© Chad Clark 20-6-00
The next time you spend a night in the desert, dont unroll your sleeping bag until just before bedtime. Of over 1000 species of scorpion known to man, the chances are that the one that just crawled into your cool dark sleeping bag was one of the 20 poisonous ones.
Scorpions come in all colours, shapes and sizes, but basically measure between 5 and 15 cm, have 8 legs, up to 10 eyes, a couple of claws, a nasty tail and some very strange habits. During the day theyre to be found hiding from the desert heat under rocks and stones, only venturing out in the comparative cool of the night to check out the vibe. They detect their prey, and indeed danger, by picking up these vibrations through hairy sensors on their tail, legs, feet and even their belly which they tend to drag along the ground. They also drag their bellies over rocks whilst mating in a bizarre rock and roll kind of way. First of all they swing each other around by the claws in a type of jitterbug dance routine. Having reached a suitable state of excitement, the male proceeds to leave a sticky deposit on a rock and then promptly wipes the poor girl around in it. If all goes according to plan, 9 months later she has around 30 baby scorpions. These are born live and clamber straight up her legs and onto her back for a weeks acclimatisation, before independently heading off into the big wide world to reap havoc for the next 5 years or so, unless they climb into my sleeping bag that is.
Then again, they wouldnt attack you on purpose. They prefer insects, spiders, centipedes and other scorpions. If they sting a Bedouin theyd probably survive, since the Bedouin believe that if you kill a scorpion you kill yourself too. Sting anyone else though and theyd probably get squashed, though if its a female carrying babies on her back, these little toughies may well escape and come back looking for vengeance later on, so its best to burn them just in case.
Should you have the misfortune to be bitten by a scorpion whilst out in the desert your options are fairly limited. You have but a few seconds to apply a tourniquet and squeeze the venomous blood out of your veins. If you werent quick enough youd better try to find El Howi, the Bedouin witch doctor whose magical spit instantly cures such ills. Failing that, rumour has it you could try to draw out the poison with sugar cubes, copper coins or even a rare kind of Kenyan rock that has to be washed in milk ! That is, of course, if your mother didnt have the foresight to rub ground up baby scorpion paste onto her nipples whilst breastfeeding you, thus building up your immunity to scorpion stings from an early age. If you werent that fortunate, find solace in the fact that although the wound will swell up and youll start frothing at the mouth, have difficulty in breathing and start twitching and convulsing, to actually die is fairly rare, unless youre young, old or have a heart problem of course.
However, prevention is always the best form of cure, so just try to avoid them. Find a place to sleep out in the open, away from all the shrubs, and avoid turning over any rocks. Like this youll probably frighten them away with all your heavy vibes anyway, so after all that, youve really been worried about nothing.
Oh, by the way, dont forget to check in your shoes in the morning !