Are Scorpions Poisonous or Dangerous?

Written by Taiwo Victor
Updated: November 2, 2022
Image Credit Vova Shevchuk/Shutterstock.com
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Did you know that scorpions cause about 3,250 human deaths every year? Scorpions are no friendly arachnids. Their name alone can give jitters to people, not just because of their terrifying facade and pincers that are always posed ready to attack, but because of their notorious, deadly venom. Scorpions are very venomous and dangerous animals, especially around humans. An adult human can suffer from severe complications and even death when stung.

All species of scorpions possess venom, but some species are far more dangerous and venomous than others. They typically settle in deserts, but they often become a nuisance to humans as they can be aggressive and sting when provoked. Despite their tiny size, scorpions are one of the most feared animals on the planet because they are one of the most venomous. But, are scorpions poisonous? Read on to find out!

Scorpion Stings

What Do Scorpions Eat
Scorpions incapacitate their prey with their stingers.

iStock.com/yod67

Scorpions do not bite. They sting. These arachnids use the stingers in their tail primarily to capture and incapacitate their prey. As the scorpion stings its victim, it releases a venom that possesses a mix of harmful neurotoxins that can directly affect the nervous system. Scorpions are typically not the type of animals to actively initiate attacks on humans, but they use their stingers as a defense mechanism when provoked. Not all scorpion species sting humans. Some species are even kept as pets as they have less venom than others. 

Scorpion stings are often identified by witnessing the scorpion crawling away from the victim. In the United States, scorpion stings are not always fatal. Most of the sting incidents only exhibited minor signs, including warmth, redness, and extreme pain in the sting area. Some other mild sting symptoms include numbing and tingling at the sting site and swelling. It can also cause an immediate burning feeling and may produce tiny swellings around the sting area that are painful to touch.

For most scorpion stings, the symptoms and discomfort should subside after a few hours. Worse symptoms will usually be resolved after two to three days. In some rare cases, patients report symptoms lasting for weeks or even months.

However, if some species of scorpions with more potent venom sting you, it can result in more severe symptoms like:

  • Unusual and uncontrolled movement of the eyes, neck, and head
  • Excessive drooling
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Hypertension or high blood pressure
  • Hypotension or low blood pressure
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Excitability or restlessness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Paralysis
  • Severe convulsions or seizures
  • Cardiac irregularities

The sting of one of the most toxic scorpions, the bark scorpion, can be deadly, especially to children. The bark scorpion sting can cause numbness, twitching muscles, and blurry vision. When stung by this deadly scorpion, children can manifest hyperactivity and erratic eye movement.

Are Scorpions Dangerous to Humans?

Arizona bark scorpion crawling down a tree
Scorpion stings are very deadly to humans.

Ernie Cooper/Shutterstock.com

Scorpions are among the most dangerous animals to humans and are even reported to have an average human fatality count of 3,250 every year. The scorpion may not bite, but it stings, and its sting can be excruciating and deadly. Scorpions contain a potent venom that is very harmful to humans. The levels of their venom content depend on the species, but it is crucial to seek medical attention once stung by these arachnids.

Of around 2,000 species of scorpions, only 30 to 40 of them contain venom that can kill humans. Still, that is a vast number, and the best thing to do is avoid all of them. Some species are kept as pets, such as the Emperor scorpion. They are not as aggressive as other scorpions in the wild and have milder venom than others. Stings from a Texas scorpion also have a lighter effect on the human nervous system, causing only mild to moderate reactions. Apart from the usual symptoms that arise upon scorpion stings, their venom can also act as an allergen to some individuals and may trigger adverse reactions such as difficulty breathing.

Although films and the media have exaggerated the scorpion’s sting effects, where bitten victims die within seconds, the reality is not as bad as portrayed. Not all scorpions can kill humans. In the United States, only one deadly scorpion can be found –the Arizona bark scorpion. This deadly scorpion can grow up to 3 inches as an adult. They can be small compared to other species that grow up to 9.1 inches, but they are far more deadly. However, most scorpion stings are accidental.

Scorpions may have earned the reputation of being aggressive because of their potentially fatal bites, but they do not chase down people to sting them on purpose. Often, scorpions, even the highly venomous ones, will avoid human contact. However, accidental brushing up, stepping on, or accidentally touching the scorpion can trigger the arachnid’s automatic defense mechanism.

Are Scorpions Poisonous?

Largest scorpions - giant forest scorpion
Scorpions are venomous.

iStock.com/lamyai

Are scorpions poisonous? Scorpions contain venom, but they are not poisonous. The only risk they pose on humans is their sting, but they are not poisonous to touch nor eat. Scorpions are edible, yet the stinger needs to be cut off first. Often, the scorpion venom is produced and stored within the segments of their tails, so those segments need to be removed as they can cause the same sting effects when eaten. 

How to Avoid Scorpion Stings

When you are in the wild or in a place where you think scorpions may be lurking around, you need to be highly cautious like with any other insects or ants that will sting when disturbed. It is important to shake your clothes and shoes before wearing them to ensure they are not inside the clothes. You might also want to wear shoes and put on gloves while working in the yard during the night. At home, make sure you mow your grass thoroughly so there wouldn’t be a hiding place for scorpions. 

Scorpions can be kept as pets, but this is not advisable for beginners and children. They shouldn’t be kept indoors close to children as younger ones are more vulnerable to scorpion stings.

Up Next:

What Do Scorpions Eat
Although each Emperor scorpion has a venomous stinger on the tip of its tail, adults normally rely on their large claws, or palps, to capture prey.
Vova Shevchuk/Shutterstock.com
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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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