Desert Critters

Learn how to identify and avoid a critter, determine if you've been bitten and how to treat a bite.

Arizona Brown Spider

Identification 

The Arizona Brown Spider is a small, inconspicuous brown spider, with slightly darker brown markings on the head region. These markings vaguely resemble the shape of a violin, hence the common names "violin" or "fiddle" spider. The species native to Arizona is closely related to the infamous brown recluse of the midwestern U.S., but the markings are less obvious and symptoms are not as severe.

Bite Symptoms

The bite of this spider is potentially dangerous to humans. The most common reaction is a spreading sore at the site of the bite, which, if untreated, may result in permanent tissue damage or necrosis.

Treatment

Wash area with soap and water. Call the poison center immediately at (800) 222-1222 to determine whether the bite can be cared for at home or will require treatment by a physician and/or hospitalization.

Prevention

Remove trash or debris (woodpiles, boxes, tires, etc.) stored around the home. Seal openings in the home that could be entry points. Regular pest control service plan is recommended.

Insecticides

There are many labeled pesticides for spider control. Some are labeled for homeowner use, while others are labeled only for the licensed, certified pesticide applicator. 

If you have questions, please call us directly at (602) 253-3334 or call (800) 222-1222 for your local poison center. 

Bark Scorpions

The bark scorpion is the most venomous in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s also the most common scorpion found in homes.

Identification

  • The bark scorpion measures from one to 1.5 inches in length
  • Color is not a good way to identify this scorpion
  • This scorpion can climb anything but clean plastic and glass, and will be found on ceilings, cement walls, shower curtains, in clothing closets and food storage areas
  • They are most active at night and like places that are dark and damp
  • To find them in a house use a black light after dark - under the black light they glow the color of a green glow stick

Symptoms in Children

For children under 10, pain/numbness and/or tingling can occur. Watch for face/nose rubbing, indicating numbness and tingling. Children are more likely to develop severe symptoms, including rapid, jittery eye movements and increased salivation.

Symptoms in Adults

Symptoms usually appear within 2 to 3 hours following the sting:

  • Local pain/burning sensation; no swelling or redness
  • Numbness and tingling moving through the body
  • Visual disturbances and/or uncoordinated eye movements
  • Difficulty swallowing and swollen tongue sensation, excessive drooling
  • Slurred speech
  • Muscle twitching
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Respiratory problems with possible respiratory arrest

Treating a Sting

If you are stung by a scorpion, call the poison center at (800) 222-1222. We’ll provide first aid suggestions and follow up to make sure you did not have a dangerous reaction.

Prevention

If you are visiting or live in a bark scorpion-prone area, you need to take special precautions: 

  • To prevent scorpions from climbing or falling into a baby's crib, move the crib away from the wall, take off any crib skirts that reach to the floor, place the legs in glass jars and you might want to consider building a scorpion shield over the crib
  • A scorpion shield is a light weight rectangle of plastic or foam core board, cut to be bigger than the crib or bed and hung from the ceiling over the crib. A strip of sticky tape or glue board can be used around the edge to catch scorpions that fall from the ceiling
  • Roll back bed linens and check for scorpions before getting into bed
  • Shake or examine all clothing and shoes before putting them on
  • Move furniture and beds away from the walls
  • Wear shoes when outdoors, especially at night around swimming pools
  • Be especially careful of wet/damp towels in the bathroom and pool area

Buying a Home

Planning to buy a home? Learn how to determine if a home has a scorpion problem in our Poison Prevention tips

If you have questions, please call us directly at (602) 253-3334 or call (800) 222-1222 for your local poison center. 

Black Widows

Identification of Mature Female

  • Large, black, shiny body
  • Measures approximately 3/8 inch long with 1-inch legs
  • An hour-glass shape of bright red or orange-red color can be found on her abdomen
  • Webs are very irregular, white in color and strong; they can be found under outdoor furniture, barbecue grills, pool pumps, storage areas and corners of porches and patios, and often where insects are readily available

Bite Symptoms

  • The initial bite may feel like a pin prick, which may go unnoticed - you may experience little or no visible signs of the bite such as swelling
  • A red circular mark may appear about six hours after the bite
  • Initial symptoms may be progressive aching sensations
  • There may be muscle pain at the bite site spreading to the abdomen,lower back, thighs and limbs
  • Symptoms last as long as 36 hours and lingering effects may last for several weeks

Treating a Bite

Call the poison center immediately at (800) 222-1222 to find out whether the bite victim can be cared for at home or will require treatment by a doctor or hospitalization. Severe cases may require anti-venom treatment.

Prevention

A black widow hides near its web by day, typically in a sheltered spot, and is active at night waiting on its web for prey. She does not hunt for prey.

  • Inspect your yard for the irregular white webs
  • To control the black widow population find the webs at night using a flashlight and spray her directly with a strong insecticide and destroy all egg sacs; the egg sacs are small round white balls that contain hundreds of baby spiders
  • Wear gloves when handling firewood, lumber, and rocks - be sure to inspect the gloves for spiders before putting them on

Insecticides

There are many labeled pesticides for spider control. Some are labeled for homeowner use, while others are labeled only for the licensed, certified pesticide applicator. You'll want to spray the insecticide directly on the black widow.

If you have questions, please call us directly at (602) 253-3334 or call (800) 222-1222 for your local poison center.

Gila Monster

The Gila monster prefers canyon bottoms, rocky areas and outlying desert residential areas. It spends less than 2 weeks per year above ground. From early March to mid-May, Gila monsters are active during the day and change to nighttime activity beginning with the monsoons.

Identification

  • A large, heavy-bodied lizard - 1 of 2 poisonous lizards in the world - and weighs up to 2 pounds
  • Displays black markings on a background that can be creamy, pink, yellow or orange
  • Measures up to 24 inches in length
  • Always has a black area around the mouth and eyes
  • It will protect itself from the sun and heat by burrowing underneath pack rat nests

Bite Symptoms

A bite produces intense pain within 30 seconds, followed by swelling, weakness, dizziness, nausea and chills.

Treating a Bite

Once a Gila monster bites, it does not lock on but generally will not let go. If this happens, you may have to pull it off. The longer it remains on you, the more venomous the bite.

Do not wait for symptoms to occur. Call the poison center immediately (800) 222-1222 and go to the closest medical facility for medical treatment.

If you have questions, please call us directly at (602) 253-3334 or call (800) 222-1222 for your local poison center.

Rattlesnake

While rarely fatal, rattlesnake bites are extremely painful and destructive.

What to Know

  • Thirteen species of rattlesnakes have been identified in Arizona and extra caution should be taken when being outdoors when the daytime temperature stays above 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rattlesnakes can be encountered at anytime during the year but in March and April, rattlesnakes become more active and move to areas where they can soak up the sun.
  • During hot summer months, they are more active at night. After the start of the August monsoons, they become the most active of the year.
  • The shaking of the rattle can serve as a warning but not always – rattlesnakes can strike without warning or making a sound.
  • They can strike 1/4 to 1/2 of their body length – rattlesnakes in Arizona can be of different lengths.
  • Babies are typically born at the end of July and are capable of biting from birth.

Bite Symptoms

  • Immediate pain or burning at the site; fang marks usually visible
  • A metallic or rubbery taste in your mouth
  • Significant swelling with symptoms progressing to weakness, sweating, chills, nausea and vomiting

Treating a Bite

  • Seek emergency medical attention immediately and stay calm – you have time to reach medical care
  • Use your cell phone to call for help if you have service
  • If bitten on the hand, remove all jewelry before swelling begins

What Not to Do if Bit

  • Do not apply ice to the bite site or immerse the bite in ice
  • Do not restrict blood flow in any manner
  • Do not cut the bite site or try to suck out the venom; leave the bite site alone
  • Do not try to capture the snake to bring to the hospital, treatment is not snake specific

If you have questions, please call us directly at (602) 253-3334 or call (800) 222-1222 for your local poison center.