Beach Camping, Watch out for Scorpions

Blue lights and blue light filter goggles were essential packing items on this beach camping trip. As the sun set below the horizon it was finally time to put these items to use. We were going hiking in search of scorpions!

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Scorpion in standard white light

Scorpions can be found in nearly every terrestrial habitat from caves to sand and even mountains. Bonaire is no exception. During my recent camping trip to Washington Slagbaai National Park we hoped to seek out these little arachnids.

Finding a tiny 4cm scorpion in a shrubby brush scattered with rocky crevices is a bit like a needle in a haystack. But scorpions have a little known ability that makes them surprisingly easy to find…they glow in blue light! More specifically scorpions fluoresce. They contain chemicals in their exoskeletons which absorb blue light and reemit it at another wavelength causing the appearance of glowing, just like a white t-shirt under a black light.

A short walk down our trail, while avoiding fallen cacti, we spotted our first scorpion. This guy seemed a bit shell shocked as we all gathered around to take photos.

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By the end of the night we counted 8 scorpions. Some scuttled quickly and retreated into rocky holes, while others blatantly displayed their stingers as if challenging us to come closer. These scorpions might inflict a painful sting, but their venom is not particularly potent so the overall risk was minimal. Still finding one of these guys inside your sleeping bag at night is less than desirable. The solution: pack a blue light (or UV light) on your next camping trip and search for fluorescent scorpions on your own.

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Scorpion under blue light through a blue light filter.

Why do scorpions fluoresce? We do not know. One theory holds that fluorescence may cue scorpions when it is safest to emerge to hunt, allowing them to avoid bright moonlight (which causes fluorescence) in addition to bright sunlight in daytime hours.

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. Don’t go back to sleep.”

-Rumi

When the sun rose the next morning, all the scorpions had retreated back into their crevices and we had a bit of time to snap some daylight photos in this beautiful national park before we returned to the CIEE Residence Hall. Scorpions hunting and beach camping made for a highly memorable trip.

 

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