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Scorpions


 

Scorpions

A holiday in Italy wouldn't be complete without meeting some of the local residents; however, perhaps the native scorpion population wasn't what you had in mind! Before you start jumping on the sofa, it's worth mentioning that the variety you'll find in Tuscany are pretty harmless. While a Tuscan scorpion can give you a nasty sting, it's been likened to the strength of a bee or wasp, so although this isn't pleasant, you won't find yourself in hospital.

In actual fact there are about 1,400 species of scorpion in the world, and surprisingly, only 25 of these are fatal to humans, giving the rest a bad name. Thankfully, the species of scorpion you'll find in Europe aren't dangerous, although allergic reactions have been observed in some unlucky victims.

As scorpions are nocturnal, you'll be lucky to see one during the day, although if you leave the door to your villa open overnight, they could venture inside. It's best to take sensible precautions by ensuring you eliminate their food sources, so make sure you buy a household pest spray to keep flies and spiders at bay. Shake out any clothes or bedding before getting inside, and don't walk around the villa barefoot.

Scorpion attacks are relatively rare in Tuscany, but if the worst does happen, then it's important to know how to treat the sting. First of all, be sure to clean the affected area with soap and water to rid the site of any dirt and bacteria. Elevate the affected limb and apply a cold compress to soothe the swelling. Finally, take some simple pain relief tablets, and within 30 minutes you should notice the pain beginning to subside. If you experience any further symptoms or a child is stung, it's best to be seen by a doctor to be on the safe side.


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Here is some further information about them.

Euscorpius alpha Caporiacco, 1950
This species was formerly known as a subspecies of E. germanus. Molecular and genetic analysis of the different populations of E. germanus in southern Switzerland, northern Italy and southern Austria revealed the presence of two different forms, separated by the river Adige (Etsch) in the northern Italy. The genetic difference between the two forms was large enough to justify an elevation of the western form to a new species, E. alpha in the end of 2000.
It is almost impossible to separate E. alpha and E. germanus by using morphological characteristics, but collection site will tell which species you have. E. alpha (western distribution) and E. germanus (eastern distribution) do not overlap in distribution. E. alpha is a small, black scorpion, which rarely reach more than 30 mm in length. It is usually found in mountain areas with a reasonable high humidity, often under stones, logs etc. A. alpha is so far reported from Italy and southern Switzerland.
Venom:
Few medical data available, but data from Italy suggest local effects only. Mildly venomous. Harmless scorpion, which rarely will use its stinger.

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SOURCE BBC - www.bbc.co.uk
We're spending our Italian summer holiday in a farmhouse in Tuscany. The information for the property casually mentions that we may come across scorpions. This has completely freaked my wife - are scorpions in Italy very dangerous?
Alistair

Dr Trisha Macnair responds: While it's true that the most deadly scorpions in the world can kill within a few hours, these have given the creature a bad name. Of all 1,400 scorpion species around the world, only about 25 types have venom which may be fatal to humans.
Fortunately, the types of scorpion usually found in Europe aren't dangerous. Their sting can be compared to that of a bee or wasp. The initial short sharp pain may be followed by the development of a small itchy weal. There isn't usually much swelling. This reaction can last for several hours, but that's as far as it normally goes.
People who are allergic to insect stings may be at risk of a worse reaction. Very occasionally, more toxic species are found in Europe.
Where do dangerous scorpions live?
The places to really worry about dangerous scorpions are North Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America. These scorpions belong almost exclusively to the family Buthidae, and they carry some very powerful poisons.
Dangerous ones
One of the problems with scorpions is that you often don't notice them until they've already stung you, especially in Europe where the insects are small. However, the Buthidae family of scorpions are noted for their very slender pincers and powerful tail.
Dealing with a sting
If you're unfortunate enough to get bitten:
• Clean the area with soap and water.
• Apply a cold compress.
• Elevate affected limbs.
• Take simple pain relief.
• Stings in children, or ones which cause more severe symptoms, should be seen by a doctor.

Avoiding scorpions
Scorpions are relatively inactive during the daylight hours, and most stings are reported at night during the warm summer months. When they appear indoors, they may be searching for food - or driven in by a disturbance of their natural environment. Ensure a scorpion-free environment by using the following simple rules:
• Keep corners and other undisturbed places clean.
• Eliminate their food source (insects and spiders) with pesticide sprays. (Common pesticides don't work well on scorpions, though.)
• Keep outdoor places where scorpions can hide, such as rubbish areas, log piles, and so on, clean.
• Always shake out and check clothes before putting them on, especially if they've been lying around on the floor.
• Finally, don't walk around the house at night in bare feet.


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