To be frank, I thought this one was going to be easy.
“Are there scorpions in the Smoky Mountains?”
I mean, I wouldn’t think so – end of story and on to the next, right?
Luckily, I did a little research before filing that bad boy.
As it turns out, yes, Virginia, there are scorpions in the Smoky Mountains.
“Wait, John,” you may be saying. “Scorpions live in the Southwest. In hot, arid climates. They climb in people’s shoes and sting them and they die and it’s all terrifying and hideous.”
Yes. You’re correct.
But hold onto your butts. There are other kinds of scorpions, and I don’t mean aging rockers from Germany.
I regret to inform you, dear reader, that the Smokies are home to two kinds of scorpions – both cousins of spiders – that thrive in the mountain climate.
They easily survive the mountain winters and can go up to six months without food.
I further regret to inform you that they are creepy as heck.
The plain eastern stripeless scorpion and the striped scorpion live in the mountains of East Tennessee and look like something out of a 50s alien invasion movie. They have lobster-like claws and the big curled scorpion tale that is the stuff of nightmares.
They’re small compared to their Western brethren – adult striped scorpions can reach up to three inches – and therefore rely on stealth and venom for hunting their prey.
They are not overly aggressive, preferring to avoid any fight they don’t think they can win but, according to Russell’s Pest Control, a scorpion will “have a go” at a human if cornered.
Are Smoky Mountain scorpions poisonous?
The good news?
There is no good news. We’re surrounded by frickin’ scorpions and everything is awful and I’m never going in the woods again.
Ok. The good news is we’re not going to die unless we happen to be allergic to scorpion venom, which I am assured, is very rare.
For most of us, the sting of a Tennessee mountain scorpion would be no worse than that of a honey bee.
Great. I got stung by a honey bee once on the tip of my big toe and my leg was swollen all the way up to my knee.
Never seen a scorpion in the Smokies? There’s a reason.
“But John,” you might say. “I’ve been going to the mountains my whole life and I’ve never seen a scorpion.”
Count yourself among the lucky.
Actually, there are some good reasons you haven’t seen them.
According to Sciencing.com, scorpions are nocturnal, feeding on bugs and our fears at night before hiding from the daylight like the creatures of evil they are.
Light tan to dark brown in color, they blend in well on forest floors among dead leaves and pine needles.
Cold-blooded, they become sluggish in colder temperatures and are most active in the summer.
Sciencing.com says their favorite temperature is the oddly specific 77 degrees F, which, I mean – mine, too. Good on ya, scorpions, for that.
You might assume that scorpions – like other exotic and dangerous beasts, yes I’m thinking of you kudzu and that weird fish that gets out of the water and walks around – are transplants but they actually evolved naturally in the mountains.
They love the humidity and the forest litter, including dead trees, leaves and bark.
Female scorpions can produce 40 live babies at a time
The females of both species of Tennessee scorpions can produce more than 40 newborns at a time. The eggs grow inside the female and, at birth; the babies are live, pale and terrifying.
They climb on momma’s back and live there for a week before becoming fully independent.
The plain stripeless scorpions outlive their cousins with a lifespan of five to six years while the striped suckers only last two.
Several articles – articles I suspect were written by scorpions – encourage you to leave them alone if you encounter them around your home or cabin as they are very helpful in controlling other pests.
They encourage an enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend kind of approach.
To avoid having scorpions near your property, eliminate wood and rock piles. If you have rocks on your property, flatten them out to eliminate nooks and crannies where momma scorpions might have half a hundred babies.
If a scorpion is in your home or rental cabin, move immediately.
You can call an exterminator or – if you’re brave – a thick pair of gloves should allow you to handle the creature and relocate it.
I’m more of a kill it with fire kind of guy, but que sera sera.
In summary, are there scorpions in the mountains of Tennessee?
Yes, yes there are. I’m moving to Kansas.
Wait. I’m going to Google it.
Aw, damn it. They’re in Kansas, too.
Have you ever spotted a scorpion in the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.