‘Scorp Night’ July 6 at Boyce Thompson Arboretum

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Rockets’ red glare? How ‘bout the Scorpions’ Green Glow?

Boyce Thompson Arboretum offers an Independence Day Weekend alternative Saturday night, July 6, for Sonoran Desert denizens: a chance to learn all about scorpions – and to see them after dark (and in a new light) on a guided walking tour. Mesa photographer and scorpion enthusiast Dave Oberpriller will explain the eerie Gatorade-green fluorescence during an educational slideshow and lecture from 7-8 p.m., and then illuminate the arachnids for guests on a guided walk along Arboretum trails after dark. Summer daily hours of 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be extended July 6 for a special evening of after-dark access, a chance to learn about these misunderstood, maligned creatures of the night. The lecture and 8pm guided walk are included with the day’s admission of $10 for adults, $5 ages 5-12.

Expecting a crowd, several expert guides will be on hand to divide visitors into smaller groups. Guides include Kelly and Dixie Walterscheid, owners of Scorpionhunter.com on East Presidio Street in Mesa (they’ll offer 25 free Nitepen™ mini-flashlights); also Casa Grande educator Wild Man Phil Rakoci, one of the Arboretum’s most popular tour guides. Photographers who’d like to learn the finer points of photographing scorpions are invited to tag along with Scottsdale macro-photographer Paul Landau, whose amazing close-ups reveal hidden worlds of insects and arachnids.

“Scorpions glow an eerie blue-green under ultraviolet (UV) light, which is technically called fluorescence,”  said Oberpriller. “Scorpions are present every day as you walk the Arboretum trails, but hiding under rocks and avoiding daylight, they’re seldom seen. Nighttime? Now, that’s a different story — they come out in force and can be found almost everywhere! Join me at the Arboretum July 6 to learn all about scorpions, their life cycle – and see close-up photos, then after dark we’ll walk along the trails to see them glow by UV light. You’ll have a new appreciation for these venomous, but misunderstood, creatures.”

What should visitors bring along on their after-dark excursion?

“A small white-light (or, preferably red-light) flashlight, just to keep from tripping while walking after dark or accidentally stepping on a rattlesnake,” said Oberpriller. “And if you don’t already own a UV flashlight, the Arboretum gift shop sells them for $6. And bring your camera, even simple point-N-shoot cameras and cellphone cameras can take great close-up pictures of scorpions glowing that eerie green color. I’ve photographed many of them, and will share tips for successful nocturnal photography during the lecture.”

Speaking of which, did you know they give live birth? Or that mama scorpions show their maternal side by carrying their babies on their backs until the little ones able to fend for themselves? The evening also showcases Mesa-based ScorpionHunters.com, an innovative family-owned company that provides UV lights and gear for safely removing and eliminating scorpions around your home — without the use of poisons. The ScorpionHunters will have a limited number of their $20 kits available for purchase that night, too; (read more at shop.scorpionhunter.com).

“If the weather’s calm we should have a great night exploring the gardens of the Arboretum by UV light in search of these glowing, curly-tailed, eight-legged, roach-eating – and truly amazing – critters,” said Oberpriller. “If skies are clear we’ll also have excellent views of ‘the big scorpion in the sky’ and other Summer constellations. And we’ll stay out as late as the Arboretum staff will allow us… or until the skunks and javelinas have had enough of our antics and convince us to leave — who’d argue with one of them?”

Read more about Arboretum weekend nature walks and events at ag.arizona.edu/bta; connect with Oberpriller, ‘Wild Man Phil,’ Walterscheid and other guides (and see a few recent scorpion photos) at facebook.com/boycethompsonarboretum.

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Scorpions glow in the dark when a black light is used. (Photos by Dave Oberpriller)

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