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Wild Thing: Striped Stinger

This sneaky scorpion likes to crawl into bed with you - and then have babies.

By Sheryl Smith-Rodgers

Asleep one night last August, Brush Freeman rolled over, then woke when he felt a searing sting on his abdomen. Familiar with such attacks, he knew instantly what shared his bed – a striped bark scorpion (Centruroides vittatus). "They're part of country life," shrugs the Bastrop County resident. "I just wish they were edible!"

Wicked looking, ugly even, scorpions boast few fans. For good reason, as Freeman will readily confirm. Perhaps, however, some might hail the female's motherly nature, brief though it may be. She begins the mating ritual by clasping pinchers with her chosen. They dance, mate and then part ways.

For eight months or so, the female gestates an average of 31 embryos. At birth, the young emerge live, covered in a placenta. Freed from their sacs, the tiny scorpions – already capable of stinging – scramble onto their mother's back. There they stay for several days. After their first molt, or sometimes longer, they disperse. Mom's done until her next brood, of which there could be several more, as the species lives at least four years.

Striped bark scorpions occur throughout Texas. Nocturnal, they hide under rocks and bark and in homes. Prey includes small insects, spiders and other scorpions. Yellowish to tan in color, they're marked with two broad, dark stripes atop their abdomen. Like spiders, ticks and other arachnids, scorpions have two body parts and eight legs. Pinchers tip their long, front appendages. Their long, slender tails end with a bulb-shaped stinger.

Painful but not deadly, a striped bark scorpion's venom may cause swelling, itching or numbness. Reactions vary by individual. "I still feel a sting three days later," says Freeman, a frequent victim. "I think I may be developing a sensitivity to them!"

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