Please tell me why scorpions are still around

Jim Redwine

In his book "Letters From The Earth," Mark Twain has Noah making an extra trip in the Ark so he could save the housefly that spreads typhoid fever. I could not find any reference to scorpions in the Book of Genesis nor in the account of the Great Flood that also appears in the Quran. However, Noah, or in Arabic, Nuh, must have heroically preserved the “creature with the burning sting” as I stepped on one in our cabin at JPeg Osage Ranch last night.

If Satan had stepped on a scorpion with bare cloven hoof, I bet he would have sent a scathing letter to heaven from his temporary banishment on Earth. Perhaps then either St. Michael or St. Gabriel, the Devil’s correspondents, might have pointed out to the Creator that His creation of the scorpion was a bust.

The Latin name, scorpion, given to the eight-legged arachnid with the pinching front claws and the stinging tail aptly describes the menace that apparently has no value except to encourage one to wear shoes in the house. Except for me, scorpions have few natural enemies other than lizards and tarantulas; choose your poison.

What I want to know is whom did Mother Nature put in charge of species extinction and why hasn’t She extinguished scorpions? Scorpions have been around for 435 million years and, I humbly suggest, that is long enough. According to Google (who else are you going to rely on?), extinctions are a normal part of evolution. They occur naturally, periodically and somewhat regularly. We Homo sapiens would not be here if millions of other species, dinosaurs for example, had not gone extinct before we came out of the primordial ooze two to three hundred thousand years ago, after two to three million years of genetic iterations of hominids.

I submit it is fair to ask Mother Nature, “What were you thinking?” Much like the White-Tailed Hornet of poet laureate Robert Frost’s poem, it appears to me whoever designed the scorpion should have gone back to the drawing board, or better yet, file thirteened the whole thing. The white-tailed hornet (or scorpion) might be viewed romantically by nature lovers who assume infallibility or even lovability in all of nature’s creations. But Frost (1874-1963) watched in disillusionment as a white-tailed hornet in search of a fly to eat repeatedly attacked both the head of a nail and Frost’s nose.

As Frost concludes about nature and life in general, once we begin to see the fallibility of the natural world “reflected in the mud and even dust” we can no longer convince ourselves we humans are only a little lower than the angels, and are in fact probably no higher than creepy crawlers on the floor.

The White-Tailed Hornet

The white-tailed hornet lives in a balloon (nest)

That floats against the ceiling of the woodshed

Verse could be written on the certainty

With which he penetrates my best defense

Of whirling hands and arms about the head

To stab me in the sneeze-nerve of a nostril

I watched him where he swooped, he pounced, he struck;

But what he found was just a nail head (not a fly).

Won’t this whole instinct matter bear revision?

To err is human, not to, animal.

Or so we pay the compliment to instinct.

’Twas disillusion upon disillusion.

In much the same manner as Frost’s hornet, did that scorpion on my cabin floor mistake me for either dinner or a possible mate? Why bother me at all? When it should have been gainfully employed in more reasonable pursuits, it was not using any reason and we both suffered for its frailty.

The Greek astronomer Ptolemy identified the constellation Scorpius in the 2nd century A.D. Why didn’t Mother Nature take that as a clue to make scorpions extinct 2,000 years ago? Even Nancy Reagan, with her reliance on astrology for advice to her husband on affairs of state, might have used her influence to have “Scorpio” disappeared from our existence by bringing the power of the federal government to bear. After all, our federal government killed off generations of eagles and other more cuddly species than scorpions with DDT. Why did scorpions escape?

I am glad the bison somehow miraculously survived mankind’s slaughter, but do wonder what if any reason exists to preserve the scorpion. I guess it comes down to “Only the good die young” and we humans have been around about 430 million fewer years than the scorpion. We will probably be gone long before scorpions pass.

On the other hand, perhaps I can convince Jeff Bezos and Amazon to help me market scorpions to the public as pets. Hey, entrepreneur Gary Dahl got rich back in the 1970s by convincing people a rock could be a loving pet. Maybe a slogan such as “Get Your Zing Avoiding a Sting” could be catchy. Or maybe I could sell them as a great gift idea for misanthropic people, or dry them out and make necklaces from them. I see all kinds of people sporting plastic human skulls on their belt buckles or as tattoos.

Of course, if I were able to get such an enterprise going the government would just regulate it out of existence or tax it to death. Well, at least I could get rid of some of the crunchy little crustaceans that way. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just need to wear my shoes and watch my step.