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Stinging Truth

Did you know that scorpions were the first land animals on Earth? Yep, before snakes, salamanders and even roaches, more than 400 (400,000,000) million years ago, scorpions roamed the land among tall grasses and huge trees.

There are 1,300 species of scorpions, ranging in size from 1/2-inches long to 10-inches long. They can be found throughout the tropics and subtropics around the world. In the U.S., there are about 90 species found primarily in the southern half of the country.

Scorpions are in the same family as spiders (arachnids). They have two strong pincers to catch insects, spiders and other scorpions, and they use their venomous sting to paralyze their prey and for self-defense. There is only one species of scorpion that can kill a human in the U.S., and it is found only in Arizona, southern Utah and southern California. The Arizona bark scorpion's (Centruroides exilicauda) sting can kill a person, but with a doctor's treatment, it can be prevented.

Most scorpion stings are as mild as a honey-bee sting, but if you do get stung by a scorpion of any kind, put an ice pack on the bite to slow the spread of the venom, and have your parents take you to the doctor.

Since scorpions are mostly nocturnal (active at night), you can find them at night using a portable black light. A thin layer of a scorpion's protective exoskeleton (shell) makes it glow under the ultraviolet light from the black light. Scorpion fossils that are millions of years old will glow, too.



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