Darrell Crump holds a clear plastic deli cup in his hands. Inside the cup is an amber-colored dune scorpion, not much larger than a grasshopper. When Crump removes the lid, the scorpion races up to the edge of the cup, pinchers open, and tries to climb out.
"That one wants to sting you," Crump says. "If you get in its face, it's going to sting you. They're pretty feisty."
Crump knows a thing or two about scorpions -- he's been collecting them for the past eight years. At one time, he had more than 50 species of scorpions at his home in El Mirage. He says he had to downsize his collection to about a hundred scorpions when his collection "got to where it was consuming my life."
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But when he's not working the graveyard shift as a medical technician in the biology department at LabCorp, Crump, 37, is still running around the neighborhoods and wilds of Arizona with tongs and a black light, looking for new and rare venomous pets.
Crump's obsession began in 2002, when he was living in Colorado. "I was just curious what kind of scorpions I could find in Colorado. I knew there were some bark scorpions, and I'd read online there were a few others, but I'd never found any different species," he says. "And when I came here, it's like a paradise. Everywhere I go, there's something different. We have at least 35 species here that are described so far. There are hundreds of scorpion species in Arizona that aren't even described yet."
Crump says dune scorpions are the most common near his home. He's collected bark scorpions, desert hairy scorpions, and Striped Tail scorpions from other areas around the Valley. Two of Crumps' favorite finds were discovered in Tucson and Flagstaff.
On Mount Lemmon near Tucson, Crump says he collected a scorpion species that hadn't been described yet. In Flagstaff, he found a species (hadrurus spadix) similar to the desert hairy scorpion, but it's all black.
To satisfy his craving for different scorpion species, Crump breeds his scorpions in captivity, then trades them for species that are harder to find in Arizona. He does so locally, at Reptiles & Reefs in Mesa, and also online with collectors from all over the world.
"I really enjoy it, especially the captive husband part, where you have a scorpion that has babies," he says. "Once they come off the mom, I separate them so they don't eat each other. It's really rewarding to have babies survive and also watch them grow and live. Each moult, they get bigger. Sometimes they change colors, they'll get more features to them, and you can tell if they're male or female as they get older."
"It's really interesting. It's a rewarding hobby," Crump continues. "I have two little dogs, but everything else in my house is venemous."