They’re here, but are so rare and reclusive it’s unlikely you’ll see one.
By: Kathy Andrews
Misty fall evenings provide the perfect backdrop for viewing some of the most campy horror movies ever produced. And, what respectable horror movie isn’t complete without a larger-than-life, man-eating, venomous scorpion?
Reality check. Most of the world’s 1,400-plus known species of scorpions are found in deserts and tropical rainforests. But not all of them. One, the striped bark scorpion (Centruoides vittatus), is found right here in Illinois.
Before those self-preservation reflexes kick in, or you vow never to venture outdoors again, the bark scorpion is rare in Illinois. Their small size and reclusive habit make it even less likely you’ll ever encounter one in the wild.
Adult striped bark scorpions are rarely more than 3 inches long. Their body color varies from yellow to tan, and the two broad, black stripes on the upper surface of their abdomen provide the “striped” portion of their name.
Scorpions may not have “eyes in the back of the head,” but they do have a lot of eyes—two pairs on the top of their head and three to five on the edge of their shell.
Where common, striped bark scorpions are found, as the name implies, under the bark of trees, although they also occur in wood piles or under dead vegetation or rocks. During the heat of the day, scorpions seek cool, moist areas to avoid desiccation. Exiting their shelter under the cover of darkness, the carnivorous scorpion preys on beetles, crickets, spiders, cockroaches, ants and even smaller scorpions.
The typical horror movie scorpion is a creature of the desert, with its tail held up over its back, poised to deliver a dose of venom to prey or attacker. Because it resides in flat environments, the bark scorpion’s tail is curled to the side and drawn over its back only when actively feeding or threatened.
What movie producer wouldn’t love to feature a glow-in-the-dark venomous critter? A yet unidentified substance under their cuticle causes scorpions to fluoresce under ultraviolet light.
Yes, I know, I’ve omitted one valuable piece of information—where these incredible creatures live in Illinois. Unfortunately, that will have to remain a secret between the photographer, writer and our biologist guide. Scorpions have become popular in the pet trade, and releasing their locale might tip off a few unscrupulous collectors. For the time being, protecting these rare arachnids is a priority and your curiosity must be quelled by a short story and a photograph.