Scorpions in West Virginia

Southern Devil Scorpion

The only scorpion native to the state of West Virginia is the Southern Devil Scorpion.

This particular species of scorpion has stings that are no more medically significant than a bee sting. Nevertheless, in rare cases, any scorpion’s sting has the potential to cause a severe allergic reaction. severe symptoms such as anaphylactic shock are a possibility. If you have blurred vision, muscle spasms, or difficulty breathing after experiencing a scorpion sting, seek immediate medical attention.

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

We’ll talk more about both Southern Devil Scorpions and pseudoscorpions in the paragraphs below.

Southern Devil Scorpion (Vaejovis carolinianus)

The Southern Devil Scorpion goes by several different common names. People use them interchangeably, depending on the locality. Besides Southern Devil Scorpions, they are also called Southern Unstriped Scorpions, Carolina Devil Scorpions, and Plain Eastern Stripeless Scorpions.

Southern Devil Scorpion
Southern Devil Scorpion image by kim fleming

Where do Southern Devil Scorpions Live?

People associate scorpions with the dry arid desert climates. The southwestern United States comes to mind. However, there are scorpion species that are adapted to live in warm, moist areas such as the southeastern states. For instance, the Common Striped Bark Scorpion, the Hentz striped, and the Southern Devil Scorpion are examples of this.

Besides Tennessee, it is native to all or parts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Virginia, West Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

How Dangerous are Southern Devil Scorpions?

To quote University of Tennessee entomologist Karen Vail, “The Unstriped Scorpion is tiny, and its sting is usually harmless, but some people may have an allergic reaction to the venom if stung.” See

These scorpions pack a painful sting. Nevertheless, 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.

However, as stated in the opening section, all scorpion stings have the potential to cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Here is the account of James Scully, who was a corporal in the 6th New York Cavalry of the Union Army during the Civil War. While encamped at Fair Oaks, Virginia, in 1862, Corporal Scully suffered a scorpion sting to the back of his neck and nearly died due to the severity of the reaction it produced.

Just like in Tennessee, the only native scorpion in the state of Virginia is Vaejovis carolinianus, or common name, the Southern Unstriped Scorpion.

What do Southern Unstriped 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 have either a reddish or dark brown color.

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 in the forest or your yard.

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.

Scorpion under UV light
Scorpion under UV light image by snowwhite

How to look for 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.

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 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.

Fun Fact

Even fossilized scorpions glow under ultraviolet light.

Book scorpion
Book Scorpion

Pseudoscorpions in West 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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