Scorpions are arachnids with a segmented body and tail, eight legs, large front pincers, and a stinger at the end of their tail. Different species can also live in a wide range of habitats such as deserts, coastal dunes, forested mountains, and sandy coastlines. With California having all these habitats, there are plenty of places for scorpions to thrive and call home. While there are over 40 species of scorpions in California, most of them don’t have common names and aren’t seen very frequently. In this article we will look at 14 of the more common scorpions in California.
14 Scorpions in California
14 common species of scorpions you can find in California are the California common scorpion, superstition mountains scorpion, black hairy scorpion, giant hairy scorpion, California forest scorpion, northern scorpion, sawfinger scorpion, Borrego sand scorpion, Arizona bark scorpion, dune scorpion, California swollenstinger scorpion, dune devil scorpion, Anza-Borrego hairy scorpion, and yellow devil scorpion.
Let’s take a look at each of these species.
1. California common scorpion
Scientific name: Paruroctonus silvestrii
California common scorpions live throughout California in various habitats from the desert to coastal areas, and are one of the most common species to see around residential homes. These scorpions are yellow to tan, grow 2 to 3 inches, and can live over 10 years. Their venom will cause pain after a sting but is not dangerous to humans.
2. Superstition mountains scorpion
Scientific name: Superstitionia donensis
The superstition mountains scorpion gets its name from the mountain range where they were first discovered in 1940. In California, you can mostly find them in the southern counties. They are a shiny tan to dark brown with spots and grow up to 1.8 inches.
Scientists have found that the venom in these species has a unique makeup of compounds, although not any more potent than other scorpions. A sting will cause swelling and redness for up to 48 hours.
3. Black hairy scorpion
Scientific name: Hadrurus spadix
The black hairy scorpion, also called the black back scorpion, has a distinctive dark body compared to their pale or yellowish limbs and tail. They can grow around 5 inches and live in the southern desert regions of California. These scorpions can easily get nervous and show aggression, packing a painful sting but with low venom potency.
4. Giant hairy scorpion
Scientific name: Hadrurus arizonensis
The giant hairy scorpion is the largest species in North America, growing up to 5.5 inches. Being so big they can easily eat lizards, other scorpions, and snakes. However, their venom is not dangerous to humans and the pain of their sting is similar to being stung by a bee.
You can commonly find them in southern California where the climate is hot and dry, especially in low elevated valleys. They are yellow with a darker top and brown hairs covering their body.
5. California forest scorpion
Scientific name: Uroctonus mordax
The California forest scorpion, also called the western forest scorpion, can be found throughout the state, especially in April. They are the most common species living in the Bay Area and sometimes considered an iconic California scorpion.
These scorpions are brownish-black or pale and known to be shy and slower-moving than other species. They are rather small, about the size of your pinky finger. Their sting isn’t much to worry about and feels similar to being stung by a bee.
6. Northern scorpion
Scientific name: Paruroctonus boreus
The northern scorpion is tan or light brown with dark stripes on their bodies and live in various habitats since they are hardy scorpions. In California, you can find them in desert sand dunes or along the coasts.
While common, they are nocturnal like most scorpions and often hide during the day, including in warm buildings during colder weather. They rarely sting people, though, and their venom is not medically dangerous.
7. Sawfinger scorpion
Scientific name: Serradigitus gertschi
The sawfinger scorpion is a small species native to California. They grow around 0.5 inches and can be found in the coastal counties of San Benito and Mendocino to the central valley region, including Kern, Fresno, and Tulare counties. These scorpions prefer living in rocky environments, such as walls, stone crevices, and cliffs.
8. Borrego sand scorpion
Scientific name: Paruroctonus borregoensis
You can mostly find the Borrego sand scorpions in southern California, especially San Diego and San Bernadino. These scorpions prefer burrowing in the sand and females tend to stay closer to the burrows and take less risk than males. They can grow between 1.2 to 1.4 inches with females being larger than males.
9. Arizona bark scorpion
Scientific name: Centruroides sculpturatus
The most venomous scorpion in the U.S is the Arizona bark scorpion that lives in California’s desert regions. Their venom can be excruciatingly painful and cause symptoms for up to 72 hours in adults. Children will need medical treatment immediately after a sting.
These scorpions are sometimes found in homes when they wander in for food or shelter in dark, moist areas. They are tan with darker backs and grow around 2.5 inches long.
10. Dune scorpion
Scientific name: Smeringurus mesaensis
Found in desert areas in the state, the dune scorpion, or giant sand scorpion, is pale-colored to blend in with the sand they burrow into. They grow around 2.8 inches and females are larger than males. These scorpions are also very aggressive and fast-moving.
11. California swollen stinger scorpion
Scientific name: Anuroctonus pococki
The California swollen stinger scorpion, also called the California black-tipped clawed scorpion, is more common in southern counties of the state but also lives in the Bay Area. They are dark brown with large claws that have black or dark brown tips and can grow between 2 and 3 inches long. While their stings are painful, leading to swelling, these scorpions aren’t dangerous to humans.
12. Dune devil scorpion
Scientific name: Paravaejovis waeringi
Dune devil scorpions are more common in desert regions of California, especially the most southern San Diego and Imperial counties. Their tan and yellowish coloring let them blend in with the sand and desert scrub of their habitats.
These scorpions grow around 1.4 to 1.8 inches and typically have slender limbs. Although highly aggressive, their venom is not dangerous to humans.
13. Anza-Borrego hairy scorpion
Scientific name: Hadrurus anzaborrego
The Anza-Borrego hairy scorpion is a species only recently described in 2011. You can find these scorpions in southern California deserts, especially the Joshua Tree National Monument and Anza-Borrego State Park.
They are yellowish and pale with dark bodies and brownish tints at the end of their pincers. These small scorpions grow up to 0.4 inches long.
14. Yellow devil scorpion
Scientific name: Paravaejovis confusus
The yellow devil scorpion, also called the yellow ground scorpion, grows to an average of 2 inches and has a pale yellow coloring. Their pincers and limbs sometimes have a reddish tint to them. You can find these scorpions in dry regions of California, with the most observations occurring during June and September.