When Busch Gardens in Tampa unveiled the SCORPION roller coaster in 1980 it was a groundbreaking achievement in theme park engineering. The vertical loop was one of the greatest rides for thrill seekers back in the day but today, with competition from envelope pushing roller coasters like Sheikra, Montu and Kumba at Busch Gardens, it's easy to understand why park staff announce your launch on the ride with an unenthusiastic "Prepare to Feel the Sting of the Scorpion".
There's no roller coaster in the world that can get my adrenaline flowing as quickly as when I turned over a chunk of limestone to reveal a defensive and severely annoyed 4" long Hentz's Striped Scorpion.
Although the sting is nowhere near as painful (or lethal) as the Florida Tree Bark Scorpion, it still made me jump back a few feet when it flopped to the ground and scurried past my GPS unit.
I had been geocaching at Oleta River State Park in North Miami Beach and had been attempting to photograph an insect when this arachnid (note the 8 legs) popped out. The sizable pincers are used to seize prey and the stinger is used to kill prey before they eat it. I could be wrong - I often am, but I think this one was a gravid female which would soon give birth to young that will ride on her back until they can fend for themselves. She seems a little wider in the middle. She ambled across the trail and disappeared into the weeds.
I'll think twice before I flip over the next rock.
A quick thanks to Robert Sobczak over at the South Florida Watershed Journal for an assist fixing the glitch in Google's blogs. You can once again click on a photo to get a bigger view.