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Who is in my shower?

Scorpions found in Sydney homes

Little scorpion found on Sydney's North Shore What is the first thing you do in the bathroom in the morning?

I check up who I'm sharing the bathroom with.

By now I'm quite used to unexpected visitors in our jungle-in-the-city-centre house. Almost every day there's some caterpillar to be taken out. Snails, native mice, blue-tongue lizards, leeches, brush-tail possums, magpies, kookaburras, bush turkeys have all visited us, invited or not.

Every morning, half-awake, I drag myself to the shower downstairs. There I check for any animated creatures first.

Usually there's a caterpillar or two. One sleepy morning a few weeks ago I noticed something dark crawling on the floor. Thinking it was a beetle, I reached out for it, ready to grab it with my fingers and take it outside.

My hand froze half-way: I realised I was reaching for a lovely and lively scorpion.

I had never seen a live scorpion on the loose before.

The little guy was walking rather briskly through the shower floor. It was some 3cm long, it's tail fashionably curved up - as you do if you are a scorpion. It's body was covered in brownish and black spots. Later I learned that it probably is a marbled scorpion, (Lychas marmoreus). If you think it's another species, please let me know.

I got a jar and a piece of paper and parked my new friend in the jar. I wanted to take a few pics and learn a tad more about Australian scorpions.

There doesn't seem to be a lot of mention about them in Australia: known but not frequent, apparently their sting is not lethal (I'd rather leave that theory not tested) but it's very painful.

Whomever I talked to, they had never seen or heard of a scorpion in Sydney.

Except one friend who lives in the same area as us. I mentioned my new crawly friend to him, and he said: "Yeah, we seem to be getting quite a few of them in our house too. They usually hide behind a sofa and die there."

It turned out that only the first half of his statement was true: soon we saw two happy and healthy scorpions on his luxury carpet. As we discovered, they just have a habit of "freezing" once touched by something.

My pet scorpion stayed with us for a couple of days, and then was released in a park. Reasonably far away from our house.

About Australian scorpions

There are some 100 species of scorpions in Australia yet rather little is known about these Australian arachnids.

Classification: Scorpions belong to the same family as spiders: arachnidae.

Description: Scorpions have 4 pairs of legs, one pair of pincer-like claws (palps), abdomen extending into a long tail which ends with a sting (telson). The tail is curved above the body in defensive posture.

Size: Most Australian scorpions are a only few centimetres long. The most popular marbled scorpion, (Lychas marmoreus), is only 2-3 cm long. Australia's largest scorpions reach up to 12 cm.

Dangers: Scorpions are among world's deadliest animals, but Australian scorpions are not that dangerous. It is not known for sure if there have been any deaths associated with scorpion sting in Australia, but there have been a few rumours of scorpion-related fatalities. In general, it is presumed that Australian scorpions only give a very painful bite, but that may also cause strong allergic reaction even leading to death. Care must be taken while handling scorpions and it is recommended that children are not allowed to handle them. In general, although they look dangerous and are predacious animals, they are not aggresive and will run away unless provoked.

Where: Scorpions in Australia live in a variety of environments, from deserts to rainforests to urban areas. They often hide under tree bark, leaves and rocks. Many have made their way to human residences (like my friend above). The little marbled scorpion, (Lychas marmoreus), often hides at homes behind furniture.

Weird but true: Scorpions fluoresce brightly in ultraviolet light. This may be a useful way to locate them at night.

Feeding and lifestyle: These arachnids are nocturnal creatures, at night they prey on other small animals. Insects, spiders, centipedes, millipedes, very small mice, and even other scorpions would be on their menu. Marbled scorpions, like my shower mate, seem to prefer termites above any other delicacies. Hm, is that good or bad news?

Breeding: Female scorpion gives birth to tiny scorpions which she then carries on her back for a few weeks until they grow up and can live on their own. It is not known exactly how long Australian scorpions live but up to 10 years is the assumed life-span.

More about Australian scorpions

Scorpionidae: scorpions

For all scorpion-lovers

Burke's Backyard on pet scorpion care

Do you know more about scorpions in Australia?
Then why don't you share your expertise or experiences with Greener Me

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