Dressed in black and armed with a small folding knife, the man came ready for battle. He loomed over the pincered pest, with its forked claws and spearlike tail. As the knife blade hit the brick wall, beneath a mailbox, the venomous bug escaped into a crack. The blade struck again, this time underneath the crack.
“I squished him — I don’t think he’ll live long,” said Dean Andrews, the self-proclaimed Scorpion Equalizer.
As temperatures rise, more bark scorpions seek refuge in homes. Some homeowners are looking past traditional pest control companies and seeking out specialized scorpion hunters.
“Most people don’t like April 15 because it’s tax day,” Mr. Andrews, 54, said, “but I consider that the start of scorpion season.”
The scorpion, adored by tattoo shops and disdained by most households, has long been a symbol of the Southwest desert.
Most scorpions are solitary creatures, but the bark scorpion, most commonly encountered near homes, is the exception. It’s not uncommon to find two-to-three-inch bark scorpions in clusters of 20 or 30.
They are attracted to water, and although they can tolerate some heat, they like to cool off inside homes. The smallest cracks allow them to get through.
Their venom can cause severe pain, numbness, frothing at the mouth, breathing difficulties, muscle twitching and convulsions. Death is rare, and an antivenom is available at most hospitals for severe cases.
Mr. Andrews, who has a day job at a shipping company, started hunting when his parents bought a home that had a scorpion problem. He bought some basic gear and got to work, and he has been at it for nine years.
He began hunting scorpions for friends and family members, and eventually his wife suggested that he start charging. He advertises his services through social media, but many of his clients hear of him through word of mouth.
Mr. Andrews charges $45 for an initial visit, and monthly plans range from $40 to $100. He also offers scorpion hunting lessons for $40 an hour and hunting parties for $50 an hour.
The work can be dangerous, not just because of the risk of getting stung but also because of the physical toll. On a recent hunting trip, Mr. Andrews slipped off of a boulder while trying to stake a scorpion with a barbecue skewer.
Recently, after a full day at his regular job, Mr. Andrews prepared for an evening hunt at two backyards. In front of the first house, he popped open his trunk, revealing an unexpected arsenal. In place of chemical sprays, which he considers ineffective and hazardous, he had small knives, a machete and empty snack containers for collecting scorpions. He also improvises, using golf clubs and beer bottles, too.
His uniform is a long-sleeved shirt that reads “Scorpion Equalizer” and a utility belt filled with other essential gear like goggles and black lights, which make the critters glow and easier to spot.
“Just like Bruce Wayne becomes Batman at night, I become the Scorpion Equalizer,” Mr. Andrews said, clutching a grabber tool and a black light.
He checked out the first house like a security guard, shining his black light along the perimeter until he spotted his glowing, eight-legged prey.
After a few kills, he walked down the driveway toward the mailbox to check on the scorpion he wounded. Instead of coaxing it out, he decided to wait until he finished a sweep of the second house, next door.
Mr. Andrews, who grew up in a Chicago suburb, moved to Arizona in 1979 to study broadcast journalism at Arizona State University. He lives with his wife and young daughter in Phoenix. And when he’s not hunting scorpions, he enjoys taking his daughter to concerts by performers as diverse as Neil Diamond, Bruno Mars and Lorde.
In his kitchen, he keeps a container of scorpions, one of which he named after a Clint Eastwood character.
“I named him Dirty Harry because he’s a dirty, hairy scorpion,” Mr. Andrews said.
As Mr. Andrews left the second home, where he killed about a half dozen scorpions, he walked back toward the first house to hunt the elusive scorpion that had fled underneath the mailbox.
“I’m sick and tired of his guy,” he said.
Aiming his black light at the mailbox, he slid his prey out onto the street with his knife. After impaling it with his blade, he squashed the dead bug with his shoe.
“I could spend all night doing this,” he said.