3 Pests Often Confused For Scorpions

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:

1. Whipscorpions 

Whipscorpion

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!

vinegaroonCalled 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.

2. Windscorpions

Sun 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):

Military personnel in Iraq encounter a pair of...

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.

3. Pseudoscorpions

The Impersonator - Pseudoscorpion

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.

Pseudoscorpion

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.

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PestWorld 2013 Day 3

PestWorld  2013 Awards

 It’s Day three (October 24, 2013) here at PestWorld in Phoenix, AZ, and what an event filled day it has been. The day kicked off with the pest control industry rewards, followed immediately by the general session. The general session featured Freakonomics author Stephen Dubner addressing the 3,300 pest management professionals in attendance. After the general session, we all headed over to the exhibit hall to gander at all of the latest and greatest products and services for our industry. Our afternoons were spent in education sessions, in which I was able to attend three.

Here are a few of the highlights from day three of Pest World 2013:

General Session With Freakonomics Author Stephen Dubner

 

Stephen Dubner

Back in 2005, Stephen Dubner changed the way much of the world thinks about incentives when he released his book entitled Freakonomics. Since then, the book has remained on the New York Times best sellers list for over seven years. Attendees at PestWorld had the privilege to listen to a few of his real word examples of how incentives fail; and how we can get them to be successful.

Freakonomics

Example of Incentives Failing

Several years ago, Alexandra, South Africa was plagued with rats. The government had come to their wits end, trying to come up with solutions to combat the disease carrying pests. The government offered free trash cants with tight fitting lids to it’s citizens, and even offered free pest control, but people viewed these efforts as a hassle. The Alexandra city government then offered a bounty for rat carcasses. They were literally paying the equivalent of $4 U.S. for each dead rat brought to their doorstep. Like many incentive programs, it failed miserably. This actually lead to a bigger rat problem, as the city’s citizens actually started farming rats just to slaughter and turn in for cash.

Point being that financial incentives may work initially, but rarely work long term. They may even backfire. Keep that in mind the next time you decide to start paying your kids for good grades.

Example of Incentives Failing, & Eventually Working

A New York hospital asked it’s doctors to self report the rates of personal hand washing behavior. Some 73% of doctors reported washing their hands when they were supposed to. What they didn’t know is that the nurses where actually asked to spy on the doctors and record their real data. The truth was only 9% of doctors actually washed when they were required. An incentive of a $10 Starbucks gift card was added when the docs washed. The number immediately rose to nearly 100%. Funny how none of us can turn down free stuff. What eventually occurred was that the incentive didn’t change long term behavior. In a last ditch effort, the hospital administration took petri dish samples of the bacteria on the Dr.’s hands, looked at them under a microscope, and converted the results to images. The results were pretty disturbing, and the images where used as screen savers on every computer in the hospital. Being constantly reminded by these images, changed the behavior at the hospital.

A Few Points Made By Stephen Dubner

  • Find the data that represents the real world, and really challenge the data to best reflect real world application.
  • We all have declared preferences, and real preferences for everything, especially with our business goals. There is typically a huge difference between the two.
  • Collect data before making real decisions; know what is really happening (real preferences, not declared).
  • Success is a proxy for honesty.
  • It’s hard to get people to do the right thing, even with incentives.
  • Compensation doesn’t change long term behavior, but incentives do matter. Find the right incentives.
  • 10-20 smaller ideas that you experiment with are better than one big idea (Ahem politicians).
  • Don’t accept artificial barriers. Mental barriers have huge impacts.
  • Look at problems differently than other people are looking at them (Stephen shared the story of Takeru Kobayashi’s success at the hotdog eating contest).

PestWorld Educational Sessions

 

There were another 24 breakout educational sessions today, educating us on everything from PMP marketing strategy, to control of squirrels and opossums, to hiring sales superstars. I had the opportunity to sit in on these three educational sessions:

Cockroaches, Crickets, Earwigs & Pillbugs: How Understanding the Biology of Occasional Invaders Can Increase Management Success

I had the great pleasure to listen to Dr. Roger Gold of Texas A&M today; one of the most brilliant minds on all things Arthropoda.  The main point I took away was that understanding the biology of a pest is key to professional pest management (life cycle, nutritional requirements, and environmental selection). GO FOR THE WEAK LINK!  To best control a population you need to eliminate or contaminate at least one resource for life (environment, water, food, etc.).

A few other interesting points: (1) Some customer accounts you can afford to lose, especially if sanitation, harborage, etc. is bad.  (2) He hears about far more cases of cockroaches entering people’s ears than earwigs.

Scorpion 8 eyes

Scorpion Biology, ID and Management

  • Dr. Bob Davis of BASF Pest Control Services spoke on all things scorpions.
  • There are 90 different species found in U.S.; 42 in Arizona. Some live in trees, some on ground. Some in sand, some on rocks.
  • Have long slender bodies, divided into two segments. Head and thorax fused together, abdomen, tail, two pedipalps, and four pair of legs.
  • Have comb-like sensory organs (pectines) on last pair of legs to detect environment, wavelengths, chemical queues and vibrations. Males have larger pectines.
  • Scorpions cannot see very well.
  • Adult scorpions perform elaborate courtship, and then grasp each other. Mating looks like intense fighting. I got to see an amazing video of this I will try to link to later.
  • Females give birth to live young, with average litter size of 26. She will care for them for two weeks on her back.
  • Some scorpions live 20+ years. Leads to heavy populations.
  • Scorpions are not disease vectors.
  • Got to learn to distinguish among Stripe-tailed scorpions (devil scorpions), Striped Bark scorpions,  Arizona Bark scorpions, Whipscorpions, Windscorpions, and Pseudoscorpions.
  • Inspection, identification, assessment, remedial tactics and evaluation are all necessary for scorpion control.  Habitat modification is critical!

Recent Arizona Regulatory Changes & Their Impact On PMP’s

Since I work out of Arizona, for Bulwark Exterminating, I thought it best to sit in on this topic. Vince Craig from the Arizona Department of Agriculture presented on the historic revisions and additions to the Office of Pest Management Laws.

Instead of writing these new laws here, I found it easier to just link to them. The new laws are effective September 13, 2013.

New Arizona Office of Pest Management Laws: http://www.sb.state.az.us/