SAO PAULO – Scorpions are increasingly adapting to urban life in Brazil and with the arrival of summer authorities have been forced to take up a battle against the arthropods that have sparked alerts in some parts of Sao Paulo.
“All of Sao Paulo is taken up by these bugs,” biologist Denis Cândido, who has been at the Butantan Institute for over 30 years, a research center that prepares anti-scorpionic serum, told EFE.
High temperatures and air humidity increase the activity of scorpions, which, attracted by their prey - cockroaches, crickets and spiders - travel in search of new places to shelter, Eduardo De Masi, the coordinator of a pest control group in Sao Paulo said.
These conditions, common between the months of December and March, stimulate scorpion reproduction.
Compounding this further is the fact that the yellow scorpion - the most deadly in Brazil - is parthenogenetic, meaning that the female can reproduce without a male.
The lethal yellow scorpion has gained ground in the biggest cities, causing dozens of deaths in recent years in Sao Paulo state.
Regional health authorities have launched a campaign against the scorpions, particularly in the northern and eastern areas of Sao Paulo, the most populous city, where the most cases have been reported.
Yasmine Masri, a resident of the Tautape neighborhood, said she has never seen a scorpion, but her neighbors warned her about the “problem” and decided to take measures to get rid of them.
“I made my entire house ironclad. I placed barriers on access doors to stop scorpions and cockroaches getting in. I put steel bars over the large drains,” Masri told EFE.
“It’s not scary, it’s not alarming, but everyone has to be careful and watch out,” she added.
Experts have attributed the proliferation of the species in Brazil’s biggest cities to environmental and geographical factors, as well as the irregular occupation of land and lack of basic sanitation in some areas that attracts cockroaches - the scorpions’ main food source.
Their growing population in cities, according to the Ministry of Health, is one of the reasons why there has been an increase in bites.
Last year, there were 156,800 cases and 94 fatalities - up 25 percent more cases than the previous year (125,000) and 14.6 percent more deaths (82).
There are approximately 2,300 species of scorpion in the world, and about 180 of them can be found in Brazil - “distributed throughout the country,” according to Cândido.
Four species - the brown scorpion (Tityus Bahiensis), the yellow scorpion of the Northeast (Tityus Stigmurus), the black scorpion of the Amazon (Tityus Obscurus) and the yellow scorpion (Tityus Serrulatus) - are considered “dangerous.”
The institute keeps the dangerous scorpions “in captivity” and extracts their venom every three months in order to be able to make an antidote.
According to Cândido, the main symptom of the scorpion sting is a “violent” pain caused by neurotoxic venom that affects the victim’s nervous system.
This pain can be accompanied by complications, like nausea or respiratory difficulties.