Thursday, September 10, 2015

House Centipede

House centipede
I received this photograph from friends who wondered if they should be alarmed about its presence in their house.  This is the common House Centipede, (Scutigera coleoptrata), and although it won't harm them, the news is mixed.
My what big fangs you have! S. coleoptrata - Stan Gilliam from Bugguide
Most important to know, although all centipedes come equipped with poison glands connected to their fangs to subdue their prey, you are not on their menu.  In the unlikely event that you wanted to pick one up you might briefly have some mild pain from a bite.  They normally feed on silverfish, beetle larvae, spiders, cockroaches and other arthropods.  They like dark moist places with food and if you see multiple centipedes you probably have lots of their prey in your house.
  Elizabeth Dauch
They are thought to originate in the Mediterranean, were first found in Pennsylvania in 1849 and are now found throughout the world.  They tend to remain motionless for long periods of time, only to suddenly dart ahead at startling speed, enough to "bug" the average homeowner.  I found this 1902 description from USDA entomologist, C.L. Marlatt.
“It may often be seen darting across floors with very great speed, occasionally stopping suddenly and remaining absolutely motionless, presently to resume its rapid movements, often darting directly at inmates of the house, particularly women, evidently with a desire to conceal itself beneath their dresses, and thus creating much consternation.”
Sexist references aside, the adult measures 3-4 inches in length from legs to antennae tips and is a formidable addition to your bathroom, enough to "cause consternation" for most homeowners.  Newly hatched larvae have only 4 pairs of legs and will accumulate another one or two body segments, each with another pair of legs through five larval molts.  It will have another 4 molts with 15 pairs of legs before reaching adulthood.  And humans think they have trouble keeping their kids in shoes!

If having these around the house bugs you, read the suggestions for control in the PSU Extension factsheet.
To study one up close go to this Wikimedia link and continue to enlarge the photograph.

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