Scorpions in Kentucky

Southern Devil Scorpion

The Southern Devil Scorpion, which is also called the southern unstriped scorpion, is the only true scorpion species in the state of Kentucky.

A Southern Devil Scorpion sting is of minor medical importance. In fact, the stings from these little guys are no more dangerous than a bee sting.

However, all scorpion venom has the potential to cause a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylactic shock. Furthermore, people with pre-existing health conditions, small children, and older adults may be more severely affected by arthropod venoms in general.

If you have severe symptoms such as blurred vision, muscle spasms, or difficulty breathing after experiencing a scorpion sting, seek immediate medical attention.

The state of Kentucky is also home to small scorpion-like arachnids called pseudoscorpions. Although they are not true scorpions, their close resemblance makes them mention worthy.

We’ll talk more about both southern devil scorpions and pseudoscorpions in the paragraphs below.

Southern Devil Scorpion (Vaejovis carolinianus)

People associate scorpions with the dry arid country of the western United States. However, there are also types of scorpions that are native to warm humid areas such as the southeastern states. The southern devil scorpion is one of these.

This scorpion species also has the common names Southern Unstriped Scorpion or Carolina Devil Scorpion. Besides Kentucky, it is native to all or parts of Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

According to the University of Kentucky Entomology Department, they have received Southern Devil Scorpion specimens from Adair, Barren, Bullitt, Casey, Estill, Fayette, Hardin, Madison, Marion, Metcalfe, Monroe, Pulaski, and Wayne counties.

According to the book, “The Biology of Scorpions” by Gary A. Polis, there are over 1,500 species of scorpions in the world. Of these, fewer than 25 have stings that are lethal to humans. For example, the Arizona Bark Scorpion, which lives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico, is on the list of most dangerous scorpions. Fortunately, though, for people living in the southeast, Southern Devil scorpions are not on the list of dangerous scorpions.

These scorpions pack a painful sting. However, the venom of this species is not medically dangerous to normal healthy individuals. People who have been stung by one report that the pain intensity is very similar to a wasp sting.

Southern Devil Scorpion
Southern Devil Scorpion image by kim fleming

What do Southern Devil Scorpions look like?

All scorpions look a little bit like tiny land-dwelling lobsters with some distinctions. Lobsters have 10 legs, while scorpions have 8, and of course, lobsters don’t have a bulbous venom-filled stinger on the end of a narrow tail, while scorpions do.

Southern Devil Scorpion adults are typically 1 to 1 1/2 inches in length. However, larger specimens grow up to three inches long. In color, they are uniformly dark brown to reddish brown.

Southern Devil Scorpion Behavior

Southern Devil Scorpions are nocturnal animals. During the day, they take shelter under loose stones, under loose bark, and beneath leaf litter and wood litter on the forest floor.

Around your house, you might encounter these little scorpions in a crawl space, beneath leaf piles or wood piles, in laundry rooms, or even inside one of the garden gloves that you accidentally left outside overnight. If you’re camping in their native areas, be sure to double-check your shoes, your sleeping bag, clothing, and any other possible hiding place that these scorpions might utilize. Luckily, they are very skittish and would rather hide from you than sting you. The only way you’ll ever be stung by one is through accidental contact.

They only use their stinger for defense or to subdue their prey. Their prey, by the way, consists of small insects and arachnids, such as spiders and other scorpions.

How to look for Southern Devil Scorpions

As stated above, during the day, these scorpions hide out. Crawl spaces, wood stacks, rocky hillsides, and leaf-covered areas are all examples of likely hiding spots.

Like all scorpions, Southern Devil scorpions have compounds in their exoskeletons that glow under black light. To see them after dark, in your yard, or if you are camping in an area where Southern Devil scorpions are active, the best way to find them is with a UV flashlight. Use the ultraviolet light to scan your yard or campsite after dark. The scorpions will glow a bright blueish color.

Remember that the darker the night, the more the scorpion will glow. In other words, they are more luminous on a night of a new moon, for example. What’s more, campfires and other sources of light will cut down on the effectiveness of your ultraviolet light source.

One last thing to remember on this subject is that UV light radiating in the 320 to 400 nm range isn’t overly harmful to your vision. However, if you choose to use a UV light source that produces shorter wavelengths, you’ll want to also use eye protection.

Book scorpion
Book Scorpion

Pseudoscorpions in Virginia

Pseudoscorpions also have the common names of book scorpion or false scorpion. These little creatures look a lot like a tiny scorpion minus the stinger. They have a flat, pear-shaped body, eight legs, and a pair of proportionately large pinchers or pedipalps, just like scorpions. However, although they share some similarities, they are not actual scorpions.

They are arachnids, though, which means they are related to spiders, scorpions, mites, and ticks. In fact, minus their proportionately large pincers, false scorpions look a lot like ticks.

People also sometimes mistake these tiny little creatures for ticks. There are over 3,300 pseudoscorpion species worldwide, and their average body length is just 3 millimeters.

Pseudoscorpions live in cracks and crevasses as well as in leaf litter and underneath tree bark in the outdoors. They will make their way inside people’s homes occasionally. However, they are not a threat to humans.

Book scorpions don’t have a stinger on their tail. However, they do have a stinger in each pincher. They inject their prey with venom to immobilize it. After which, they secrete a fluid over it to dissolve it so that they can ingest the liquified remains.

These tiny arachnids spin silk that they secrete from glands in their jaws. They use this silk to construct cocoons for the purposes of mating, molting, or taking shelter during the winter months.

Book scorpions are generally beneficial to humans since they prey on pests such as clothes moth larvae, carpet beetle larvae, booklice, ants, mites, and small flies. See

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