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!
If you do have these around, you might like to know that they are generally considered beneficial (see the list of undesirables that they are doing away with?) and that a concerted effort to kill off house centipedes might reveal a bug problem of another sort that you never knew you almost had… That, and their bites are apparently really painful to people, too. At least as painful as a bee sting.
On a related note, my search for information and photos of Scutigera coleoptrata led me to Dope on the Slope, a pretty cool Brooklyn-based blog of invertebrates and photography. It’s not many blogs that really catch my interest, so I figured I’d give this one a plug.