A Phoenix-area mom’s tip for how she keeps scorpions off her toddler’s crib has made waves on TikTok.
In the video, Nakiyah Matthews, a 25-year-old first-time mom who shares “mom hacks, mom life (and) toddler finds” with more than 330,000 followers on Instagram and TikTok, showed herself putting mason jars under the legs of her toddler’s crib.
“Things I’ve learned as a first-time mom (pt. 109),” reads the text in the video as a narrator says, “Put baby’s crib legs inside glass jars to keep scorpions from crawling into their crib.”
Unlike a lot of online content that revolves around parenting, her video didn’t elicit negative feedback from the more than 12 million accounts that viewed it. Instead, the nine-second clip shocked thousands of commenters from around the world who didn’t know that scorpions are that common.
There was also some skepticism about whether this hack works.
In short, the answer is that it is effective against some scorpions, according to Dawn Gouge, a public health entomology specialist and professor at the University of Arizona. However, it won’t protect against a type of scorpion you should really be concerned about that many Arizonans find in their homes.
Why scorpions are ‘a legitimate concern’ for children
Matthews has garnered millions of views while sharing more than 100 parenting and life hacks on her social media accounts (@xokiamatthews). She knew that this one “would go viral.”
The Glendale mom, who considers content creation her second job in addition to her nine-to-five and parenting, told The Arizona Republic that as a lifelong Arizonan she’s used to taking precautions against scorpions.
“I’ve had scorpions in every single home I’ve lived in,” she said.
As a parent herself now, she is trying to prevent chance encounters between her 16-month-old daughter, Nia, and these arachnids.
“Now that my daughter, she’s walking, (and) this is my first summer with her walking around the house,” she said. “So it’s just a little eerie. (I’m) just nervous, you know. I didn’t want her to accidentally step on one or, even worse, pick one up because she just picks everything up on the ground.”
She said an exterminator told her that putting Nia’s crib legs in glass jars would prevent scorpions from crawling into her bed.
“He was my inspiration,” Matthews said.
Some of her other precautions include covering outlets and keeping her crib several inches away from the wall as well as clear from the path of ceiling vents. She has breathable mesh nets over vents to catch scorpions that might fall.
Gouge agreed that “it is a legitimate concern” because a scorpion sting “can be a very serious situation” for children 9 years and younger as well as anyone who weighs less than 70 pounds. But the glass jar hack would not deter the Arizona bark scorpion, which is known to climb up walls and across ceilings.
“Here in Arizona, the species that are likely to sort of wander by the bottom of the bed are really not of concern at all,” Gouge said. “The Arizona bark scorpion is the only medically significant scorpion in Arizona, and they’re excellent climbers.”
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“The only reason why I hesitate to say that that’s really good advice is that if you have species that were crawling up onto cribs via the legs of a crib — or a bed, for that matter, for an older child — then yes, that would be a great plan,” Gouge said of Matthews’ video.
There are at least 100 species of scorpions in the U.S. and more than 50 species in the Southwest, according to the paper “Scorpions of the Desert Southwest United States,” which was co-authored by Gouge. It was published by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension in 2011 and updated in 2018.
But in the U.S., “only Arizona bark scorpion stings are hazardous to human health.” Bark scorpions are “highly variable” in their coloration and markings and can also be found in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Texas and northwestern Mexico.
“(Arizona bark scorpions are) extremely good at climbing up walls,” Gouge said. “And then for some strange reason, they seem compelled to start off and start wandering around ceilings, and they’ll get so far and then they’ll fall. And unfortunately, if that happens into a crib or a child’s bed, then nothing under the bed legs is going to prevent that from happening.”
This is how scorpions end up in, for example, toilets, sinks and bathtubs, Gouge said.
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Why do scorpions go inside homes?
As much as humans enjoy the comforts of their homes, so do scorpions. In residential areas, we have created environments that allow Arizona bark scorpions to flourish, Gouge said.
This is because:
- Irrigation around homes creates a constant supply of water, which bark scorpions drink.
- Homes offer moisture, which “they do hanker for,” and protection from extreme heat, which they do not like.
- Hollow walls for insulation create “a two-layered envelope that generates this wonderfully super space inside that’s dark, protected (and) insulated from extremes of temperatures.”
“They are drawn to our buildings, and they will move inside of buildings,” Gouge said. “A lot of them come in buildings the same way we do: through under a door, which is closed to us.”
How do scorpions get in the house?
Scorpions can sneak through cracks and crevices that might not even be visible to us as well as vertical gaps. The way stucco homes are constructed makes them permeable and a favorite for bark scorpions.
Different ways scorpions enter homes include:
- Under poorly fitted doors.
- Through window vents.
- Broken or ill-fitted window screens.
- Weep holes and weep screens that allow ventilation, whose humidity attracts scorpions.
- Under exterior walls with openings.
“Once inside walls, they can easily move throughout the envelop of a building and access interior spaces around electrical faceplates, pipe collars, etc.,” according to Gouge’s paper. Arizona bark scorpions enjoy nighttime temperatures above 70 degrees and are most active between 7 and 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. to sunrise. They’re less active in cooler months, from November through March.
Gouge recommends that homeowners look into services that help pest-proof their houses rather than attempting to manage scorpions with pesticides.
“The over-the-counter products in particular are rarely going to be effective unless you’re drowning them,” she said. “And even the professional products, these are large arthropods that have some really amazing sensory equipment that they use to avoid areas that have been treated with pesticides.
“They’ll high-walk on their tippy toes and around areas, anything that they can detect that has a repellent property. So they are really kind of difficult to control in that way.”
What to do if you’re stung by a scorpion
Scorpion stings are most dangerous for young kids, elderly people, those with hypertension and people who are allergic to the venom. In these cases, caregivers should call 911.
Most scorpion stings happen when they are “accidentally grabbed, crushed against the body or trodden on,” according to Gouge’s paper. They are “not likely to be fatal or cause long-term injury as long as medical treatment for infants and children is immediately acquired.”
“We have very, very, very, very, very few fatalities. I can’t add as many ‘verys’ in there as is appropriate,” Gouge said. “But that’s because we have access to medical care.”
Symptoms that children might experience within 20 minutes — and during the four hours following a sting — include “severe pain, loss of muscle control, roving or abnormal eye movements, slurred speech, respiratory distress, excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, airway obstruction and vomiting,” according to Gouge’s paper.
Most adults do not need medical treatment, but it’s “advisable” to call Poison Help at 800-222-1222 or contact a medical professional or go to an emergency room.
Reach the reporter at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @kimirobin and Instagram @ReporterKiMi.
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