Scorpion census

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed lots of Saturday-night festivities at the wondrous Pyramid Lake. Many times, these slaphappy affairs have concluded early Sunday morning, with overly malted revelers conking out right there on the beach with comforter, blanket and pillow. Well, after what I saw the other night, I will, in the future, make the effort to get at least a few inches off the ground.

I went out to the lake with this snazzy new gizmo, a flashlight that not only shines a bright regular beam, but also a fairly strong ultra-violet beam as well. Now, there’s only one real reason, as far as I can tell, to get such a flashlight, and, no, it has nothing to do with Burning Man. It’s to search for scorpions. That sounded like an entertaining and interesting thing to do at night in the desert, to look for those menacing little suckers, with their pale, translucent bodies made visible by black light.

It was a deluxe summer evening at the lake, with light breezes and temps still in the upper 70s. At about 10, I emerged from my trailer, UV flashlight in hand, ready to commence with the Steve Irwin-esque “Scorpion Hunter” bit. I had no idea what to expect. I would not have been surprised to find, say, four or six of my quarry, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to find nothing.

So it was somewhat wild and certainly unexpected when I found 22 scorpions in about 15 minutes. 22! The search took place in a fairly small area, in a circle with a radius of about 40 feet, with my trailer at the center point. By about Scorp No. 14, it dawned on me that carrying on my search while wearing open-toed sandals didn’t qualify as especially brilliant.

I should point out that I wasn’t on the actual beach, meaning that sandy, plant-free zone right next to the water. I was on one of the bluffs overlooking the lake on that stretch of Highway 446 between the Reno junction and Nixon, a bluff with various shrubs growing in sand and dirt. So, as for the beach, I couldn’t tell you what kind of scorpion scene it hosts. It might be perfectly safe to pass out face first in the sand down there, or to let the kids roll out their sleeping bags under the stars. All I know is, this particular bluff area was loaded with scorpions. Loaded. And not just in the rocks, but sitting out in open sand.

And yes, as it turns out, your basic scorpion does indeed light up under a black light, like a soft green glow stick with legs. And only one of these 22 was longer than two inches. Most of these guys were tiny, maybe an inch, max.

So there you go. Take it for what it’s worth; one night, one search on a sandy bluff at Pyramid. Twenty-two little bastards with venomous stingers revealed. I like night-time barefootin’ in the sand as much as the next guy, but …