Sao Paulo is the largest city in the southern hemisphere. It has a population of 11 million and over 20,000,000 when including the people of Sao Paulo’s outskirts.
The city is a concrete jungle, no green space, few birds, and little to no animals. What Sao Paulo does have is an abundance of is cockroaches. In the wild, the cockroaches live inside a dark, humid cave, the interior of trees that is rotten and been hollowed out and in rock crevices. In urban areas, some species have adapted to life in the city for an abundance of food, humidity, and their water sensing abilities are extraordinary.
No matter how clean your home or apartment may be, the cockroach can infest your home if it chooses and most do because of an endless supply of a variety of substances that they can consume.
The cockroach has drawn detection by scorpions that have had their natural habitat disturbed. The scorpions find the urban cockroach delicious, threatening humans from rural and urban areas with painful and deadly stings.
Hamilton Coimbra Carvalho writes in The Conversation in 2017 that has recently resurfaced due to the breakdown of Brazil’s environment from multiple human pressures.
But Brazil's cities also provide excellent habitat for scorpions, experts say. They offer shelter in sewage networks, plenty of water and food in the garbage that goes uncollected, and no natural predators.
Worse yet, the species terrorizing Brazilians is the highly poisonous yellow scorpion, or tityus serrulatus. It reproduces through the miracle of parthenogenesis, meaning a female scorpion simply generates copies of herself twice a year – no male participation required.
Each parthenogenesis can spawn up to 20 to 30 baby scorpions. Though most will die in their first days and weeks of life, ridding Brazilian cities of scorpions would be a herculean, if not downright impossible, task.
Wicked problems are a symptom of numerous other related problems, both natural and human-made. In this case, Brazil's urban scorpion infestation is the result of poor garbage management, inadequate sanitation, rapid urbanization and a changing climate.
It is likely too late to stop the spread of scorpions across Brazilian cities.
This invasion is yet another example of climate breakdown and what it means for human populations. When it comes to a changing climate we should expect the unexpected.