17 dead from Arab winter scorpion outbreak

Written by Staff Writer

Storm damage on a house in Minya, Egypt, which killed at least three people. Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images

A storm that swept across the Middle East last week, killing at least 23 people, struck Egypt where cold winds spreading the scorpion venom of over a dozen species covered much of the country in an orange-ish haze, according to local reports.

Eleven Egyptians — including seven men and four women — were killed by scorpions in Minya, an agricultural province south of Cairo, and further north in Assiut and Qena, the state news agency MENA reported.

Two children and an elderly person were among five people who died in Luxor, according to the agency.

Streets and homes in Cairo were coated with the pollen-ridden orangey compound, nicknamed Shahraniyah in Arabic and which has the sole purpose of filling a season known locally as the “winter of scorpions.”

The tree-like phenomenon is common at this time of year, with columns of the spiny arachnids falling from the sky and creating dozens of deadly fangs.

Some scorpions are smaller and less venomous than others and the fruitless nocturnal insect is commonly found in gardens, orchards and hills.

Funnel-shaped tongues of the fruitless insect

The tangled, wound-like cercis scale, where venom glands on the inside of its tail and forehead of the flowery emerald-green cavity intercept energy-sucking insects, remain dangerous for even inexperienced scorpion collectors.

‘Crumbs are wearing everyone down’

“Crumbs are wearing everyone down,” Mutahar Hosni, founder of a private scorpion collection shop in the Egyptian capital, told the Associated Press last week.

“People are getting tired of the sticky insects … too much of a good thing can lead to ruin,” said Hafed Nakhla, a professor of biology at Cairo University.

Hafed Nakhla is a professor of biology at Cairo University. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

“The scorpions will become more aggressive and it is only a matter of time before people become bitten,” he added.

According to 2015 data from Egypt’s General Authority for Antiquities, 100,317 red-eared scorpions — the species reported to be the most common in the country — were collected between 1994 and 2017.

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