Scary things nightmares are made of…Or just very misunderstood?
Ever since we were young (for some of us that’s a far more recent memory than for others), there have been certain creatures which have topped the charts in competing for “The stuff nightmares are made of!” title.
One of these critters which always seems to strike fear into us, has eight independent legs, a hard exoskeleton, formidable-looking pincers, and venom-filled stinger poised and at the ready. If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m talking about the Scorpion. While you aren’t likely to see too many on safari, when they do pop up there’s a lot more to know about them!
Even looking at Greek mythology regarding astronomy, we find stories about scorpions. Orion (our main summer constellation) who was a great and fearless hunter declared he would kill every animal on the planet! This angered the elders greatly, and they summoned the formidable Scorpio (our main winter constellation) to go into battle with Orion, to prevent him from killing all the animals. And that’s why to this day you will never see them in the same sky. Orion is constantly on the run from the dangerous Scorpio who has been sent to stop him.
With summertime in full swing at South Africa’s Kapama, now is the time you would most likely see a scorpion. But don’t panic, they are not nearly as bad as they are made out to be. In my opinion, they are just misunderstood creatures. Hopefully, after reading a bit more about them you will feel the same.
There is a general rule we use in helping us to identify how dangerous a scorpion is. (This rule is valid for all scorpion species, except for one in the Middle-East and one in North Africa). If a scorpion has thick/strong pincers and a thin dainty tail, it’s generally not considered dangerous. The big pincers have the power to catch prey, so the scorpion has no need for hugely potent venom. If a scorpion has thin, dainty pincers, and a thick powerful tail, beware!! Its tail is its weapon of choice to subdue prey and protect itself and as we know the tail has the sting and the venom duct.
All scorpions are considered venomous, but some just aren’t as potent as others. Those with thin tails, cause a burning reaction, with itching and swelling, but no medical intervention is required. Whereas those with thick tails are considered very dangerous and medical attention will be required.
Scorpion venom is made up of a cocktail of neurotoxins. The chemicals found in scorpion venom has the potential to be used in the treatment of brain cancer, and the illumination of cancer cells.
We have 13 Genus of scorpion in South Africa, but only 6 of these are commonly seen
• Thick tails (Parabuthus sp)
• Lesser thick tails (Uroplectes sp)
• Pygmy thick tails (Pseudolychas sp)
• Burrowing scorpion (Opistophthalmus sp)
• Creeping scorpion (Opisthacanthus sp)
• Rock scorpion (Hadogenes sp)
Of these, only the Thick tails (Parabuthus) are considered dangerous, especially amongst children, the elderly, or people with a poor immune system. If stung by one of these, medical intervention will be required. Get the patent to a hospital, keep them calm, and the affected area still.