Schrödinger’s Scorpion

“Do you think scorpions can escape from the vacuum cleaner?” Alas, here is a question that comes up often in Phoenix and, I am certain, nowhere else in the world.

Let’s begin with a brief lesson on the Arizona bark scorpion. They are highly territorial. Despite growing up in Phoenix, I didn’t see my first scorpion in the wild until the age of 25. These past ten months, we’ve been staying with my in-laws. For forty years, they have lived in what has now become the snooty, affluent area. Wealthy California folk are tearing down the old homes to build mega-mansions, disrupting the local scorpions in the process. There has been an exodus of arachnids. They are now everywhere!

Earlier this year, one got caught in a sticky trap near the back door. It writhed around for at least twelve days after getting stuck. The pest control gentleman said that’s typical. They require only a tenth of the oxygen of most insects, so can also breathe underwater for up to three days. And they live for up to twenty-five years. They are virtually indestructible.

Every few days, we find one in the bathroom, in the hallway, or hiding in the shower loofah. Every few days, we patrol the house and yard with a black light and a can of something toxic. Ah, yes, they glow under ultraviolet light. With the exception of those who recently molted and the babies, who remain invisible. The minuscule newborns are far more deadly than adults because they can’t yet control how much venom they release. Of the 2,000 species of scorpions, the Arizona bark scorpion, is the only species to produce venom strong enough to kill a small child.

Hate me yet?

So, back to where we started. “Can scorpions escape from the vacuum cleaner?” I recently discovered a scorpion a few feet from where I had vacuumed one up an hour earlier. That little bugger escaped! After years of debate, the matter is settled.

Once turned off, anything in the tank can move of it’s own free will and will likely try to get out. Using a blacklight, you might be able to use it to see if it’s in the vacuum. But honestly, seeing it or not seeing it in there would be disconcerting. It’s either alive in your vacuum or alive in your home.

I’m not one to kill bugs. I’ve rescued dozens of poinsettias and ailing houseplants from the dumpster. I catch a release geckos, spiders, and moths that make their way indoors. I brake for quail and snakes, and help corral them out of the streets. And yet, I’m finally figuring out that any insect capable of harming me probably just needs to be killed. Scorpions included.

8 thoughts on “Schrödinger’s Scorpion

  1. Wowza, Erin. No, I don’t hate you…but goodness. The thought of escapees from the vacuum cleaner is a shiver fest. And I’m only thinking about common house spiders. Scorpions? Babies that are harder to detect but potentially more lethal? Eww…I’m jealous about your beautiful, dry weather and desert landscapes…but appreciate the reminder that there are minuses AND pluses – no matter where we live. 😜

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    1. Yes, it’s so true, everywhere has it’s plus and minuses. As much as I’d someday love to experience a white Christmas, there is something nice about a bright, sunny, and 75° holiday. I can tolerate the blistering heat and the humdrum beige landscape, and even the snakes (which typically give a warning before striking), but I’m always on the lookout for scorpions… yikes!

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  2. I was tempted to hurry past this, because I hate spiders so much (I’ve honestly had bad dreams about them). But curiosity got the better of me, and yikes! Can’t imagine!

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  3. When we lived in Tucson, one side of the city definitely seemed to get far more of the beasties, while the side we lived on? Not so much. We had lived there for a year before I saw one captive in a display in the Desert Museum.


    1. Yes, it’s very similar in Phoenix. They have territory maps online, so people can take scorpion territories into consideration when looking for housing. For example, the house I grew up in has never seen a scorpion; however, according to the map, there are many a half-block down. Though, with Phoenix’s growth over the past twenty years, the construction keep displacing the little beasties, so their little pockets keep shifting.

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