Tale of the scorpion

Knock, knock, knock… followed by the doorbell going off  multiple times in quick succession. It seemed like someone was desperate to get our attention. It was possibly 5am. in the morning. My mother got the door, usually being the first one to get out of bed. Voices, seemingly distant, of a lady who was having a conversation with her reached my ears. 

The next thing I remember, was being woken up by my mother. She said that our neighbour was at the door and wanted my help to take a look at some creature in her kitchen sink. I got out of bed, groggily walked out of the door and accompanied her across the street to her kitchen. What I saw shook me out of my sleep. 

I quickly ran back home to fetch a box to pick up what the sink contained – a large scorpion! What was a scorpion doing in a kitchen sink? How did it get there? These were questions that did their rounds in my head and I had no way of telling. 

With the scorpion now safely captured in a plastic box, I went back to sleep. Later in the morning, when I was up and about, I added a few natural elements to the box hoping to make the scorpion comfortable for a few days. The plan was to take it and release it in a natural environment during an impending trip to the forest.

As a matter of habit, the first thing in the morning, I would check on the scorpion. By now four days had elapsed.  Things were going fine and the scorpion was doing well. Day five – I peeped into the box. I saw something amiss. I rubbed my eyes to make sense of what I was seeing. There were little white baby scorpions on the back of the mother – I had not seen anything like this before! I couldn’t contain my excitement. I called my parents to see what had happened overnight.

Luckily, my travel plans firmed up and on day six, I was able to release the scorpion with her babies in a natural environment.  It was very satisfying to see the scorpion family disappear into the undergrowth!

All this transpired during the late 80s, a time when I did not have a camera to document. Since then, I have aching to see a scorpion with piggybacking young ones. Well over 3 decades elapsed for this wish to come true.

Time went by. I saw scorpions umpteen number of times. I also learnt from Mr. Nirmal Kulkarni, a good friend and a fellow naturalist that scorpions glow in the dark when exposed to ultraviolet light! He also gifted me a small torch that emitted UV light. I had a lot of success in watching scorpions and was also surprised that they were a lot more common than what I thought them to be.

Scorpion from Hampi photographed under normal light.

The same scorpion photographed under UV light.

The same scorpion photographed under UV light.

Recently, as part of my routine travels, I reached Dubare (Kodagu) in the evening. It was dark by the time I freshened up. It was also cloudy and was threatening to rain. Notwithstanding all this, I decided to take a walk within the campus. Armed with my camera and my torch, I started looking for creatures that find the night conducive for their activities.

Before the beam of my torch caught a scorpion on a tree trunk I had already seen bicoloured frogs, some spiders and geckos. The scorpion itself was very close to a large crack in the bark. On close observation I realized that my long last dream had just come true. Yesss! There were babies on the back of the scorpion. I took some pictures. Perhaps, I would have possibly clicked a few more frames but for the ants that decided to clamber on to my legs and give me nasty bites (or were they stinging me?)  tormenting me. I found it difficult to hold my camera still.  Surely, I must have disturbed their nest in the dark.

Scorpion with babies piggybacking!

Scorpion with babies piggybacking!

Just when I thought I had managed some decent pictures, it dawned on me that I had a torch with UV light. I pulled it out quickly and shone the light … I was in for another treat. 

Scorpion with babies under UV.

Scorpion with babies under UV.

As can be seen, the babies did not reflect the UV! I do not know whether baby scorpions lack the chemicals in their skin that make scorpions glow when exposed to UV or if the young had any advantage by not glowing. Since I did not carry a tripod, I had to make do with images shot on my phone.  

Soon, heavy rain drops started to come down, forcing me to run to my room. As I lay down the camera equipment on the table, i thought to myself, ‘It was well worth the wait’!



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