How to Keep Scorpions Away from Your Home

Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published July 18, 1999.)

Q: Help! My house is overrun with scorpions, and I hate them.

A: How ungracious of you. First of all, the scorpions were here first, and secondly, they absolutely adore you.

And what do they get from you? The back of your Reebok.

And, in a way, it’s your fault there are so many of them in the first place. Well, not your fault personally, but our fault collectively.

There are about 35 species of scorpions in Arizona, but only five or six in the Phoenix area, including our personal favorite, the giant hairy scorpion.

All are venomous. That’s their stock-in-trade. But according to Marilyn Bloom, a microbiology research specialist at Arizona State University, there is only one species that really needs concern us: the bark scorpion.

This is a nasty little critter, skinny and yellowish in color, and it’s sting can cause intense pain, numbness and, at least in theory, death. Bloom said there are no accounts of anyone dying of a scorpion sting in the 40 years that records have been kept.

Bloom has an interesting job. With the help of three goats, she produces scorpion antivenin for distribution to area hospitals, doctors and veterinarians. During the summer, she gets a dozen or so requests for antivenin a week.

Here’s how to tell if your scorpions are bark scorpions: Only bark scorpions climb vertical surfaces. If your scorpions confine themselves to scurrying along the floor, you’re probably OK. If you’re finding them on the walls or in your drapes or climbing up the side of your house (or your leg), you’ve got a problem.

There are scorpions all over the Valley, but many of us have gone for years without ever seeing one, much less getting stung. Some people believe they are more common in areas where new housing is encroaching on the scorpions’ natural desert habitat. That’s only partly true, according to Bert Putterman, general manager of Arizona Exterminating Co.

Weather stripping and caulking and can prevent scorpions from entering your home. iStock

Weather stripping and caulking and can prevent scorpions from entering your home. iStock

On a hunk of untouched desert, the scorpion count may be relatively low, Putterman said, “but when a development comes in, suddenly there might be thousands to an acre.” That’s because when houses and humans show up, “it’s just like a Furr’s Cafeteria moved in” to scorpions, he said.

“Scorpions are extremely environmentally compatible with us,” Putterman said. That’s because humans come bearing gifts, mostly scorpion food and shelter.

Our security lights and streetlights attract bugs, which, in turn, attract scorpions. Our rock gardens and woodpiles and laundry rooms and well-watered lawns provide shelter and water. We’re the best thing that ever happened to scorpions.

So, as the urban area grows, so does the scorpion population.

“Twenty years ago, when I first moved here, we’d get three or four calls a summer for scorpions, and we’d go out on them just as a novelty,” Putterman said. “Ten years ago, we could identify specific areas of infestation
(around the Valley.) Today, 75 percent of the calls we get are for scorpions.”

If you do have scorpions in your house, it’s probably not by their choice. Scorpions are most comfortable in conditions 75 to 95 degrees, Putterman said, and chances are the coolness of your house makes them sluggish. They’d just as soon be outside, perhaps under that nice cool damp towel your kids left on the lawn after they played in the sprinkler.

Because scorpions are nocturnal and most exterminators are not, spraying them probably isn’t going to have much effect. Short of a direct hit, most pesticides don’t really bother scorpions much. On the other hand, spraying will kill their food source, bugs.

But killing the bugs might not make that much difference. Bloom says a healthy scorpion can go nine to 12 months without eating. That means a bark scorpion would be perfectly content to curl up in the toe of a seldom-worn shoe for months on end.

Putterman and Bloom offered a number of tips for keeping scorpions away:

  • Switch your outdoor lights from white bulbs to yellow. Yellow light doesn’t attract bugs the way white light does.
  • Check your weather-stripping. If you can slide a business card under your weather-stripping, there’s enough room for a scorpion to wiggle through.
  • Caulk or otherwise plug the spaces where electrical, phone or waterlines enter your house. Ditto in the kitchen and bathrooms where pipes come out of the wall.
  • Clear away, or at least frequently move, woodpiles or any other stuff you might have stacked up near your house.
  • Don’t leave wet towels on the ground around a pool or spa. Conversely, if you want to catch scorpions, leave a damp towel on your kitchen floor overnight. In the morning, pick it up, with tongs or with gloves on, and see what came calling.
  • The redwood bark some folks use as mulch looks nice on flowerbeds, but it’s a scorpion magnet. If you’re digging around it, wear gloves and keep your eyes open.

Excerpt from Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona, a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published July 18, 1999.)

 

Comments

  1. Eliminating crickets in and around your home seems to help. Scorpions love having crickets for supper. And I don’t mean as guests.

  2. We spray every month and plug up every little gap we can find and yet we have seen two scorpions in the house this spring, however by this time we usually see 4 or 5 so things do seem to be better. I would suggest if your having problems placing sticky boxes in area’s you may be finding an un-welcome visitor and also scorpion powder next to your doors, provided you don’t have pets. Apart from that just be careful by wearing something on your feet when walking around the house and knocking your shoes out before putting them on just in case. My wife has stepped on and been stung by bark scorpions twice over the last 7 years. It’s not fun so I’d say the most important thing is to knock out your shoes and look before reaching into blind spaces just in case.

  3. I have a scorpion infestation, and I am ready to sell my house and move on. Over the last 5 years, I have killed approximately 40-50 scorpions inside my home. I have had the exterminator out many times, but it doesn’t seem to help much. Sticky traps have been my best defense so far. I am thinking about plugging up all the weep holes in the brick exterior, and covering the vents on the soffits with a window screen, and maybe putting sticky traps in the attic where the vents are. Does anyone have any other ideas? I have already surrounded my bed with sticky traps so they can’t get us at night.
    I’m at the point where I can’t sleep with the lights off any more.

  4. Ron Hilfinger says:

    For many years, we have put a line of “diatomaceous earth” around the parameter of our house.
    It is most commonly known as the white powder used in pool filtration systems… (Not sand)
    “D.E.” is known to cut the under surface of the scorpions…Also, it sticks to them and they end up carrying it back to their nest where it spreads to others..
    Seems to be one of the best defenses.

  5. Not sure if anyone is still having trouble with scorpions (but I’m sure you are since they’re tough to get rid of completely :P) but ABC15 is advertising a story that airs on Monday, May 6 about scorpions, hunting them with blacklights and things that do/don’t work to get rid of them: http://bit.ly/168HmuN

  6. Gerald Bourguet says:

    If you’ve found a scorpion in your home or your backyard, calling Scorpion Hunters with ABC15 might be a good idea. They’ll tell you how to kill it and how to prevent them from getting in your home. There’s a story that’ll be airing on Monday at 10 p.m. in case anybody’s interested! With the weather warming up and more scorpions coming out the play I highly recommend it: http://bit.ly/10d4QGK

  7. We just moved into a new ranch home about two weeks ago and already have had four scorpions in the house, as well as one black widow. All of the scorpions were bark scorpions, I believe. Assuming that number becomes the average then we are looking at encountering about 100 scorpions a year in the house. Considering that we have small children I’m taking this very seriously. On top of sealing all the nooks and crannies, I’m wanting to put some sort of perimeter around the house, but I’m concerned about what’s child and pet friendly. I mean ACTUALLY safe, not just “advertised.’ Does anyone have any experience with this? I saw the comment about diatomaceous earth, and I’ll be researching that as an option.

    • Dave, I haven’t had much success in blocking scorpions from the outside. We’ve had much better success in sealing off the entry points from the INSIDE. We caulked baseboards, and sealed every location where water pipes enter the house, the we removed all the A/C vents from the ceiling, and caulked around the metal vents so that there was no space between the sheetrock and the duct itself. Then we bought window screening material, and cut it into small pieces and put in inside the bathroom vent fans so that its not just open to the attic. We also bought strips of foam sealant and put them around the gaps surrounding all windows (from the inside). It has been a LOT of work. But we have not seen a scorpion in the house so far this year. When our house was being constructed, we put a line of diatomaceous earth in the interstitial wall space, completely around the entire house. Apparently it was no help. Previous to this year, we had about 50 scorpions in the house, beginning about 1 month after move-in.

      • Well… It happened. after 6 months of no scorpions, I just found one in the living room. It’s almost midnight… Lucky I was up and found him. I’m looking at him right now… Have decided to experiment with him rather than just the usual shoe-smash. First I ran him up into a glass jar to see if its true that they can’t climb smooth glass. Good news -they can’t!!! Next experiment: I put three strips of two-sided tape on a paper plate, and dumped the scorpion onto the plate near the tape. I think you see where I’m going with this. Unfortunately, he seems to be able to maneuver across the two-sided tape, although it has slowed him down considerably. I think with a better grade of tape, something thicker and stronger, he might get stuck on it. This would be better than typical sticky traps, because the areas of use wouldn’t be limited by the boxy size. I can envision wrapping this around the feet of the beds, as well as around entry points that can’t be completely sealed off (like doors). I’m also wondering about the possibility of sprinkling diatomaceous earth onto the two-sided tape so that he gets cut by the diatoms, but they remain lodged in place on the tape. I wish I could post a picture of this… He seems to be tiring from trying to finish getting across all three strips of tape. Tomorrows list of projects definitely includes searching for industrial strength two-sided tape..

    • My neighbor has had a bunch of them & used the diatomaceous earth. He said it really helped. There are many types though….Just make sure you use the FOOD GRADE DE. You can get it at local feed stores.

      • Sorry, meant to add that the food grade DE is safe to use around kids & pets (other types are NOT). My neighbor sprinkled it all around, it looked like a mini snowstorm, but it apparently worked.

  8. I moved to a house that backs up against the desert preserve. The previous owner said they had bark scorpions, so it has been my mission to defend my house. These are my actions, and so far I now only find 1 or 2 scorpions per week outside – no more inside.
    1) buy a blacklight flashlight and the regular can of RAID. No other bug spray is as effective as RAID on scorpions (trust me – I’ve tried them all). Just a 1 second spray will kill em. GO out each night 10-11:30 pm. Look along the bottom of your house and along the block wall fencing.
    2) Go buy the cheapest acrylic/silicone caulk and fill the cracks at bottom of house where foundation meets the stucco. Fill all the cracks in your block wall since scorpions live in the block wall during the day. Fill all cracks around water pipes, AC pipes, electrical wires enter the house.
    3) use caulk to fill cracks on inside of house – like where water pipes enter below the cabinets.
    4) use caulk to fill crack at bottom of baseboards.
    **note- you can always paint the caulk to match**
    5) buy new weatherstripping/door wipers to reduce the size of cracks around doors.
    6) sprinkle diatomaceous earth along base of block wall and along base of house.

    I have heard of putting your bed posts in glass bowls since scorpions cant climb glass, but this is only temporary and you should follow the steps I’ve listed above.

    The final tip, which I haven’t had to do is to get a chicken. They eat scorpions and all other bugs. Of course now you have a chicken to deal with.

    • Trevor, thanks for the excellent suggestion of the chicken to get rid of scorpions. I am searching for ideas since a scorpion bit 2 tiny kittens i have been caring for. It is very alarming when something tragic likes this happens. I care for many animals, so the most eco-friendly is my choice. I already use Dearth, but they have gotten past that barrier and made it to the 2nd floor of my home, so we know they scale walls.

  9. So we moved here about three weeks ago and ahave already found 2 bark scorpions inside our apartment, one was today and it was in a bowl on the kitchen counter. I’ve already talked with the apartment people and they have exterminators every Wed / Thurs. We hadn’t seen any then I saw they spraying Thurs right outside our place and this weekend two showed up.
    Could use some help keeping them out

    • Tom, if you can see all the comments in this thread, follow all of them. That’s the only way I have found to keep the scorpians out. Over the past 6 years, we had about 50 in the house. Then I did everything I found on this thread, and haven’t had a scorpian in 6 months. But word of caution, I would not fill the weepholes with concrete or sealant, as some have suggested. The weepholes are necessary to prevent buildup of humidity and thus Mold, inside the walls. You can cut small pieces of window screening and “fold” them into the weepholes, thus blocking them to scorpians, but still allowing airflow.

  10. Scorpions are too heavily armored for diatomaceous earth to be very effective on them directly. What it *is* effective on is crickets, roaches, and similar insects on which scorpions feed. Scorpions will eat almost anything, including each other, so, if you can reduce their food supply, they may actually feed off of each other, including their own babies, and reduce their population. At the least, they will go in search of better hunting grounds than your house. This is why it is important to keep bark, plant clippings, and leaf litter away from your home. Crickets love them. It’s a scorpion buffet.

    Completely sealing scorpions out of your home is just about impossible. Scorpions can flatten themselves and get through spaces you wouldn’t dream they could fit through. Obviously, it varies a bit with its age and species, but, if you can slide a standard size paper clip through a space, a scorpion can get through there, too.

    I still recommend getting an exterminator to come out to your home at night and use a black light to pinpoint the scorpions’ locations, or getting your own black light and go scorpion hunting yourself. It may help you know which areas to treat and how best to treat them.

  11. I just killed one in the garage. First one I’ve ever seen on my property in 25 years and it looks just like the one in the picture in this article. Well it did until it became road kill.

  12. Elizabeth Horne says:

    One correction to this story although it applies statewide is there is one death attributable to the bark scorpion in Arizona down south in Sierra Vista approx. 2002. My next door neighbor was stung multiple times over a few years and the last sting killed her. When I got stung in 2005 poison control said to me don’t worry only one person has ever died and “unless you live next door” your chances are pretty slim.

  13. Mark Minkowitz says:

    There is a new way to stop scorpions from coming into your home and backyard. There is a company in phoenix called pest borders. There product really works and its a one time installation. There website is pest borders.com

  14. I came across this thread by accident but its a subject that interests me. The first thing I did was to search the thread for the word “cat” and was surprised to get no results. We moved to Wickenburg in 2003 and dealt with Bark Scorpions on a daily basis. After limited success in chasing them down and stomping, I refined the technique of approaching them very slowly with a rubber mallet and when close enough not to miss, deliver the kill shot. My Scorpion hunting days ended, however, when we adopted 2 cats. I haven’t seen a scorpion in years. Not so lucky with Rattlesnakes though.

  15. Call pest borders the only guaranteed way to keep scorpions out of your home!!!!!!!!

  16. Hi everyone. I’m from Wisconsin and living with my aunt and uncle this summer for two months in Phoenix Arizona. I was laying in my bed at approximately 10pm and noticed a small little creature scurry across the edge of my pillow. I called my uncle into the room and it turns out it was a scorpion. It was very small (about the size of my pinky finger) and it’s tail didn’t even curve up how most scorpion tails do from pictures I’ve seen. Although I do not know exactly what kind of scorpion it was and why it was in my bed, I want to know if this is a problem or not. My aunt and uncle were also very surprised that one was in the house because my uncle sprays and they do not see them at all in here. If anyone could give me a few tips or info on this that would be great. Because like I said I’m from Wisconsin and I’ve never had to deal with anything like this before and it freaked me out. Thanks!

  17. Sheila, you have my deepest sympathy. I cannot imagine having to live with so many of the little buggers. It must be scary, indeed.

    The big problem with scorpions is that powders and residual paints or sprays don’t work very well on them. They have very small feet and carry their bodies high, so they can go through powder or residual sprays pretty safely.

    If this has not already been done, I would try to find a pest control company that will come out at night and use black light. Scorpions fluoresce under black light so, even if they are hiding in crevices, they can be seen more easily. They are also nocturnal (active at night), so they should be more easily sprayed directly, then.

    I don’t know if I’m allowed to mention a business name here – I normally wouldn’t, but this seems like a desperate situation – but I was told by someone from Captain’s Pest Control that there is a fairly recent insecticide compound that they use in battling scorpions. If I understood his explanation correctly, it is comprised of a sticky “carrier” and tiny microbeads. The microbeads contain poison. The substance is painted or sprayed in strategic places. When a scorpion walks through it, some of it sticks to its feet. When it tries to clean the substance off of its feet, it ingests some of the microbeads and is killed by the poison. I don’t have anything to do with that company, but I do know that they have been successful in dealing with a scorpion infestation in a large commercial job. It would be worth contacting them, or at least calling around to find out who else may be using that method of control. Best of luck!

  18. Another bug point-of-entry indoors — the exhaust fan openings for bathroom, kitchen and laundry rooms. Block them by cutting screen door material to fit the fan opening, remove the fan cover, then glue the fitted screen to the bottom of the ceiling around the edges of the opening, and reinstall the fan cover.

  19. I took your advice and did this. As well as putting cedar mulch in our flower beds. And putting window sealant around all the windows. I also noticed that everywhere there is a plumbing entry into my home, the builder left huge gaps open to the interstitial wall cavity. I have now plugged all of them with plumbers putty. We have not seen a scorpian in about 5 months now. THIS IS A RECORD!!!!! This is working, and I am now sleeping with the lights off!!!!!

  20. Michael says:

    Good work, Sheila! Keepin’ ‘em outside is half the battle. Good riddance!

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  2. [...] How to Keep Scorpions Away from Your Home – There are about 35 species of scorpions in Arizona, but only five or six in the Phoenix area, including our personal favorite, the giant hairy scorpion. [...]

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