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Centipedes are fast-moving, venomous, predatory, terrestrial arthropods that have long bodies and many jointed legs. Some species of centipedes are highly venomous and often produce very painful bites but only one human has actually died from one of these bites- from a bite on the head of a young child by a large centipede on a Pacific island - though severe reactions have also occasionally been recorded in adults. Centipedes are extremely vulnerable to lack of moisture.

Unlike its shorter-legged but much larger tropical cousins, the house centipede can live its entire life inside a building. Because they eat household pests, house centipedes are considered among the most beneficial creatures that inhabit human dwellings, but because of their alarming appearance, frightening speed, and painful bite, few homeowners are willing to share a home with them.
Facts About Centipedes

Like the millipedes, centipedes are highly segmented (15 to 173 segments), but with only one pair of walking legs per segment. Centipedes are dorso-ventrally flattened, and are among the fastest and most agile of non-flying arthropod predators.

The head of a centipede has a pair of antennae, jaw-like mandibles ( called forcipules), and other mouthparts. The most anterior trunk segment of a centipede has a pair of venomous claws (called maxillipedes) that are used for both defense and for capturing and paralyzing prey. Despite their name, which stems from the Latin words centum (meaning 'hundred') and pes, pedis (meaning 'foot'), they normally have around half that number of legs, though it is possible to find centipedes with over 200 legs.

The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a fast-moving carnivore that feeds on insects such as cockroaches, house flies, and other small house pests, and is thus harmless to humans, but its alarming appearance and painful bite often results in its extermination from residences. The bite of a smaller centipede in temperate areas may be similar to a bee sting, but the bite of a larger tropical species is excruciatingly painful, leaving two black puncture wounds about a centimeter apart.

Scolopendra gigantea, also known as the Amazonian giant centipede, is the largest existing species of centipede in the world, reaching over 30 cm (12 inches) in length. It is known to eat bats, catching them in midflight, as well as rodents and spiders. The prehistoric Euphoberia was the largest known centipede, growing up to one metre (39 inches) in length.

There are rumors that state that the Gal´┐Żpagos Islands giant centipede (Scolopendra galapagoensis) can reach sizes of up to 60 cm (over 25 in), although these rumours may result from the rarity of the particular centipede. Captive Galapagos centipedes don't often exceed 20 cm (8 inches) in body length.[1]

The garden centipede, the most common centipede in North America, is a much smaller variety, rarely exceeding a few inches in length.

Males spin a small web onto which they deposit a spermatophore for the female to take up. Sometimes there is a courtship dance, and sometimes the males just leave them for the females to find. In temperate areas egg laying occurs in spring and summer but in subtropical and tropical areas there appears to be little seasonality to centipede breeding.

The Lithobiomorpha, and Scutigeromorpha lay their eggs singly in holes in the soil, the female fills the hole in on the egg and leaves it. The young usually hatch with only 7 pairs of legs and gain the rest in successive moults. Scutigera coleoptera, the American house centipede, hatches with only 4 pairs of legs and in successive moults has 5, 7, 9, 11, 15, 15, 15 and 15 before becoming a sexually mature adult. It takes about 3 years for S. coleoptera to achieve adulthood, however, like millipedes, centipedes are relatively long-lived when compared to their insect cousins, for example: the European Lithobius forficatus can live for 5 or 6 years.

Females of Geophilomorphapha and Scolopendromorpha show far more parental care, the eggs 15 to 60 in number are laid in a nest in the soil or in rotten wood, the female stays with the eggs, guarding and licking them to protect them from fungi. The female in some species stays with the young after they have hatched, guarding them until they are ready to leave. If disturbed the females tend to either abandon the eggs or young or to eat them; abandoned eggs tend to fall prey to fungi rapidly, thus breeding is difficult to study in these species.

The house centipede, when fully grown, has an average of 15 pairs of very long, delicate legs and a rigid body, which enables it to run with surprising speed up walls and along ceilings and floors. Its body is yellowish grey and has three dark-colored dorsal stripes running down its length; the legs also have dark stripes. Unlike most other centipedes, house centipedes and their close relatives have well-developed, faceted eyes.

House centipedes feed on spiders, bedbugs, termites, cockroaches, silverfish, ants and other household pests. They kill their prey by injecting venom through their fangs.

Outdoors, house centipedes prefer to live in cool, damp places. Most live outside, primarily under large rocks, piles of wood and especially in compost piles. Within the home, these centipedes are found in almost any part of the house; most commonly, they are encountered in basements, bathrooms and lavatories, where there is a lot more water, but they can also be found in dry places like offices, bedrooms and dining rooms. The greatest likelihood of encountering them is in spring, when they come out because the weather gets warmer, and in fall, when the cooling weather forces them to find shelter in human habitats.

Most house centipedes are incapable of penetrating human skin with a bite or a sting. Those that can, give an effect no worse than a minor bee sting. he symptoms generally disappear within a few hours. However, the bite can cause health problems for those few who are allergic to the mild venom of its bite, which is similar to that of most normal centipedes. It is possible in some cases that a rash may develop and many minuscule bumps can form, an allergic reaction which might be comparable to a bee sting, in terms of pain, or simply itchy, as with a mosquito bite. The house centipede's venom is too weak to cause any serious harm to larger pets such as cats and dogs.

In the case of an allergic reaction to the centipede's venom, an extremely painful, swollen lump may appear; such a lump may last a long time, even permanently. Pus and bruising around the bite along with the tightening of skin can be expected from an adverse reaction. Techniques for eliminating centipedes from the home include drying up the areas where they thrive, eliminating large indoor insect populations, sealing cracks in the walls, and seeking the assistance of an exterminator.


Controlling Centipedes

Though house centipedes are found both indoors and outdoors it is the occasional one on the bathroom or bedroom wall, or the one accidentally trapped in the bathtub, sink, or lavatory that causes the most concern. However, these locations are not where they normally originate. Centipedes prefer to live in damp portions of basements, closets, bathrooms, unexcavated areas under the house and beneath the bark of firewood stored indoors. They do not come up through the drain pipes.

Removal of centipedes habitats including trash, rocks, boards, compost piles, and other hiding places around the structure would help reduce the population.

Residual insecticides can be applied to usual hiding places such as crawl spaces, dark corners in basements, baseboard cracks and crevices, openings in concrete slabs, under shelves, around stored boxes, and so forth.

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