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Are There Scorpions in Illinois?
Scorpions are prehistoric-looking creatures that have been around for millions of years. They have endured the most severe and brutal environments and still thrive today. There’s even been a report of a scorpion being frozen overnight only to thaw out the next day and carry on with life as normal! This leaves little doubt that the survival skills in these creatures are as impressive as they are strong. Common characteristics of scorpions include eight legs, two pincers in front, and a curled tail over the body, with the famous stinger on the end of it.
Typically, scorpions are found in arid, dry climates. They’re common in deserts, but they’ve adapted to different climates and can be found in forests and tropical environments. You can find some species of scorpions in almost every region except for Greenland and Antarctica. If you live in Illinois, you might wonder if you’ll ever come across a scorpion. Maybe you already have! It’s a rare sight, but yes, one scorpion species does reside in Illinois.
Illinois Scorpions: The Striped Bark Scorpion
Illinois’s only scorpion is the Striped Bark Scorpion (Centruroides vittatus), also known as the Wood or Plains Scorpion. You can find this species mostly in Monroe County and other Southwestern areas of the state. However, it’s reclusive and tends to only come out at night. Spotting this nocturnal bug during the day may not be easy. They spend their days hidden in dark, cool places like woods, under rocks, and in crevices. If you live in their area, you can also sometimes find them in your cupboards, basements, and attics because they are also good climbers when they want to be. They dehydrate quickly, so they stay hidden and cool to retain moisture and will bury themselves in the soil if they can’t find an appropriate hiding place.
The tail is curled up over the end of the body and has a stinger on the end of it, in typical scorpion fashion. The body is 2-3 inches long, tan or yellowish-brown, and there are two identifying, parallel, dark brown stripes running down the length of the back. There is a pair of pincers at the front of the body used to capture their prey, which consists of spiders, flies, and other insects. They grab their prey with the pincers and then sting it with their tail. They have two eyes on the top of their head and two to five eyes on the sides of it. Even with all these eyes, they don’t see that well!
Will This Scorpion Sting?
All scorpions sting. Their venom is mostly used to kill prey and when the scorpion has to defend themselves against a predator. Some scorpions carry a venom that can be deadly to humans, but the Striped Back Scorpion sting is usually just painful. Children, the elderly, those who are immunocompromised, and those allergic to the venom should seek medical attention if they’re stung. Usually, the sting is painful, and the pain doesn’t last more than 20 minutes. The sting site can remain sore for the rest of the day, but the sting pain is reported to be similar to that of a bee or wasp. If you’re experiencing difficulty breathing or nausea with stomach cramping, seek medical treatment immediately or call 911.
To avoid being stung if you think that this scorpion is in your area, remember that these creatures are mostly active at night. If you’re out during the day doing yard work or disturbing areas that they might be hiding in, like woodpiles, rocks, and logs, wear gloves to protect your hands. Wear appropriate footwear in case they come running out from seclusion. A scorpion will usually retreat from danger, but if they feel threatened, they will sting as a defense mechanism.
An equally alarming sight in Illinois is a relative of the scorpion, the pseudoscorpion. These insects look like scorpions in nearly every way except they don’t have tails. They live in the same spots that scorpions do but can sometimes be found in the nests of animals too. These imposters have reddish-brown, oval-shaped bodies and resemble ticks. Their long pincers at the front of their bodies will distinguish them from other creatures. They look like scorpions that have lost their tails. They hunt their prey of ants, mites, insect larvae, and flies by hiding and stalking. Then they grab their victim with their pincers and release poison into it to paralyze it before consumption. While these pseudoscorpions have venom glands, the venom is not harmful to humans or animals. It is only lethal to insects. You don’t have to fear a pseudoscorpion because they cannot hurt you.
The Striped Bark Scorpion is the only species found in Illinois, and even then, they’re not a common sight. They spend their days hiding and come out at night to hunt for food. While this scorpion can and will sting you, the sting is usually just painful and not that harmful to humans, aside from extreme discomfort at the site. This pain should go away within a half hour. If you experience worse symptoms, seek medical attention.
The pseudoscorpion is a relative of the scorpion and is also found in Illinois. You can tell the difference between these two because the pseudoscorpion has no tail and therefore, no stinger. This arachnid is harmless to people and animals.
If you encounter either of these creatures, they will likely retreat from your presence and scurry away back to their hiding spots. It’s not necessary to harm them because they cannot harm you.
Featured Image Credit: Hanjo Hellmann, Shutterstock
Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts’ knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.