A Red Centipede - I Bite

You have just overturned a rotting pine log and peered anxiously along the indented ground in search for a ground beetle or possibly even a snake. Instead you see a lovely red centipede that quickly scurries and hides beneath a leaf. You have the following choices:
  1. Pick it up with your bare hands
  2. Leave it alone
  3. Scream like a little girl

If you chose any answer, other than #1, then you chose wisely. (However, answer #3 is only appropropriate, if, in fact, you are a little girl.) Before you pick up a centipede, any centipede, you should be aware of the following: centipedes bite. And are venomous. You have been warned.

The Red Centipede's scientific name is Scolopocryptops sexspinosus. Really. Scolopocryptops sexspinosus. I am almost sure that that was a spell that Harry Potter used in one of his books. If not, it should be. "Scolopocryptops sexspinosus," Harry yelled as he waved his wand at Professor Snape. Nothing happened. "Mr. Potter," Professor Snape coldly replied, "If you had actually studied your spell book- you would have read that the Red Centipede spell only works when one is geographically located in the Eastern United States. 10 points from Griffendor."

I think that Professor Snape would be familiar with the Red Centipede. According to a University of Kentucky Entomology department web site entry: Centipedes are used as ingredients in treatments for malaria and snakebites in some cultures. "Ma'am," the witch doctor said, "I've got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that the snakebite didn't kill your son. The bad news is that the mashed centipede concoction that I made, did. You do have Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance, don't you? Please see my receptionist on your way out and leave your co-pay of 1 chicken head."

Its scientific name of Scolopocryptops means "dead eyes." As you may therefore surmise, the Red Centipede doesn't have eyes. It doesn't need them. The Red Centipede lives its life in the dark beneath rocks and logs searching for its favorite food- earthworms.
The Red Centipede is also the MOST common centipede in the eastern half of the United States. But remember, they bite. As a public service, I would like for you to consider the following experiences by NA Harvey, the author of the book Introduction to the Study of Zoology for Use in High Schools and Academies:
The centipede is a very active and a very vicious little creature'. The usual
way of catching one is to seize it quickly with the fingers as soon as the stone
is turned over. In such a case, the centipede tries to bite, and frequently
succeeds. No poisonous effects, however, have ever been experienced by the
writer, who must have been bitten a hundred times.

You want to raise one as a pet? In the I Love the Web department- here is a message board entry describing breeding and raising these centipedes as pets: http://www.arachnoboards.com/ab/archive/index.php/t-57312.html.
Aqualandpetsplus.com also has a page on raising Centipedes as pets- including these warnings: "Handling? Don’t be stupid. Red-headed centipedes will never be found in a petting zoo. They bite – every time." and Tameable: "NO. You can’t train a centipede."

But remember, centipedes bite. Consider yourself warned.

12 comments:

Steve said...

I must say this is one of the better posts. The Harry Potter, the snake bite remidy and the author that was bit a number of times is quite good. I think a post of the garden pest known as the milipede would be nice, too. That way we can reduce the number of screaming girl sounds in modern suburbia... especially at my house.

Donna said...

Maybe screaming is appropriate if your first response was to grab it.

Anonymous said...

I was scrubbing my bathtub today and one of these little suckers crawled out of my drain. I'm 51 years old but yes, I screamed like a little girl and scrambled out of the tub like a little girl. I covered the drain with tissue paper and ran to the kitchen (wet, nude, still screaming -- though not as loudly), grabbed a plastic food container, and a fork.

Shaking like a leaf, I called him very, very bad names while I captured and contained this thing. He has been given -- with appropriate warning -- to a neighbor whose grandson likes bugs. Plan is to observe for a few days and then release outdoors. Far away.

Monique [small whimper]
Miami, FL

Mold Damage Baltimore, MD said...

I would never touch one of these things!

<3 Lindsay

Anonymous said...

today found one the size of a centimeter in my bathroom i took a peice of tolet paper and sqished it


PS.I Did scream a little like a little girl mainly becaus i am one sereusly

Anonymous said...

I found one about a week ago in my basement. My younger brother saw it again not too long ago on the wall leading down to the basement. I'm curious, how long can they live for without food?



~kyle

Anonymous said...

Ummm. . . What makes you think it has no food?
Almost any insect or "bug" or other arthropod will serve as food for them. Most basements have bugs. Therefore, your "roommate" may be with you until eaten by another predator or squished by one of you.

Anonymous said...

my little sister spotted one outside of our front door tonight when she went to feed the cats. She was so terrified she decided it was best to toss the food out the door without actually stepping foot outside. :p lol

andrea said...

Just found one hiding on my wall behind a pillow. Squished him twice, didn't do any good. finally had to pick him up with a fish net but he wouldn't come off! The net is staying the night on the lawn tonight.

Anonymous said...

I found one today under a rock while cleaning up my back yard. I screamed like a little girl... TWICE. Once when I found it. It didn't move so I poked it with a stick and it took off! Which surprised me because I didn't know they moved so fast so I screamed.... and jumped backwards in a weird dance.... and asked my husband to kill it before our toddler found it. We actually don't know where it went. But my toddler didn't care to look anyways.

Anonymous said...

anoymous

should not scream like a little girl

Ayla Taylor said...

These guys are cute. Their feet aren't able to attach to smooth vertical surfaces, so I recommend a glass jar to keep them in. Before you stick them in there, be sure to rinse the jar out and get as much water out as you can without actually drying it. You can push them in the jar with a pencil, put holes in the lid, close it, and stick it in a warm room. They eat plain raw hamburger if you keep them as pets.