Three species of scorpions call Colorado home: common striped bark scorpion, northern desert hairy scorpion and northern scorpion. One of the most recognizable of the arachnids, scorpions have elongated bodies that taper into a tail-like abdomen armed with a stinger. Their enlarged appendage-like pedipalps form claws that are utilized to grasp prey. The smaller chelicerae (mouthparts) are also claw-like and used to rip prey. Prey typically includes spiders, grasshoppers and stink bugs as well as various other arthropods. A pair of simple eyes adorns the midline of their head with up to five additional pairs along each side. The scorpion’s stinger is primarily utilized as a defense mechanism. Resembling the pain associated with a bee or wasp sting, none of the Colorado species of scorpion have venom associated with dangerous complications. Scorpion exoskeletons possess a unique feature that allows them to be located in the dark. A chemical structure in the exoskeleton causes scorpions to fluoresce when exposed to ultraviolet (“black”) lights. All scorpions are nocturnal in nature, hunting at night. During the day scorpions are commonly found in sheltered areas such as under loose rocks, dead wood and even dried cattle manure. Young scorpions are born live and carried on the back of the mother until their first molt. Litter sizes will vary based on the nutrition of the mother. Scorpions have been known to accidentally invade homes. In areas of high populations, integrated pest management programs are helpful in controlling activity indoors. Sealing gaps and cracks around the home as well as replacing damaged or missing weather stripping around doors and windows will also assist in decreasing activity.
Common Striped Bark Scorpion –
Common striped bark scorpions are widespread in southeastern Colorado and ranging as far north as I-70; they are the most common species in the United States. Due to their smaller size, only about two and a half inches when fully extended, common striped bark scorpions utilize their stinger as a means of suppressing larger prey. Of the three species located in Colorado, the common striped bark scorpion tends to roam further than other species in search of prey. Adults are yellowish to light brown in color displaying light colored bands crossing the body and a V-shaped darkened area on the head around the eyes. Common striped bark scorpions are mature in 3-4 years and may live an additional 2-3 years as an adult. Mating occurs during the warm season following a mating “dance” which may last for up to several hours. Litter sizes usually range between 13-47 young for common striped bark scorpions. Young have been seen with their mother from May-September; however, in Colorado the primary time is from June-August.
Northern Desert Hairy Scorpion –
By far the largest scorpion species in Colorado, the northern desert hairy scorpion can reach a length of around five inches when fully extended. This species of scorpion is light in color on their appendages and “tail” with a darkened back. The northern desert hairy scorpion is primarily located on the western slope of the state and is limited to areas like DinosaurNational Monument. Both the northern desert hairy scorpion and the northern scorpion establish burrow retreats and seek out food within a couple dozen feet of this area. This is the one Colorado species that is large enough to capture small rodents and other vertebrates.
Northern Scorpion –
Males are significantly smaller than females when it comes to northern scorpions. Adults are 1.5 to 2 inches in length. Pale yellow to an orange/brown in color, the northern scorpion can be found in counties along the Utah border of the state. They are the most northern of any species of scorpion in the United States. Although northern scorpions engage in a similar mating “dance” as common striped bark scorpions, there are differences in their actions. Young are born around August with a litter of 34-52 being common. Maturity is reached at about 2 years of age.