Ashley Dorsey was getting ready for bed when she saw a small spot on the wall. She looked closer and the spot had pincers and a tail with a stinger.
"I definitely panicked a little bit," the Mount Pleasant school teacher said. She knew what it was. They used to creep across her play set when she was a child in Greer. She yelled for her husband, Chris.
"It's one of those things -- when you see them, your skin just crawls," Chris Dorsey said.
Add them to the creepy list of strange, venomous critters that slither, skitter or scurry the Lowcountry. Scorpions are not often seen, but they're out there, right beside frights like the dread Eastern Diamondback rattlesnake, black and brown widow spiders and the lethal coral snake.
Except for one thing. For most people, the sting of the scorpions found in the South Carolina isn't any worse than a bee sting.
"Scorpions really don't pose much threat," said Laurie Reid, S.C. Forestry Commission entomologist. They're not so bad; they eat cockroaches and crickets. She should know -- she's kept them as pets, and she's been stung. "It wasn't particularly painful. I was shocked more than anything."
Most people are terrified when they see a scorpion because they've heard about the lethal bark scorpion, the most venomous of some 30 species found in the Southwest. But there are more than 2,000 species; only 30 or 40 have venom potent enough to kill a person, according to National Geographic magazine. They're related to spiders, mites and ticks. Around here, they're little more than an inch long.
The creepy creatures are plentiful in the Midlands and Upstate, where "you can turn over a rock, turn over a stone to find one. They wander into the restroom" at the forest commission's Columbia office, Reid said. They are, in fact native to the state. The species most commonly found has been named the Carolina Scorpion. It's also called the Southern Devil Scorpion.
In the Upstate, they're so common that "I get them in my house all the time, especially this time of year," said Peter Adler, Clemson University entomology professor. That's because they're coming indoors for the winter.
Reid and Brian Scholtens, South Carolina Entomological Society vice president, said they have not seen scorpions in the Lowcountry wild, but that doesn't mean they're not here. Bewildered residents occasionally bring Scholtens the arachnids to make sure they're seeing what they think they are.
The condominium complex where the Dorseys live had one reported last year, said Chris Dorsey, a freight broker. The pest control worker who sprayed their home said he had seen three cases in 20 years.
The scorpion was one of two the Dorseys found last week after it turned cold. The next one was on the ceiling above the bed. Ashley now sleeps with a can of insecticide nearby.
"You just don't want them dropping off the ceiling," Chris Dorsey said.
--1 to 2 1/2 inches long, including tail. Found in mulch, under logs and tree bark, dark spaces like crawl spaces and attics. Feed on insects. Active at night.--Native to and abundant in the Upstate, but are found in the Lowcountry.--Painful sting comparable to bee or wasp sting. Causes swelling, can cause nausea or vomiting. Usually subsides in a few hours. Risks include anaphylactic shock in persons allergic to insect stings.