With the dreaded scorpion season just around the corner, many of us will be on the lookout for these stinging pests inside our homes. Seeing one of these malevolent scorpions scurry across our bathroom floor is enough to send us running to the nearest telephone to call a local scorpion exterminator.
Sometimes the creepy-crawlies we see inside our homes or on our properties are not scorpions at all; just pests that closely resemble a scorpion. They’re still ugly, and they still look dangerous; even though they are generally harmless.
Here are three pests we commonly confuse for scorpions:
A pest control technician from Bulwark Exterminating in Mesa recently brought in a whipscorpion for me to see first hand. A customer of theirs had found it on the side of her home, and frantically called for Bulwark technician to come out. Upon seeing the thing, I can understand why she was freaking out… The whipscorpion was down right intimidating looking. It was ugly!
Called by many names, including: vinegaroon, whiptail scorpion, windspider, and sunscorpion; the whipscorpion is not a true scorpion. These arachnids range in size from 3/8th – 3 inches in length. They also range in color from a dark yellow, to brown, and even black. Whipscorpions get their names because of their rapid movement… They run like the wind!
Whipscorpions are commonly confused for scorpions because of the very large pair of pinchers that protrude from their bodies. These palps as they’re called are used to grasp other insects they eat. Whipscorpions are also commonly confused for scorpions because of their tails. A long thin whip-tail sticks out of the whipscorpion’s abdomen. This tail is not dangerous, does not have a stinger, and is used as a sensory organ.
If you happen to see one of these whipscorpions inside your home or on your property, rest easy. Whipscorpions are not venomous, and will not cause serious pest control problems like a true scorpion would. This species’ main line of defense is spraying a defensive mist of acetic acid, or vinegar, from the end of it’s tail which is unpleasant to smell. They can also bite, with their bites being similar to that of a non-venomous spider.
We’ve all seen the picture going around online. A soldier in the Middle East holding up a pair of massive tangled spiders for the camera. The picture is something strait out of our nightmares. Just in case you haven’t seen the picture, here you go (right):
Now that you are horrified, what you are looking at is a camel spider or windscorpion. They are much smaller here in the United States, and stories about their size, appetite, lethality, and behavior are urban myths.
Windscorpions are sometimes referred to as camel spiders or sun spiders. They are commonly found in Arizona and other Southwestern states. Although they look similar to scorpions, and are also arachnids; they are not scorpions and are not venomous. Windscorpions can be aggressive in nature. They have been known to attack for no reason at all, with attacks resulting in an irregularly shaped large bite. They also have pinchers that can pinch skin.
Windscorpions are known for their speed. They can run up to 10 mph, and can climb a variety of surfaces. This speed is used for catching their insect prey. Generally speaking, windscorpions in the U.S. measure about an inch and a half long, and are a light yellowish brown in color. I actually caught one in a sticky trap recently, and thought it was pretty cool to look at.
Pseudoscorpions (Pseudoscorpionida) are also commonly referred to as book scorpions because they are often found in dusty rooms with books. In fact, they were first described by Aristotle as he watched them feed on the book lice among the scrolls in the library. In addition to being found among books inside homes, schools, and libraries; Pseudoscorpions have been found under tree bark, in leaf litter, in soil, in tree hollows, under stones, in caves, and within fractured rocks.
Pseudoscorpions look very much like tiny scorpions, measuring about three millimeters in size. Unlike scorpions, pseudoscorpions have no tail and no stinger. They are not dangerous to humans; in fact, they’re quite beneficial. Pseudoscorpions inside homes will feed on book lice, ants, mites, clothing moths and carpet beetles. Because of how small they are, they are rarely seen. When they are they get confused for baby scorpions.
Pseudoscorpions are small, flat, and shaped like a pear. Their color is described as yellowish-tan to dark brown. Their abdomens are short and rounded at the rear, and do not extend into a segmented tail like a true scorpion.
This scorpion season, don’t get fooled by these cleverly disguised pests. While these pests are definitely ugly, they are medically harmless. Still, if you don not like seeing them inside your home or on your property, it’s best to contact a pest management professional.