Yes, the Bay Area has scorpions. Watch your fingers and toes.

December 7, 2011

As Pete Lauer and a crowd of fellow butterfly enthusiasts strolled around Albany Hill on crisp day in late November to watch this year’s exceptional run of Monarchs, they stumbled on more than just a butterfly migration.

The kids that were there, being kids, were turning over every rock they could get their hands on.

“All of a sudden there was a lot of excitement as they grouped around a log they had turned over,” Lauer said.  

Hunkered beneath was a 2-3 inch scorpion. A scorpion, you say? In the Bay Area? Vince Lee, from the Department of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences identified it by a photo as Uroctonus mordax mordax, one of the region’s four species of scorpions (there are three known subspecies).

No worries. Mordax’s venom, like those of its local relatives, is not strong enough to cause serious medical harm to most people. But its presence does shock those who thought these eight-legged arachnids, with their characteristic forward-tilting tail, are solely creatures of the desert.

“I had never seen a scorpion here before,” said Lauer.  “A lot of the people around had never really associated the Bay Area with scorpions either, so I think a lot of us were surprised.”

In fact, scorpion species live on every continent of the world, except Antarctica, including in the northern tundra. All species of local scorpions are nocturnally active and prey on invertebrates, mostly anthropods, and occasionally but rarely small lizards.

Upon the sighting, Lauer was reminded that a friend of his who lives on the west side of Albany Hill would frequently find scorpions in the shoes they had left outside and made a habit of checking them in the mornings.

This particular one under the log, however, was making no nuisance of himself.

“I think he would have preferred to be left alone,” said Lauer.  “We rolled the log back carefully, but later when we returned to give him another look he had moved on.”

About the Author

Marin native and surfer Richard Karevoll just graduated from San Francisco State with a degree in journalism.