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Commonly Asked Questions About Scorpions & Tarantulas

Q: Are scorpions insects?

A: Although people often think of scorpions as insects, they’re actually part of the Arachnida class, which makes them closer cousins to spiders. Arachnids have eight legs, as opposed to an insect’s six legs, and they also lack an insect’s antennae and wings.

Q: Are scorpions poisonous?

A: A very small number of scorpions…less than 2%…are capable of killing a human being. But all scorpions carry venom (a mixture of neurotoxins, enzyme inhibitors, and other compounds) in their stingers, which they use with great efficiency to paralyze and kill small prey, or to defend themselves against larger predators.

Q: Where do scorpions live?

A: Scorpions live nearly everywhere in the world, except for Antarctica.

Q: What should I do if I get stung?

A: Don’t panic! You may feel sick after being stung by a scorpion, but the chances of dying from it are far less than the chance of getting in an auto accident during rush hour traffic in any major U.S. or European city. Sweat baths are an effective remedy, as are cold compresses and general analgesics to relieve the discomfort. If you have a known anaphylactic reaction to bee stings, seek medical help immediately.

Q: Do scorpions really glow in the dark?

A: If you shine an ultraviolet light on a scorpion, it will glow an eerie bluish color. This makes it easy to find them (before they find you!) in the dark.

Q: How many different kinds of tarantulas are there?

A: Although many people think of “tarantula” whenever they see a large spider, there are actually only about 900 different species of tarantulas in existence. The wolf spider, which is commonly mistaken for a small tarantula, has about 2,300 different subspecies.

Q: Are tarantulas poisonous?

A: No. While all tarantulas are venomous, none exist that can kill a human being. However, some bites can cause severe discomfort that may last for days–and the venom of the African tarantula Pelinobius muticus can cause strong hallucinations.

Many tarantulas release tiny urticating hairs (irritating bristles) which are lethal to small animals such as mice and voles. Some humans can develop serious rashes from these urticating hairs, and severe damage can result from inhaling the hairs. Tarantula hairs have also been known to cause permanent damage to human eyes.

In all cases, it is advisable to seek medical aid. Because other proteins are included when a toxin is injected, some individuals–particularly those with a known anaphylactic reaction to bee stings–may suffer severe symptoms due to an allergic reaction rather than to the venom. Such allergic effects can be life-threatening.

Q: Where do tarantulas live?

A: Tarantulas live in the southern and western parts of the United States, in Central America, and throughout South America. In Europe, some species live in Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, and Cyprus. They also live throughout Africa, much of Asia, and all of Australia.





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