Urban Legend True: Scorpion Stings Wal-Mart Shopper

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 26th, 2008

Everyone thinks they are merely urban legends. You know the ones about the tarantula in the grapes and the scorpion in the bananas? Well, sometimes they are based in reality.

The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington, West Virginia, reported on May 26, 2008, that a scorpion stung a girl at one of the state’s Wal-Marts.

A family shopping for Memorial Day food on Sunday afternoon at the Barboursville (West Virginia) Wal-Mart ended up in the hospital after their daughter was stung by a scorpion.

Megan Templeton was in the produce department picking out a seedless watermelon when she was stung. The scorpion, it is theorized, got into the crate when it was shipped from Mexico.

The scorpion, said her father William Templeton, stung her finger. She was taken to Cabell Huntington Hospital to be monitored for any allergic reaction.

The store manager caught the scorpion, which was a tan, inch-long example of an unidentified species.

The Associated Press later noted that most of the nearly 2,000 kinds of scorpions are not dangerous to humans.

Richard Coyle, senior director of international affairs for Wal-Mart, said store employees believe the problem was with a single shipment of watermelons.

“We are very concerned,” he said. “This is a very rare incident. When I spoke with the store manager, she said in her 17 years she had never heard of something like this.”

I would imagine for our West Virginia readers, you may wish to check to see if seedless watermelons are on sale at the state’s Wal-Marts in the next few days.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

14 Responses to “Urban Legend True: Scorpion Stings Wal-Mart Shopper”

  1. red_pill_junkie responds:

    I hoped the gir’s family received some coupons after that sad encounter with the “alacrán” 😉

    BTW, the office I work in is located at the northwestern part of Mexico city, and from time to time I had found some little tanned scorpions like the one that stung the poor girl—dead thankfully— so now, apparently, if legal, I should send a dead one to Loren Coleman for his museum. }:)

  2. kittenz responds:

    Now that we get more and more of our fruit from South of the Border, this sort of thing will become more common. This is local news for me and you bet your boots I’ll look closely before I put my hands into ANY fruit bin at any WalMart.

    FYI, the “urban legends” about tarantulas in the bananas weren’t ALWAYS legends! When I was a girl, we used to get great big bunches of bananas. One family would get them when they came in to the fruit market, and then share them out with other families in the hollow. We learned to inspect them carefully because several times there would be large spiders – sometimes other bugs too – hidden in the bananas. I was never bitten or stung, but one of my cousins was bitten by one of the spiders. He said that it felt like a sting from a big wasp or hornet, and the bite left a big nasty-looking lesion on his arm for a few weeks.

  3. shumway10973 responds:

    This is why fruits and veggies coming in from south of the border is suppose to be gassed. My manager at the grocery store I work at said he found a banana tarantula one time–a rather large one. It isn’t uncommon for the bananas and avocados to have something in them. Unfortunately, with the cost of gassing and the unpopular view of doing so, not all fruits and veggies coming north get it. After all, most people don’t know this, but this is similar to how the army ants and killer bees made it to the U.S. They hitched a ride and took over. Just think about the number of critters we don’t know about or forgot about that could take a free ride, jump ship and then take over with disastrous results.

  4. kolobe responds:

    Here is one from England last week reported in the Fortean Times
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/suffolk/7399412.stm Tarantula found in store grapes

  5. shumway10973 responds:

    BTW– Most people don’t realize that the tarantula used in Arachnophobia was the banana tarantula. That will give you an idea just how big they are.

  6. eireman responds:

    In Puerto Rico, one of the few fruits grown well here are guineas (bananas) and they are as fresh as possible. They are often found at streetside vendors and colmados along with pineapples and plantains. Both the bananas and plantains can be found still in a bunch on the stalk. I haven’t ever heard of any insects crawling out of them. I will have to be extra careful in the feature. Gotta tell ya, spiders and scorpions give me the creeps. [insert shudder]

  7. Scrabbydoo responds:

    When I was a teenager (about 20 years ago) I killed a scorpion on my grandmother’s screendoor. This one was a medium sized brown/tan scorpion. Which was kind of odd since I live in Southeast Missouri! A small grocery store was across the street from her that sold fruits and vegetables, so it was most likely a hitchhiker like this one was. Having also stayed some summers in Arizona I got stung by a scorpion once on the ankle, it was not a fun experience! My ankle swelled up and hurt for a week.

    I remember seeing a documentary on a type of banana spider (the phoneutria of Central and South America) that lives in the bunches that can actually kill a human with it’s bite and is aggressive. Other names for the phoneutria banana spider include: bananenspinne, kammspinne, and wandering spider. Which makes these “hitchhikers” a little scary. What would happen if one of these bit someone in an American Store? I doubt the antivenin would be readily available here in the US for a Central/South American Spider.


    I knew about spiders in bananas, but never this. Another one is that there are snakes in ball pins at places like McDonalds.

  9. faster responds:

    Those who say a scorpion sting is only a little worse than a bee sting have probably never been bitten by one.

    I have.

    I’ve lived in Mexico for 14 years. One night, while falling asleep, I rolled over onto a pillow that an adolescent scorpion (the worst kind) had decided was his solitary domain for the moment. I felt something like a sharp piece of fingernail jab me. That’s what I thought it WAS.

    It wasn’t long before the pain increased. No fingernail would do that, so I looked in the mirror at my shoulder blade. Nothing. Back to the bed, where I searched “just in case” it was some kind of bug. That sucker had taken refuge in another pillowcase. I flipped him onto the floor and – well – he knew my wrath.

    The pain kept increasing until it was extremely – loud. I’ve been stung by bees. There IS no comparison. This is industrial-strength PAIN, dude. I have emphysema, and the venom is a nerve poison which could cause respiratory trouble, so I got a shot of cortisone. That hurt almost as much! But by morning, the pain was all gone, thanks to the cortisone. As I understand it, it can last several days.

    Putting ice on it helped a whole lot, but as with a really painful burn, it’s only temporary. Without ice, though, it’s much worse.

    One night, minding my own business, sleeping starkers because it was hot, something landed on my naked hip. I slapped it hard and in one motion swept it onto the floor, because the body was not softly bug-like, and I had reason to suspect anything like that. Sure enough, a scorpion fell on me from the ceiling. Not exactly nice.

    There are horses running free in the lot across the street from me. Every so often I hear one, obviously in agony, and it keeps going for hours. I already know what happened to it. Poor thing.

    I don’t know how true it is that most scorpions are not dangerous. If they mean their bite probably won’t KILL you, maybe. If they mean their bites aren’t BAD NEWS, they’re dead wrong. Maybe some won’t kill you immediately, as a snake bite might, but if it’s bad enough, it might do so over time. Medical care is strongly recommended, and soon.

    The reason adolescent scorpions are the worst (usually narrow bodied and 2-3 inches tip to tail) is because babies have extremely powerful venom, but little of it. Adults have a lot of venom, but it’s less potent. Adolescents have a respectable quantity, and it’s still pretty nasty stuff. So they’re the worst.

    In Texas, I learned that lots of kids will actually play with tarantulas. I’ve never heard of kids actually playing with scorpions – unless they remove the stingers first. Which, in itself, is risky business.

    But I’m lucky — only one bite in 14 years. I know a Canadian lady, 85 years old, who has been bitten eight times! Egad. Trust me on this: Even once in a lifetime is much too often.

    No insecticide I’ve found kills the ones that regularly invade my home, either. I “Raid-ed” one and put it under a custard cup, on a tile crack, so he could have air. Every day I sprayed him again. After four days I just killed it; it wasn’t about to die from the Raid, although the can said it kills “alacranes”.

    The lady from Mexico City probably doesn’t get many of these buggers because she IS in a city. I’m near Lake Chapala, and set out gluetraps which regularly catch them – lots of them. Especially in dry season, and after it starts to get cold, but they come in the house year-round. Anywhere in Mexico has them in plenty, but I imagine metropolitan areas don’t have many – too built up. They also tend to travel in pairs – not together, but one following the other. They’re mated pairs, and know how to find each other. So if you find one, you should look for another.

    I doubt this applies, however, to scorpion-laden watermelons at WalMart. If that one had a mate, it’s probably still in Mexico.

    I killed a REAL BIG one once, whose body looked almost like an armadillo. That sucka had MUSCLES. Made a rather revolting splash when I stomped on him, too. Mess to clean up.

    The only sure-kill of a scorpion is a shoe – with a hard-stomping foot in it.

    Never take any scorpion lightly.

  10. faster responds:

    If you’re afraid to put your hands in a veggie bin, I don’t think it’s really necessary. Such things are rare, even here in Mexico. I’m not afraid to root around among veggies and fruits, nor have I seen anyone else who was.

    Since such nightmarish tales are brought from imported tropical fruits, you’d think it’d be common as dirt here. It isn’t. It’s just as rare here as it is in the States. The only difference is that the buglies are common to the area. But they’re NOT common to the veggie bins!

    So have heart. And remember, too, that even if such a critter bites you, you can be treated successfully for it.

    But the odds of it happening in your local supermarket are slim to none. One in several hundred thousand, I would think. Maybe even less than that.

    The very fact that such a case is so newsworthy should tell you how extremely uncommon such things are. The handling of produce, in itself, will quickly rid the food of scorpions, tarantulas and spiders. They don’t like the handling at ALL. The handlers are in far more jeopardy than are consumers. But they are expecting it, so they’re ready to deal with them when they show up.

    Logic: Bugs – including venomous ones – are a part of life. We’re stuck with them.

    Emotion: How I wish we weren’t! I hate bugs!!!

  11. Aztec Raptor responds:

    Hello, i’m new, but that is not the point! I lived in Almoloya, Hidalgo in Mexico. Even something like this did not happen there! How it could happen in West Virginia is Unknown.

  12. kittenz responds:

    The very fact that this happened in West Virginia is what makes it news. If it had happened in an area where scorpions are native, people would not have noticed overmuch.

  13. red_pill_junkie responds:

    Hey faster, exactly where is your home? I have family in Ocotlán Jalisco, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of spending our Spring Break vacations there and swimming in the lake. Nowadays when I go visit my cousins and uncles I can only glimpse the lake from a distance 🙁

    My parents’ home has a spider problem, and one day my dad bought this gadget that supposedly transmitted an infrasonic sound that would scare away all kinds of vermin; the problem is you had to periodically adjust the frequency so the critters wouldn’t get used to it. I don’t know if the thing worked or not, but for a time there were less spiders in the house. Maybe you could get one of those.

    Qué onda Aztec Raptor. I live in Mexico city, and my office is in Santa Fé. As I wrote earlier I’ve found a couple of alacranes ocasionally—usually behind some cardboard boxes— but I have never found scorpions on any supermarket *knocking on wood*

    Si tienen tele, ahí se ven! 😉

  14. Saint Vitus responds:

    Scorpions are native to most of the Southeastern states, probably including West Virginia. These Eastern scorpions are not commonly seen and are not very dangerous at all, unlike the Western species.

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