Friday, May 9, 2008

The Sting

An adult Centruroides sculpturatus, Bark scorpion;
approx. 2" long

I am going to get stung by a Bark scorpion, Centruroides sculpturatus. I know this. And the reason I know this is because I am going to help it sting me.

I've been working with and living amongst Bark scorpions in the desert southwest for four years now. During that time, I've changed their dirty cages in our lab, lovingly fed them hoards of stinky crickets, watched their babies being born, handled dozens of them -- carefully, and by the tail. And I have "rescued" countless individuals headed for the schmoosh by coworkers or neighbors. I've given several presentations to homeowners and school kids about the facts and fantastics of bark scorpions, and yet I cannot describe fully what it is like to be stung. I feel somehow deficient, like I'm not part of the club... Or half the scientist I could or should be by educating on a topic that in effect I have only read about or heard described: what it feels like to be stung by our nation's most poisonous scorpion. I'm a fraud. I must be stung.

So before I relocate for graduate school in the NW, I'm inducing a Bark scorpion sting (if I don't step on one in the night before then). My departing gift to myself. The sting set up will be in early August, a little sooner if I can get the guts up. Stay tuned!

{This isn't a ratings ploy. A surprising number of internet searches on concerns over Bark scorpions/stings are pulling up my blog, even though I've posted very little on scorpions. Clearly people are freaked out. So I decided to use this personal event to allay fears (anticipation of a sting is probably disproportionate to the sting itself). I'll post pictures and, most importantly, a full description of the sting and its after-effects.}


Max said...

As a fellow stinging arthropod enthusiast, I would probably do the same. I felt somewhat cheated when I left New Mexico without a harvester ant sting, which was received by everyone else I worked with.

JP said...

Excellent, so I'm not crazy.

Harvester ants...Tarantula hawks...rattlesnakes...scorpions... A real smorgasboard of envenomation options in the southwest, eh?

Alex said...

Goodness. I hope it goes well and that this isn't the last post of yours we'll be reading.

A Ripley said...

My hubby picked up a live bark scorpion from the living room carpet using a tissue (against my better judgment). He immediately got stung through the tissue. I prepared for the worst -- find the car keys, call 911, CPR, etc. Nothing happened other than it felt like a bee sting and all sensation of pain disappearing within an hour. Hope your sting goes equally as well.

JP said...

A Ripley,

Thanks for sharing your encounter. You raise a good point regarding scorpion stings: they modulate the amount of venom injected. It is based in part on the perceived level of threat. Makes sense, since venom production is a metabolic investment (and not a bottomless well, so when it's low the scorpion is less able to defend itself or subdue prey until it produces more). That first whap your husband sustained might have been followed by a second (or third, fourth...) sting with increased venom if the scorpion's sense of threat increased (not to say a good venom load can't or won't be delivered on the first sting, it just all depends). Or perhaps he got lucky and came upon a scorpion whose venom was already running low... Lots of things play into the venom load and the effect it has on each individual (including thickness and toughness of skin, which can reduce toxin delivery to the bloodstream -- one reason children suffer greater effects).

Hopefully my sting experience will be fairly typical for an adult -- both for my enjoyment and the educational aspect.

In any event, I'm glad to hear your husband's encounter didn't produce a hospital visit, or even the common adult symptoms of nausea, pain, etc.