The demons within the walls

May 8, 2007 Animals, Philly / Pennsylvania Comments (134) 12151

Is there any invertebrate creepier than the house centipede (AKA “thousand-legger”)? I grew up in Upstate New York, and had never encountered one of these until I first moved to southeastern PA around 1993. The first time I saw one skitter across the living room while I was watching TV, I thought for sure I’d seen some kind of demon–a lesser demon, granted, but a demon nonetheless.

Turns out it’s just Scutigera coleoptrata, a fast-moving type of centipede that lives mostly within human homes and eats spiders, roaches, bedbugs, silverfish, and other small insect-types that also invade human dwellings. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, and if you’ve been fortunate enough never to have encountered one, you have no idea just how disconcerting the sight of fifteen pairs of legs moving in a coordinated wave can be as this sizeable critter slashes across a floor or wall.

Since we got our dog, a Rhodesian ridgeback mix, we haven’t had much problem with these little guys. We just say “Copper, bug!” and he goes into full-on hunting dog mode, enthusiastically sniffing out the centipede before crushing it to death with his paws, and then typically tossing it around a bit before eating it. Unfortunately, he’s recently taken to retching — and I mean, retching — after eating one, so we’re not letting him do that any more. I looked up information on the house centipede, and it appears that their venom is not dangerous to house pets, though their bite is recorded as painful. After finding a close-up photo of a house centipede face, all I can say is yikes. I’m not surprised their bite is painful, check out those fangs!

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