Feb 08 2009

Giant centipede of the week


Here at the Twisty Arthropod Lab we have a particular fondness for centipedes. As famed arthropod scientist J. L. Cloudsley-Thompson remarked, “centipedes seem to exert a weird fascination on the morbid appetites of the hysterical and insane.” [cite]

This is Scolopendra heros, the Giant Red-Headed Centipede. It is a formidable entity, as venomous as it looks. Fortunately, this one is dead.

I say fortunately, because I collected the specimen in the Twisty bunkhouse, just a few feet from the old TempurPedic; had it been alive — well, I can only speculate what screaming and flailing might have transpired had I awakened to feel it centipeding along my face. Supposedly S. heros can perforate human skin with its feet, depositing poison in the wounds, which ultimately results in agonizing death. Such accounts may be apocryphal, but I have no desire to find out first hand.

Hysterical and insane or no, when you see one of these bad boys snuggled in your rug at 2 in the morning you jump about 47 feet in the air, guaranteed.


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  1. Orange

    And that is why I live in the north, where the cold winters limit arthropods from growing to ridiculous dimensions, and in the city, where wilderness is kept at bay.

    There’s a good chance I’ll picture this centipede in a nightmare tonight. Thank the obstreperal lord ’tweren’t no video clip.

  2. thebewilderness

    I hope you are able to negotiate a truce whereby the crawlies live on the outside. I suspect that El Rancho Deluxe may have gaps. Thebewilderness had gaps when I first moved into it. I filled them all with that fuzzy foamy stuff. Now, except for the ones that come in stuck to the cat’s fur, the crawlies stay outside. Mostly. Most of the time. Sorta.

  3. Hollywood Marie

    That’s just wrong.

  4. Notorious Ph.D.

    Gah. My temporary abode last year was old and full of holes and gaps, and thus infested with centipedes, but they rarely exceeded one inch in length (though when they did exceed that length, boy howdy). I learned *never* to enter the bathroom barefooted. They were the more benign “house centipedes,” but no less creepy for all that. And cripes could they move, with a million little bits waving all at once. Brrrrr.

    My only consolation was that my Nigel for that year was even more freaked out by them than I was.

  5. VibratingLiz

    Oh yeah, Louisiana has those giant poisonous centipedes. At certain times of the year they drop out of trees like rain and sting unwary bystanders.

  6. Pinko Punko

    Liz, you keep making me crap my pants with your Louisiana-ana.

    I wonder how Bert is still alive. At least you don’t have the poisonous toads of Florida.

  7. yttik

    I should have a healthy respect for creepy crawly venomous things, but I don’t. Harmless garden snakes however will send me into a tizzy. I don’t care for frogs either. It’s completely irrational.

  8. Nepenthe

    Okay, I was convinced that Twisty was pulling one over on us and had set up an ordinary camp lanyard next to a lighter and said “OMG, CENTIPEDE”. Then I saw what I can only call, in my non-entomologist words, the butt-pincers and the antennae, and I freaked out.

    Thank goodness for the great white north, where the only thing that is poisonous is the antifreeze and the only thing crawling around the house is the furkid.

  9. kris mcn

    Jesus Christ on a cracker, Twisty! That is fucking terrifying! I thought the time I woke up with a brown recluse spider in my ear was the worst, but the thought of one of those stalking my bed might top it.

  10. PhysioProf

    Jesus motherfucking christ! That thing is fucking horrifying!!!!

    Comrade PhysioProf

  11. Anna Belle

    Hey, does the lighter mean you smoke? (insert crazy eyebrow wiggling here)

  12. Twisty

    “Hey, does the lighter mean you smoke?”

    Of course I don’t smoke! I take Chantix and wear four nic patches at a time! If I smoked it would kill me.

  13. Pinko Punko

    “Twisty can not has virginia slims?”

    The above is the caption for a multi-level irony superbomb LOLcat of hypothetical and dubious provenance.

  14. Sylvanite

    Ye gods, but that’s an impressive critter. I occasionally see small house centipedes, but our current dwelling mostly has troubles with flour moths (courtesy of my parrot), woodlice (a.k.a. pill bugs. Why they come inside is beyond me, since the dry house air causes them to suffocate), and oriental cockroaches (a.k.a. water bugs) thanks to the questionable sanitation practices of a couple nearby businesses.

  15. norbizness

    Man, the worst thing we have east of I-35 are Sonics.

  16. Compcat

    And just like that, my brief flirtation with homesickness comes to an abrupt end.

    Thanks Twisty!

  17. Twisty

    “And just like that, my brief flirtation with homesickness comes to an abrupt end.”

    What, you’re from Rattlesnake? North or south of the Pedernales?

  18. Carpenter

    Holy Shit!

  19. Hedgepig

    I moved from Sydney to Tasmania in part to escape the bat-sized cockroaches, paralysis ticks (one such vile abomination nearly killed one of my furkids just before we escaped) and assortment of venomous and/or fucking huge spiders. It’s way too cold down here for any of that lot. We get most of our lovely fresh breezes straight from Antarctica you know.

    yttik’s disclosure reminds me of something I’ve noticed: people seem to have a deep visceral revulsion for snakes OR spiders, but rarely both. Purely anecdotal evidence of course. Really, yttik, how could you not like frogs??

  20. janna

    Well, that’s one less place I need to visit.

    I just returned to the mainland from Hawaii. I’m so traumatized by my year in a studio infested with every breed of cockroach imaginable (including the huge flying kind called B-52s by the locals for their size, and it’s only a slight exaggeration) that I still jump at bug-sized shadows.

    Just one brush with a centipede that size would send me into fits for a year.

    btw I don’t mind snakes. Or geckos.

  21. rainie

    Until I started reading the post, I thought it was a lanyard.

  22. thebewilderness

    Did you know that all cockroaches sprout wings and fly at that certain time in their life cycle? Ewwwww!

  23. Hattie

    Huh. Reporting in from Hawaii with Hattie’s household hints on dealing with vermin.
    A while ago I found a centipede twice that big in my mother in law’s carport. Running to the kitchen, I grabbed my heavy meat cleaver, ran back and whacked it in half. Whack! Whack! The dumb thing waved its head around while green slime came out of its severed body! Wish I had taken a picture.
    Anyway, I never heard they could kill you, but the bites are pretty awful.
    Oh, cockroaches. When I see them, the big ones, I wait for them to alight and then trap them under a glass. Then I flush them down the toilet. I put boric acid tablets in all the drawers, also, for them to feast on. I never have to bother with them, since I don’t know where they crawl away to die. The little ones I trap in roach hotels, but haven’t had so many of them lately.
    And rats. Well, my cat buddy takes care of a lot of them, but they need to be trapped, too.
    And termites: That’s fun. When the Formosan termites swarm I turn on the bug zapper, and they fly in by the hundreds to their doom. The cane toads stand under the light and enjoy the roasted termite feast.
    So what do you do for fun on the dull old Mainland?

  24. VinoVeritas

    That gave me heart palpitations just now. Thank god I have this cold beer in my hand, or lord knows what might have happened.

  25. TwissB

    I heard a woman’s voice on the radio the other day saying that she was only frightened of animals that had too many legs or none. She didn’t say how many were too many. Every classification system has its flaws.

  26. Anna Belle

    Of course I don’t smoke! I take Chantix and wear four nic patches at a time! If I smoked it would kill me.

    Hahahahahaha! Thank you!

    I smoke, I have since I was 13 years old and I hate myself for it. Nothing supports patriarchy like smoking. Well, okay, maybe not nothing, but most of those effing money-making science-twisters in the tobacco industry are men, and the slimiest kind of men. I want to quit. So you’re saying Chantix and four nic patches works, eh?

  27. Wendell

    I didn’t know my nemesis came in bright colors! Yuck. I’m sorry the ‘pede was in your bedroom.

  28. Erzebeth

    “people seem to have a deep visceral revulsion for snakes OR spiders, but rarely both.”

    Not me, as both completely gross and freak me out. I hate all creepy crawlies. Thankfully, no centipedes or scorpions or whatever here. The worst I’ve faced is a cuckroach, and that was enough to move out of the apartment.

  29. Vinaigrette Girl

    Isn’t this the place where some funfeminist says “Oh, hugs!”?

    Sheeeyitonashingle, I don’t mind the feetiness, but the pincers and the poison are too way-out-chef for me. It’s like the insect world’s version of Heston Blumenthal mixed with roadkill cafe. All it needs is a tiny bloodstained white apron.

  30. speedbudget

    I am having heart palpitations just looking at that. And you poor souls in subtropical climes…I don’t know how you survive.

    Snakes make me jump. And frogs I can look at, but not if they are hopping in my house. And don’t think of making me touch them.

    Geckos and lizards are a’ight.

  31. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Thank you, Orange. Twisty, I’d follow you beyond the Gates o’Sheol for a satisfying bout of Blaming, but I get off the train before Centipedeville. I can appreciate the beauty of spiders and snakes, but the ‘pedes just give me a major wiggins. Large or small, I can’t abide them.

    Thanks for making me appreciate the climate of my icebound hometown.

  32. Silence

    My entire skin just tried to crawl off my body. Thanks, Twisty.

  33. Casey

    If I found something like that in my bedroom I’d live in my van with the windows rolled up for the rest of my life.

  34. undercover punk

    THANK YOU, Twisty!!!!

  35. Natalia

    Oh, hugs!

    … And I thought a giant cockroach crawling up my leg was the epitome of horror. At least giant cockroaches don’t pack venom.

  36. yttik

    We can blame the patriarchy for creating the stereotype that men will protect us from the creepy crawlies. Allegedly all men are supposed to be good at getting rid of spiders. That’s never really worked out well for me, all the men I know are more likely to be standing on a chair screaming themselves.

    Arachnae was a female who thought too highly of herself and offended the gods, especially Athena. I always find this kind of interesting. Women, spiders, and the patriarchy are all kind of woven into this strange tale. I don’t know how this all came to be or what it all means, but one thing I’ve discovered is that the patriarchy instills in us a fear of creepy crawlies and then tries to sell us the notion that men will protect us from them. It’s all very irrational and silly, but incredibly effective.

  37. gerda

    oh poor thing! it looks very sad with its legs tucked in like that.
    here are some live ones. apparently the mothers curl round their eggs to defend them and protect their young.

    calm down everybody!

    i could only find 2 cases of death from centipede bite ever.

    a little Filipino girl who got stung on the head by the biggest kind Scolopendra subspinipes,
    and one lad here who apparently had a heat attack.

  38. gerda

    here are some live ones.

  39. gerda

    oh, yttik, i agree. talk up the danger so you need protecting. as with fear of attack from other men.

    i trained myself not to fear bugs as a kid. the only irrational fear i have left is for daddy long legs (leatherjackets) they really do get stuck in your hair, i think they must be the stupidest flying thing ever.

  40. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Well, Gerda, I think I’d have to wash my pants before I went to the hospital after an encounter with a “live one”.

  41. AdmirerofEmily

    I wholeheartedly concur with the whole “‘girls are weak, chuck em in the creek’/scared of nature” conundrum.

    As an Aussie, you learn to get over some of the the fear of creepy crawlies. Well many of us do, some of the time. I actually shared a house with a strong feminist who was afraid of – moths.

    But, seeing as we are on this ‘o no, nature in its miniture, scaly form is so horrid and scary’ riff, I might as well share the other part of the centipede story I just mentioned on another thread (which I omitted to spare those of more ‘delicate’ sensibilities)

    Just google ‘centipede youtube mouse’.

    !!!!WARNING!!!! The mouse is so cute and furry…the video could upset some viewers.

  42. gerda

    maybe i have it easy here antoinette. nothing poisonous, except maybe the odd escapee from the banana warehouse, and the recent cold snap will have killed all those off.

  43. Jezebella

    That centipede’s kind of awesome. I want to run my finger down its scaly back. Now that it’s dead, of course. If it were alive in my vicinity, I’d be racing for the Plastic Cup of Doom, which I use for relocating all multi-legged beings to the great outdoors. Except brown recluses, because they can jump. Those, I squash asap. Sorry, Arachnea.

  44. slythwolf

    I jumped about 47 feet in the air just seeing it on my computer screen. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesh.

  45. thisisendless

    reason # 873 for Why I Could Not Live in Texas.

  46. Twisty

    “daddy long legs (leatherjackets) they really do get stuck in your hair, i think they must be the stupidest flying thing ever.”

    Here in Texas a daddy long legs (aka “harvestman”) is a glorified tick with, you know, long legs. They definitely don’t fly. Here’s a foto of last summer’s infestation.

    We do have giant flying leathery-looking cockroaches that get stuck in your hair. I don’t know if they’re the same thing you’re talking about, but I tell you whut, those babies can move on the ground.

  47. Ron Sullivan

    Now see, you’ve found my squickpoint. I luv snakes (of course, especially my Shep)and I got over any fear of spiders by writing an article about them some years back. Now I even handle them.

    But centipedes, I still NNGNNGNGNGNG have a lot of residual [shuddddddder] fear and loathing for them. I’m working on YEEEEFLAPFLAPBLGLLG that because it bugs me to SKNTHNTHNTHNNNNNG have phobial-type mental bits. I must admit yours is somewhat ffffffestively dressed, and I saw an even brighter one in Hawai’i: red with black-and-white-banded legs.

    I’ve levitated on at least two occasions upon encccccccountering centipedes. One was in my own bedroom when I was a kid in pennsylvania, when I looked up from my book and saw this huge black knobby-kneed job running up the cute dormer slanted ceiling over my bed. (This was after I’d seen one fall off a wall. I didn’t know they’d do that. BBBBBBBBBB) I swear I teleported through a closed door without touching the floor, and spent the night trying to sleep on Mom’s Early-American deacon’s bench, which was about three feet long. The other was when a captive centipede in a big jar in some museum in Arizona reared up at least half its OOOOOKKKKKKKKSHSHSH 18-inch length as we walked past it. I don’t remember moving but suddenly I was looking way down at the top of Joe’s head. You know Kliban’s anti-jump muscles? I think mine kinda fainted.

    We have little bitty red ones in the outdoor flowerpots, and I suppose NNNNNNNYECCCCH they’re in a couple of the tropicals I’ve brought into the house, but they seem to stay put. So I’m trying to desensitize myYEAGHUGHHOOOOOOself by just watching them scurry when I’m repotting.

    I don’t OOOOOGHJHOOOHOODIEHOOOODY think it’s working though. NGAH.

  48. Mau de Katt

    Yeeeesh! 0.o

    I used to live in Okinawa in my teens, thanks to my newly-militarized doctor father. One day we were weathering out a typhoon, and I was sitting on the floor making some mix tapes on the stereo, when I glanced down and saw a centipede about that size crawling up my hair.

    From all the jumping and dancing and shrieking that followed that discovery, my dad thought I’d been electrocuted.

    I am SOOOOO glad I don’t live in a climate like that, or like Texas for that matter, any more.

  49. Orange

    Ron Sullivan’s comment slayed me!

    Centipedes and millipedes are my main bugbears. Once I mentioned this fear on my blog, and a reader responded by making a lovely crossword puzzle in which those many-legged bastards were key answers. That night, I had a bad dream featuring a two-foot-long centipede in water. Snakes, spiders, frogs, darling lizards when I vacation somewhere warm, worms–they don’t freak me out like the many-leggers. (Earwigs also horrify.)

  50. Twisty

    Centipedes, objectively, aren’t any horribler than most of the other stuff I deal with daily out here in Rattlesnake. But they do sort of make you sit up and take notice.

    Today, in addition to a few arthropods, I saw a fox and an armadillo and a bunch of cute deer and a bunny. Well, it wasn’t a bunny, it was a jackrabbit, an entirely more major sort of rabbit. I also saw coyote spoor (you never see the actual coyotes unless they’re rabid or you get up really early). They aren’t venomous, but in their own way are every bit as creepy, depending on your point of view. If I was a forb, my skin would probably crawl whenever I saw a cute furry fawn sauntering by.

  51. ginmar

    Oh, Dear God, that shit is scary! Now I feel itchy all over.

  52. Orange

    Forbs magazine is chock-full of helpful tips for frightened forbs, of course. “Ten sexiest ways to slim your chlorophyll and steer clear of deer!” Service journalism at its best.

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