How Bushmen track a scorpion

How Bushmen track a scorpion

See if you can find the burrowing ground beetle which belongs to the Carabidae family. The Bushman call it the tracker beetle (spoorsnyer kewer) as they use it to track scorpions down their burrows. The Bushman would catch one of these beetles and take it to a scorpion burrow, selecting the burrow of the more venomous scorpions (Parabuthus). The beetle is then placed head-first into the burrow and released. With its elongated body, it must move down the burrow to find a place to turn round. In the cul de sac, it encounters a scorpion obstructing its path. It then continues to push and shove to get the obstruction (scorpion) out of its way. The scorpion may try to defend itself by attempting to sting the intruder, but to no avail as the outer chitin layer of the beetle is impenetrable to the sting. Eventually the scorpion surrenders and scurries out of its burrow where the Bushman is waiting to catch it.

The Bushman uses a combination of animal venoms, plant poisons and binding compounds to put on their arrow shaft. They often use snake or scorpion venom, combined with Euphorbia sap, in a deadly mixture. This sticky substance is put on the shaft, just behind the metal or bone tip of the arrow (they used sharpened pieces of bone before metal became available for arrow tips). The quiver used to carry the arrows consists of a tube (often a branch from a quiver tree – Aloe dichotoma) with the bottom end closed off by a piece of leather.

Should the arrows be placed arrow-tip pointing downwards, the bouncing movement of the running Bushman could cause the sharp arrows to cut through the leather and fall out. To avoid this accidental piercing, they are carried pointing upwards. Applying the poison behind the arrow head rather than on it also makes it safer for the bearer. 

Kgalagadi Self-drive
This photo story features in the book Kgalagadi Self-Drive – Routes, Roads and Ratings. Find out more here.


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