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Department of Entomology
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences


By: Michael Waldvogel and P. Alder, Extension Entomology, and J. Vining, Polk County CES Center.

Insect Note - ENT/rsc-39
Southern Devil Scorpion

Although we tend to think of scorpions as inhabiting desert areas, there is a species of scorpion found primarily in western North Carolina. Vaejovis carolinianus has the official common name of "southern unstriped scorpion" but has also been called locally the "southern devil scorpion". It is uniformly brown and about one inch in length when fully grown. The reported range of this scorpion in this North Carolina is from Lake Hiwasee in Cherokee County to Polk County. However, it has been reported from other areas of the state as well. In addition, we've had numerous reports of other scorpions, particularly the striped bark scorpion, Centruroides vittatus, and the Hentz striped scorpion Centruroides hentzi which have been introduced accidentally with the movement of items from their native areas and could become established in parts of North Carolina.


Southern Devil Scorpion, Vejovis carolinianus
(Courtesy of Chris Bartol, Tryon, NC)

Scorpion Habitat

Scorpions are normally found living outdoors under the loose bark of trees and logs, under logs and stones on the ground. Around homes, they prefer wood piles, crumbling stone, brick foundations, or inside the crawlspace of a house, particularly if old building materials like lumber are stored there. The diet of scorpions normally consists of insects, millipedes, spiders and sometimes very small reptiles. Although we generally associate scorpions with dry desert-like conditions, the Southern Unstriped Scorpion is usually found in very moist areas because that is where their prey is found. Many homeowners become alarmed when they see a live scorpion scurrying across their carpet or find a dead one in their closet. Often dead scorpions are found in recessed lighting fixtures in a home.

Scorpions prefer live outdoors. However, they will be attracted indoors by the presence of suitable prey and if it gets extremely dry outside. Scorpions are more likely to be found in areas that are moist or humid, such as bathrooms, kitchens (near the sink) or in a laundry room. They may enter homes through openings around plumbing fixtures, loose fitting doors and windows, or through existing cracks in foundations and walls.

Female scorpion carrying offspring
(Courtesy of Chris Bartol, Tryon, NC)

Do Not Be Alarmed

Unfortunately, the sighting of one scorpion sends people into a nervous panic. Although the Southern Unstriped Scorpion can sting, there is little danger of death. Individuals who are already allergic to insect stings need to be more cautious. The sting of a scorpion is painful, so folks that have sighted a few in their home may want to take some simple precautions. The easiest step to take is to vigorously shake clothing before wearing. Shaking is particularly useful with shoes stored in a closet. Scorpions tend to be more active at night so beds should not touch the room walls. In houses where scorpions have been seen before, individuals should not walk barefooted at night.


Control Measures

pests such as spiders and scorpions  may hide in firewoodControlling scorpions really amounts to several tasks:

Find their hiding places both indoors and outdoors. Inside the home, you can expect them to be hiding in dark areas. Carefully remove items from cabinets (e.g., under sinks) and the floor of closets and inspect the areas carefully. If you have found several scorpions indoors, it is a good idea to wear garden gloves when removing items for inspection. You can also use glue boards (the same type used for mice) in closets and under sinks to monitor for scorpions. Outdoors, get rid of piles of debris outside where scorpions, spiders and other pests may hide. Check around rock piles. Stones used for landscaping or bark mulches can occasionally harbor scorpions. It is a good practice to check firewood before bringing it indoors as well. Always wear gloves when handling firewood or cleaning up debris piles.

Seal openings around plumbing fixtures with foam insulation, repairing of loose fitting doors and windows, the caulking of cracks in basement walls and foundations, the removal of stored building materials in the basement or crawl space, and the removal of debris, including firewood stacks away from the house.Control of scorpions by chemical methods can be difficult and thus is the least preferred route to take. The reason insecticides do not work well is because scorpions can survive for several months without feeding. Scorpions have been known to live for six months without food and water and may hide for two months after feeding. Therefore a product with a long residual action is needed to await their emergence. Several insecticides have some effectiveness against scorpions and are available for consumer use.

Active Ingredient Common Brand Name
bifenthrin Ortho Home Defense (indoor/outdoor)
cyfluthrin Bayer Advanced Pest Control (indoor/outdoor)
permethrin Spectracide Bug Stop(outdoor use)
tralomethrin Spectracide Bug Stop (indoor use)

However, the most effective and safest applications are probably best performed by a licensed pest management professional. Indoor treatments should be directed to the baseboards (a "crack & crevice treatment"), corners and closets where the scorpions (and their prey) might hide. Extreme care must be exercised when spraying in a confined area like a closet or where food and cooking surfaces or utensils could be contaminated. Exterior treatments should include spraying the foundation and around doors, windows and other possible entry points. A general treatment of crawlspaces is typically unnecessary with isolated occurrences of scorpions and is probably best left to professionals if you want one done.

- Grounds Maintenance Magazine, October, 1984

Pest information and control recommendations presented here were developed for North Carolina and may not be appropriate for other states or regions. Any recommendations for the use of chemicals are included solely as a convenience to the reader and do not imply that insecticides are necessarily the sole or most appropriate method of control. Any mention of brand names or listing of commercial products or services in the publication does not imply endorsements by North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services. All recommendations for pesticide use were legal at the time of publication, but the status of pesticide registrations and use patterns are subject to change by actions of state and federal regulatory agencies. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for using these products according to the regulations in their state and to the guidelines on the product label. Before applying any chemical, always obtain current information about its use and read the product label carefully. For assistance, contact the Cooperative Extension Center in your county.

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