters, said most of the calls he gets about scorpions are related to home invasions.
“People want to keep them out of their homes, which can be a challenge depending on what conditions are present,” Hammon explained. “If you have scorpions in the house, you need to evaluate the habitat outside the house and figure out where they’re coming from, if there’s a food source, and eliminate that. You can also seal entry points to the house, and use insecticide to act as a barrier.”
Like bees, scorpions additionally have a painful (though not generally lethal) sting that may cause allergic reactions in some.
“Any animal can be dangerous,” Abetz said. “You must avoid getting stung by being aware when you’re sitting down and looking around before you put your hands anywhere. If you’re someone who has bad reactions to bee stings, a scorpion sting may be an issue. If you’re not, it doesn’t have much effect on a healthy person.”
That said, you just won’t know until you’re stung, so it’s best to avoid scorpion stings completely.
“If you see one, don’t poke it,” Abetz said. “We (at the CNM) have a mission of protecting and preserving. Stop and watch it (a scorpion), but don’t approach it. Leave the animal be.”
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