We recently took a full moon hike as a family offered through our local nature conservancy, and it inspired a suggestion for what could be a fun and possibly spooky family Halloween activity for those who live in the Southwestern United States: a night-time scorpion hunt!
It's worth knowing that in the Los Angeles area, where I live, there are no scorpions that produce venom that is life-threatening to humans, which is why the photo above shows a small scorpion on a human hand. That hand belonged to an experienced guide leading our tour (not to me or my family members).
Please don't even think about touching a scorpion this until you've familiarized yourself with the scorpions that reside in your area, especially if you live in Arizona or Kane County, Utah (the sting of the Arizona bark scorpion is dangerous!).
Scorpion stings usually are similar to other insect stings - uncomfortable, aggravating, but not especially dangerous to humans.
Finding scorpions turns out to be surprisingly easy - all it requires is an ultraviolet flashlight, or "black light."
While we think of them as primarily desert dwellers, scorpions live in residential suburban areas as well! I became aware when the two inch bad boy in the photo below appeared on concrete steps at the main entry to our home, camouflaged by fallen leaves.
The kids and I decided to do some follow-up scorpion hunts around the neighborhood.
Some of the unexpected delights of night-time walks with the UV flashlight included a caterpillar and the luminescent fringe of shelf mushrooms growing on a tree along the daily walk to school.
We even turned out all the lights in the house and shined the UV light on different household objects to see what happened. Some of the most exciting findings came from objects we don't register any more.
For example, when my son was in diapers, my toddler daughter and I used to while away afternoons together creating animals out of brightly colored polymer clay we'd subsequently bake in the oven. Who knew they looked even better under UV light?
The cost of this adventure, which was extended over several nights this month? About $13 for this UV flashlight via Amazon Prime.
With a recent heat wave in LA that has temperatures in the 80s and 90s, a night walk before bed is the perfect cool-down activity once homework and chores are complete.
As family activities go, this one is affordable, unique, and they've been talking it up to their friends for weeks!
Feel free to share your own unconventional suggestions for Halloween family fun in the comments!