Friday, 29 July 2011

Scorpion!


Fat scorpions lurked malevolently as I began to clear the stew of wind-blown twigs and sodden tangles of ivy, rotted petals and grit.

                                                             From The Lantern

The first time I saw a scorpion in the house, I was chilled to the bone. A scorpion, surely the most dangerous stinging insect there is! How could this be, in a country so close to England? I’d been brought up on terrible tales of the scorpions in the Middle East where my parents lived when I was born, of the gardener who put his foot into a shoe without looking and was stung so badly he died of the poison in the scorpion’s tail.

When I told the first person I saw – the electrician – of this terrible discovery, he smiled and shrugged in the way the French do. “C’est normal,’ he said. There were always scorpions in old houses where there were lots of stone walls, he explained, but there was not much harm in them. The sting from these Provençal breeds was not much worse than a wasp’s.

That isn’t as comforting as it might seem, as there are some pretty heavy duty wasps around here in summer: as August wears on, great hornets imbued with the same dark threat as military helicopters appear. But we’ve learned to live with the scorpions, and developed our own way of dealing with them. Nature has her ways too.

One hot night a few summers ago, I was in the bathroom getting ready for bed when I noticed that a battle was raging under the basin between a scorpion and a spider. The scorpion was a reasonable size, about an inch and a half long (about average: the other night we found a fat three-incher, but there are also tiny ones of less than an inch; the one photographed here on an outside wall was about two inches long). The spider was rather smaller, and it seemed only a matter of time before it lost the fight. But on and on went the two adversaries.

I stayed watching for over an hour, unable to leave without knowing the outcome. In the end, the spider triumphed by patiently continuing to spin sticky web while avoiding the scorpion’s nipping pincers. Very good to know, and I am always most respectful of spiders now. 

16 comments:

Maureen said...

Lore has it that spiders in a home are a sign of good luck. I don't mind spiders. Scorpions, however; they're something else.

Janel said...

I'm pretty creepy crawly tolerant, but I am SO glad we don't have scorpions where I live! I do believe those would freak me out.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

They are so scary, I agree -- I don't think I'd have watched the battle, too creepy! Once in the southwest we found a black widow spider in our young son's room, so I know the fear of the poison! (p.s. congrats on The Lantern being named one of Oprah's August book picks! Just received my email about it. Wonderful!!)

Richard said...

J'ai rencontré beaucoup de petits scorpions en Provence. Même au château de Gordes, lors de l'une de mes expositions... Heureusement, ici, ils sont inoffensifs!

Kenya D. Williamson said...

I'm fond of neither spiders nor scorpions. But, I've never seen the latter -- other than in photographs. (I could only look at your picture for a second before scrolling!) :) I'm glad you're in no danger. I wish you increasing success and luck without the critters!

...louciao... said...

Hmmm...suddenly the fantasy of moving to Provence seems less appealing somehow. I love your comparison of hornets to darkly hovering military helicopters!

MuMuGB said...

I don't remember seeing that many scorpions in Provence. I might be suffering from a selective memory syndrome here...Anyway, spiders are supposed to be good luck, especially on evenings "araignee du soir, espoir". that said, not so much in the morning "araignee du matin, chagrin"...

Forest Dream Weaver said...

What a lovely tale of combat! Much as I love rural France I've always found the crawlers and wrigglers a bit unnerving.
Enjoy your weekend!

Bunched Undies said...

"great hornets imbued with the same dark threat as military helicopters"
Great line Deborah...and so true!

vanessafrance said...

Fortunately, we don't get them here over in the southwest. But maybe they will appear with the changing climate. Hornets, on the other hand, we have in swarms - including a nest in the attic a couple of years ago.

Spangle said...

Good on the spider for fighting back!
Luckily we don't seem to get scorpions here in Spain (not that I've seen anyway), but if I were unfortunate enough to see one, I would freak out.

Great story.

James Kiester said...

Interesting, I'd have bet goo money the scorpion would take the scorpion.

Jennifer said...

Scorpions are so creepy! I was afraid to lift my book up from the table after reading your wonderfully creepy descriptions of the scorpions and other creepies in The Lantern. I preferred the descriptions of the scents as they were much more pleasant :)

Deb said...

I would have watched too.

Kelly Garriott Waite said...

Never would suspect you'd have scopians where you are. I saw them a lot in Phoenix, Arizona but never since.

litlove said...

You are one brave woman - I would have run screaming! :)

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