MERCER – Holly Egan’s jungle-like home decor became a bit too authentic for her taste this week when a “very angry” house guest arrived at her Mercer home by way of a potted plant.
Egan, 30, brought her new fiddle leaf fig plant home from the Aldi grocery store in Hempfield Township Wednesday. As she unwrapped the packaging, Egan said she, as well as her dog and cat, were mortified to find a live scorpion nestled inside the wrapping paper.
Egan said she lives in a fairly wooded area, and initially assumed it was nothing more than a common wolf spider. But she realized what she was dealing when a couple taps on the paper sent the wayward guest tumbling to the floor.
“It started running at me with its stinger thing up,” she said. “I called some family members and said, ‘there’s a scorpion in the house!’ It freaked me out so bad.”
Egan said she grabbed a fireplace shovel to defend herself and subdued the scorpion with a couple firm whacks. She said her boyfriend came by shortly thereafter, put the scorpion in a Mason jar and shelved it in the garage.
“I’ve been cleaning the house ever since and pulling everything out in fear that there are more,” she said.
A scorpion is a type of an arachnid, but Michael Skvarla, an insect identifier and extension educator at Penn State Cooperative Extension, said he does have some experience with the species.
Although Skvarla said he would have to examine the specimen in person to be certain, he said his best guess based on the photos provided by Egan was that the scorpion was a Florida bark scorpion, Centuroides gracillis.
He said it is highly likely the Egan’s fiddle leaf fig plant was shipped from Florida, and the scorpion just happened to hitch a ride here.
Skvarla said that while a sting from a Florida bark scorpion is likely quite painful, it is unlikely to be deadly except in extreme cases such as an allergic reaction to the venom.
“I’m probably going to be on edge for a long time,” Egan said.
A representative from Aldi customer service said she had never had a customer inquire about a live scorpion, and sent the call up the chain of command to another representative. That representative said that it is “very uncommon” to find a poisonous insect or animal in a house plant, but could not comment further.
Egan said she plans to donate the specimen to Penn State University’s Frost Entomological Museum.