Storytime 30

southern unstriped scorpion Vaejovis carolinianus not quite ready for action
This had been among the first of my detailed arthropod images and had been in the image galleries for a while, but I eventually removed it to upgrade my offerings. This is a southern unstriped scorpion (Vaejovis carolinianus,) also commonly known as a southern devil scorpion. It was collected in Smyrna, Georgia, which is one of 168 and counting suburbs of Atlanta, and it dates from 1999 or thereabouts; yes, this means it was shot on slide film and not digital. Overall length was probably less that 30mm, but I’m going off memory and we all know how bad that is.

The action pose here is anything but, since it was found entangled firmly in a spider’s web, quite dead. I spent some time stripping the webbing away carefully and then soaking the corpse in alcohol to soften the joints, which allowed me to pose it at will before letting it harden again – the background is playground sand from my apartment complex. So, yeah, intrepid action shots and all that. Worse, this was before I even knew that they fluoresced brilliantly under ultra-violet light, so I missed my opportunity back when this was in my possession. Though I imagine, in those uncivilized days, I would’ve had a difficult time getting my hands on a UV light source for a price I was willing to meet.

There’s a part two to this story as well. After getting a selection of photos, I set about to cast it in clear polyester resin to make a curio out of it. I didn’t have the shape mold that I wanted, but I found a small drinking glass (what two or three generations back would have called an “Old Fashioned” glass after the mixed drink of that approximate size) with an ideal shape to it. Planning carefully, I mixed the first batch of clear resin and poured it in, letting it start to set so it had gelled a little, then carefully put the dearly departed in upside-down and held it down with straight pins through a card above the glass, so its feet were just breaking the surface of the resin. Letting that harden for a short while, I mixed a new batch that was heavily infused with sand, and added a thin layer of this on top – when inverted, it would give a somewhat natural-looking surface for the scorpion to be perched on, like the photo here.

Everything went just ducky until the whole assembly had hardened sufficiently, which was a day later – that was when I found that I couldn’t get my new casting out of the damn glass. I shook, I tapped, I ran the glass under hot water, I pleaded, I threatened, and of course I cursed; no luck. I had used no mold release agent and the glass was not the typical polyethylene that most molds are made of. I was starting to worry that I’d permanently infused one of my sparse drinkware with an inverted scorpion. On a whim, I popped the glass into the freezer overnight.

The next day, I brought it out and tapped it a few times, with still no movement, then turned it upside-down over a padded stool and banged it down repeatedly – this was both successful and unsuccessful. The very first whack popped the casting free cleanly, but I was in hammering mode, a series of three rapid bangs, and the second brought the now-empty glass down onto the top of my new casting. The glass survived, the lovely scorpion paperweight received a big chip directly out of the top. Well, fuck. It was quite annoying, because the casting was otherwise perfect and had a remarkably smooth and uniform appearance. And naturally, I have never had any chance of even seeing a scorpion since then, despite several safaris aimed almost exclusively towards that. I mean, seriously, is this too much to ask?

I’d include a photo of the chipped casket, but I ended up giving that to the friend who had provided the scorpion in the first place, even though he lived where he could find them alive and kicking. To my knowledge, he has continually eschewed this advantage. Some people.

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