African Tales – Scorpions


Scorpion (

October 25 – Scorpions are common in Africa, and I caught many a one under flat rocks, loose bark, or in burrows that they dug. Only once was I stung, and that by just a little guy perched on a post that I leaned my hand against. My Mom was stung twice by scorpions, both in the house. She was pretty uncomfortable for a couple of days.

Another missionary lady I remember was stung, and unknown to the others, thought for days that she would die and wondered why nobody seemed all that worried about her imminent death. She had thought that scorpion stings were usually fatal, and was very relieved to finally discover the truth!

I used to catch scorpions and clip off just the sharp tip of the stingers and would then carry them around and display my immunity to African kids, who thought I was using some kind of exotic magic for protection. Once I discovered a whole colony of burrow-digging scorpions and dug them to take home. I tied a string to the tail of each one and hung it from the handles of my bicycle, so they could not get together and fight (scorpions don’t tolerate each other very well). Back at the mission, an African friend stopped to visit for a bit and failed to notice all the scorpions hanging from the handle bars. Presently he put his hand down on the bike and got an instant stab. He was angry and blamed me for not telling him about those scorpions.

I took my scorpion collection home and lodged each one in a tin can which I lined up on my window sill. I fed them bugs and somewhat to my surprise my parents never said much about not wanting them in the house. However, in time I noticed my collection seemed to be shrinking slowly. Cans would be empty, yet we never found any escapees in the house. In time my collection evaporated and though I had my suspicions as to where they had gone, they never were confirmed. Our monkey liked scorpions for food, and if she ever happened to find one would snatch it up and immeciately bite off the stinger, before eating the creature. Just once I remember seeing her get stung on the lip, but after a quick jerk and rub, she ate the scorpion anyway and forgot about the sting.


Goliath Beetle (

During my life on the mission stations I made several insect collections and had lots of fun collecting the many kinds of insects that lived there. Some bit, some stung, while others squirted acid in the collector’s eyes. Around Solusi could be found the large Goliath beetle, a black and white beetle that was usually found eating the sap oozing from injuries to tree branches. Certain species of Goliath beetles are the largest insects in the world, but our Solusi versions were a bit smaller. They made choice additions to my collections, but were also fun to tether by a leg to a length of string and be allowed to buzz loudly around one’s head.

In the cattle kraals could be found large dung and rhinoceros beetles, living in the cattle manure. These we sometimes collected by going into a kraal barefoot and digging around under the manure piles to find the various beetles. The huge larvae were also there, and I remember one time when a couple of us boys and a younger girl, Patricia Mote, were hunting for the beetles, and decided to collect the grubs as well, Having no container to put our grubs in, we persuaded Patricia to use her dress as a basket in front of her, and while she held up the edge we piled the grubs in. We got a lot of them and she carried them back home for us. When she dropped them in a pile on the ground, what a dreadful mess her dress was in! Her mother was upset and appalled at the sight, but we boys sure did appreciate Patricia’s assistance. – DALE

Dung Beetle (

Dung Beetle (

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