It’s the latest and most bizarre beauty craze sweeping Latin America – women gluing dead scorpions to their finger nails.
The new manicure style sees women attach scorpions to their nails with a venom so deadly it kills victims in 15 minutes, all in the name of fashion.
‘It started out as a sick joke’, beauty parlour owner Rocío Vidales, who is pioneering the bizarre beauty treatment told MailOnline. ‘We’ve had women come here from across North America specifically to have baby scorpions fitted to their nails.’
The trend started in September when Lupita Garcia, a scorpion artisan and enthusiast, suggested to the staff at Rocío’s nail parlour in Durango, Mexico, to have a Scorpion-themed manicure.
The tiny scorpions are stuck onto women’s nails, despite being less than a week old, are still highly venomous.
The insects are killed with bug spray before they go near the manicurist’s table, and while the stingers are left on, Rocío says she never touches the animals with her hands.
Dr Julio Cesar Ramirez, who has worked in hospitals for 30 years, said: ‘The scorpions remain venomous after they have died.’
Lupita said: ‘Most people think scorpions are to be feared, but I think they are animals of real beauty. I’m always innovating new ways to make art out of scorpions, and this manicure has been my biggest hit.’
‘It looks good, but I certainly wouldn’t have it done to my own nails,’ said Sylvia Ruedas, having her manicure alongside Lupita.
A video of the new manicure went viral after it was uploaded to Facebook – bringing comments in praise and disgust in equal measure.
‘A lot of people wrote saying how disgusting it was. But a lot Mexican-American women with roots in Durango have come specifically for the new manicure’ said Rocío.
Lupita’s passion for the deadly insects, the second most venomous scorpion in Mexico, has survived three separate trips to the emergency room.
‘I’ve been stung enough to know that the pain of the venom is very intense’, she said, recounting her experiences. ‘It gives you a terrible headache, your nose begins to bleed, your tongue goes numb and your throat feels like it’s lined with fur.
‘The scorpions like the shade and so often slip into people’s houses. My house is situated next to an abandoned lot where a lot of them live, so I get more than my fair share.’
Although they grow to just 4cm in length, the venom from Centruroides Suffusus can kill an adult human in 15 to 20 minutes. More than a thousand people were killed in Durango state in northern Mexico by the deadly insects last year.
‘Fatalities have been reduced significantly by the anti-venom units installed in every hospital, but it’s the people in rural areas who can’t get to a hospital quickly enough that tend to die,’ Lupita said.
The scorpion manicure involves sticking the dead insect to the nail before encasing it in liquid acrylic, which is subsequently polished.
‘Designing the manicure was tricky,’ Rocío told MailOnline. ‘It was a challenge not to allow the insect to move, change colour or rot if exposed to the air.
‘I think it’s a pretty strange thing to want on the end of your finger, but I can’t argue with the demand.’
The popularity of the lethal scorpions, which are commonly found hiding under bus benches in Durango, has not been limited to the city’s beauty parlours.
Dead scorpions, preserved in alcohol, are available for £2 each in the local market, fished out of jars containing more than 1,000 insects.
‘Guys buy them to play pranks on their sisters and girlfriends,’ said vendor Eduardo Miguel, 19, who sells around 20 dead insects a day. ‘Watching them find a massive scorpion in their underwear drawer can be hilarious.’
Scorpions are even sold in tacos to eat at the city centre’s Raíces restaurant.
The scorpions served in Sergio’s tacos are soaked in surgical alcohol for 24 hours before they go near the kitchen, a process which the owner claims neutralises the asphyxiating venom.
‘We make sure they completely safe to eat before we cook them’, he said, ‘that’s why we leave the stinger on, it gives the insect that extra bite on your tongue when you bite into it’.
Dr Ramirez added: ‘The alcohol destroys the functionality of the venom-producing organ. They’re perfectly safe to eat, although still not particularly delicious’.
Diner Silvia Torres, who was nearly killed by a scorpion sting four years ago, said: ‘For me it feels a lot like revenge. I’ve finally worked up the courage to set eyes on the beasts again and I was very nervous before biting into the taco.’
‘It’s popular because it’s such a novelty, not because it’s delicious.’ said Erica Mendez from Sinaloa. ‘It’s more like chewing stringy cartilage.
‘I certainly wouldn’t choose scorpions tacos over enchiladas in the future’.
Sergio Ávila, the scorpion taco’s inventor, added: ‘I used to play with the scorpions on the mountainsides as a kid.
‘Here we soak them in a liquid which neutralises their venom before frying them and serving them up, stinger and all.’
‘People always ask me what they tastes like,’ said the self-styled ‘Scorpion King’ as he picked a wriggling insect out of a bucket containing more than a thousand and eats it. ‘The answer is that it only tastes of scorpion, there’s nothing to compare it to.’
The reality is that Sergio’s insects taste of very little, and given their hard exoskeleton are difficult to chew.
The restaurant serves variations of the fried bug by coating them either in chocolate, chilli powder or tequila, and offering them still alive to those who have consumed enough alcohol to dare.
‘We’re hoping to franchise the idea in Canada and then Europe,’ he told MailOnline. ‘And we’re also working on a tasting dish of edible insects from across Mexico.’
‘The scorpions have claimed a lot of lives throughout the region, so it’s understandable that they have come to represent Durango,’ said Socorro Orijin, 76, who sells clocks, key rings, fridge magnets and mugs containing dead scorpions. ‘A lot of people have been murdered using these scorpions.
‘It used to be that badly-behaved prisoners in the state penitentiary would find a scorpion waiting under their bed sheets.’
Lupita, who says her alternative manicures have helped to attract more business to her stall, added: ‘We sell live scorpions to people as pets, but we always cut off the stinger.
‘The idea is to improve the image of these insects, not to sell people deadly weapons.’