alacran-2I know just a little about scorpions (alacránes in Spanish) thanks in part to my chance encounter with a mother scorpion and her brood of about a dozen babies upon arriving at a bed & breakfast in a village in Mexico a number of years ago. The B&B, operated by a former nun who I gather had seen the error of her ways, was home for just a night or two in advance of my brother’s return home, where he and his wife would thereafter serve as hosts. The scorpion and her clinging children had been captured by the B&B owner’s housekeeper, who had placed them in a glass jar to delight arriving guests. News that one’s lodging might be awash in scorpions does not guarantee a good night’s sleep. It does, however, offer an incentive to seek information about scorpions.

Baby scorpions are born alive, not hatched from eggs, the way insects make their way into the world. When they are born, the brood of scorpions (which can number one hundred) crawl upon their mothers’ backs and ride for up to three weeks until their soft exoskeleton stiffens and hardens. At that point, if they’ve survived that long, they are ready to grow into the fearsome beasts worthy of symbolic tattoos drawn and inked in their honor.

Speaking of tattoos, if I were to get one, I think I might want one of a scorpion, if for no other reason that the scorpion’s extensive symbolism (according to websites upon which I stumbled this morning while reacquainting myself with scorpion lore):

  • Power
  • Energy
  • Stealth
  • Warning
  • Mystery
  • Healing
  • Strategy
  • Survival
  • Protection
  • Rebellion
  • Attachment
  • Aggression
  • Retaliation
  • Transition
  • Calculated
  • Mysticism
  • Resilience
  • Guardianship
  • Self-defense
  • Altered perception
  • Sex
  • Control
  • Transition
  • Death/Dying
  • Passion
  • Treachery
  • Protection
  • Defensiveness
  • Solitary/Being Alone

The one symbolic element that drew my attention more than the others, aside from sex, is treachery, as in “old age and treachery always triumph over youth and skill” or “old age and treachery will always overcome youth and exuberance.” Those themes, or variations thereof, have appealed to me for many years. What does that tell you?

But back to scorpions and the reason they are on my mind this Saturday morning. I’ve been capturing them in record numbers on the glue boards I leave inside both sides of my garage door. This morning, I went into the garage where I found two very large scorpions, one attached to each of the two glue boards.  Seeing the two sentries guarding, albeit involuntarily, the entry to the grand hall that is my garage triggered my interest in recollecting and learning more about the beasts.  Aside from learning of the arachnid’s symbolism as imagined by some humans, I learned that between 1750 and 2000 species of scorpions have been identified, only twenty-five to forty of which are known to have venom capable of killing humans. For species in the U.S., treatment for scorpion stings is usually not necessary except for children, the old, and the infirm. But stings can be godawful painful, from what I’ve read.

As I read about scorpions this morning, what fascinated me as much as anything was the sheer number of species. One thousand seven hundred and fifty to two thousand. What?! That’s incredible! But that’s nothing, really. I did a bit more research about the breadth of and depth of distinctive species of various creatures.  What I learned was that an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 species of  spiders (labeled air-breathing arthropods by some clever science writer) exist, about 3,000 species of which are found in North America.

All right. I’ve done my science research for the day. Now, it’s time to focus on where I’ll place the tattoo I might one day get. And which image of alacrán I’ll want inked into my flesh.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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