Friday, September 5, 2008

Holy crap! Is that centipede taking human growth hormone?

I got an email last week about the large centipedes that we have around here- Scolopendra heros. They were wondering if the centipede was a normal size or not. Yes, it's nromal; these particular centipedes can get quite large compared to those people are normally used to seeing. Unfortunately, it can be quite startling when you're in your house and one goes scuttling across the floor or even better...when one greets you in the shower in the morning.

Scolopendra heros centipedes can be over 9 inches long when fully grown. They are beautiful arthropods with reddish-orange heads, dark bluish-black bodies and yellow legs. All centipedes have a head and a long body region that is flattened. They have one pair of legs per body segment and have modified the front legs to use as fangs to inject venom (pretty cool, huh!?). While I, personally, have never experienced the bite of Scolopendra, I've heard that it is excruciatingly painful.

Centipedes are predaceous and feed on other arthropods such as insects. They typically live in moist or humid environments- under rocks, logs, in leaf litter, etc. Often centipedes move indoors when it become dry or temperatures begin to drop (will that ever happen this year- it's blazin' outside!).

Centipedes are more a nuisance problem than an actual pest. Of course, in the landscape, they can help reduce numbers of pest insects, but they may also take out some beneficials since they are a generalist predator. Most people don't mind if they see them wandering around outside, but are not too keen on having them inside the house. To keep centipedes out, you should work on excluding them so they can't get in. Check thresh holds and weather stripping around doors and windows to make sure there is a good seal- if you can see daylight around your door when it's closed, it is not sealed properly. Block weepholes with copper mesh or steel wool (remember, steel wool rusts when it gets wet so don't use it on light colored facades). Keep trees and shrubs pruned so they do not touch the house. Do not pile firewood or other objects against the house, especially by doors...this can give a good place to hide and make getting into the house easier.
For more information on centipedes and a close relative of theirs, millipedes see the following publication:

By the way, if you want to see what Scolopendra heros looks like, you can stop by my office sometime and check out Skippy. I also have some preserved specimens if you don't want to see the live version.

BB's update:

Things are progressing along as they should. Everyone is telling me that I'm getting big, but fortunately, it's all baby. I look like I have a basketball stuffed in my shirt. BB is now around 18 inches long and about 4.5 pounds. I've got a little under 2 months to go, but lots of things to get accomplished before I stop working. Hopefully, BB will cooperate and not come to greet us too early!


Lancashire rose said...

We had one of those in the house one day. It was fully grown and very vicious looking. I put an upturned container over it and waited for my husband to come home! I had already heard that it gives a nasty bite from a friend who had one in her house. Scorpions I can take but not this one.

Kat said...

Wow, that's a big one. I haven't seen one of these in Texas yet. Are they ok to have in the garden? Will they eat seedlings or anything like that?

By the way congratulations on the BB!

Wizzie Brown said...

The centipedes are fine to have in the garden. They'll help to eat some of the pest insects that are wandering around. They are predators, feeding on arthropods, not plant material.