What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

This huge centipede was IN MY UNDERWEAR for over an hour…please help!
I was running errands with my sister. Stopped in for a bottle of water and noticed something kinda “pokey” down in my underwear. Got back in car. Dropped trou. Nothing. Drove home. Felt poking again. Dropped my pants and Hello…this was there. Did it bite me? Exactly *how* alarmed should I be? I am in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He appears to match more than one photo on your website. This experience has made me question the existence of God. I am looking into inpatient therapy. Seriously. I can’t stop scratching my whole body. Did it *have* to be in my panties? My cousin says it’s “punishment for former misdeeds”, but I’m not all that bad. My sister can’t stop laughing.
Katie Hastie
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Hi Katie,
Your letter is so amusing. We don’t want to appear insensitive to your trauma, but your letter did make us chuckle as well. Since you have provided a nice sense of scale for your specimen, we can tell you that your Centipede is not huge, as there are reports of 8 inch long Centipedes, especially from Texas and Oklahoma. We believe this is Scolopendra heros, and though all specimens don’t have red heads, it is commonly called the Red Headed Centipede. If your youngster had bitten you, you would know it since Centipedes have venom and the bite is reported to be quite painful. It probably just wanted to find a nice warm spot to curl up and rest a bit.

Oooh! Thanks Daniel,
I’d kinda been thinking it was scolopendra polymorpha, but hey – you would know! I appreciate your response. I’ve been researching it for hours now…the good news is: statistically I can’t imagine that something like this could possibly happen to me twice in a lifetime! I think truly I was okay until I picked yesterday’s cargo pants up off the bathroom floor and put them on. He must have been in there. It’s actually a miracle that he didn’t show himself while I was behind the wheel – that would have made for a nasty pileup and a ridiculous story for the cops. Great work and many thanks,
Katie

Comment: (08/30/2008) Centipede bite feels like . . . Maui-style
Aloha Daniel –
Please tell Katie in Santa Fe that the bite of a centipede is nothing like you’ve ever felt before. Yes, she was very lucky it did not bite her as she drove. This memory is from over 12 years ago. I was bitten by an 8″ chocolate/red ‘pede in Hawai`i in my bed about 1/2 hour after going to sleep. You feel like a hot poker has jabbed you. Worse than a bee or wasp sting. Yes, there is a toxin injected into the body. There are usually two parallel bites – about 3/8″ long & about 1/8 wide. Treat yourself for shock – Vitamin C, “Rescue Remedy” by Bach, and then for flu – echinacea & golden seal tabs. Poultice of baking soda on the bite – water w/ a drop of Rescue Remedy. Years later, my semi-feral cat rolled onto one and got bit between the shoulder blades. About 3-4 days later the cat wanted me to open the wounds and drain them. Was very patient and tolerant of me squeezing the toxin and infection out of him. Suggest to Katie to keep her bathroom drains covered up. They come up them into our homes that way. Keep a pair of cooking/bar-b-que tongs handy to grab them. The folk tale in the islands is that someone is jealous and is sending those emotions and thoughts to her. Just an FYI – Enjoy your weekend! Thanks for all you do!
Eliza

Correction:  January 7, 2009
Thats actually not Scolopendra heros they are far larger and do not occur in NM. That is Scolopendra polymorpha sometimes referred to as the desert tiger centipede.

Update June 2, 2014:  A similar experience
Subject: desert centipede
June 1, 2014 4:46 pm
I just wanted to comment on the experience of the gal with a centipede in her pants.  It just happened to me too.  I left my jeans thrown over the edge of the bathtub last night and put them back on in the morning to do yard work.  When I came inside, I felt something picky on my thigh and, having read her story, peeled off my jeans.  There was a 4″ centipede on the thigh of my jeans!  It is no longer with us.  I generally enjoy bugs and teach my grandkids to watch and enjoy them, but centipedes are the exception to the rule!  I have drain covers in my bathtubs to try to keep out the centipedes but they are still managing to get into my house.  Any idea how?  Last month I watched a centipede and a triangular shaped bug doing battle in the same bathroom and that was interesting.  The dark colored bug actually looked like it injected something into the side of the centipede and it appear to kill the centipede.   Any idea what that bug might have been?
Signature: Santa Fe Mary

Dear Santa Fe Mary,
We have added your comment to the original posting.  Perhaps the Centipedes are seeking a warm location much like Scorpions crawling into shoes at night.  We cannot think of what the predator you saw might be.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
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12 Responses to Centipede in her panties is Desert Tiger Centipede

  1. plantkid says:

    Thats actually not Scolopendra heros they are far larger and do not occur in NM. That is Scolopendra polymorpha sometimes referred to as the desert tiger centipede.

  2. mtsanch says:

    I grew up in New Mexico and have seen dozens of these centipedes. This one is one of the smallest I have seen. Six to eight inches seems to be the average, at least in the Middle Rio Grande Valley (I would see these near the irrigation ditches south of Albuquerque, and several times in the house).

    I have never been bitten, but those I know who have seem to have PTSD from it!

    I don’t know anything about bugs, but all the centipedes I have seen have the same appearance as this one, and none ever looked like the pictures of Redheaded Centipedes posted on this site. If plantkid is right, why is the species called “polymorpha”? That translates to “many shapes,” doesn’t it? All of the specimens I have seen have differed only in size.

  3. Shrimpman75 says:

    “If plantkid is right, why is the species called “polymorpha”? That translates to “many shapes,” doesn’t it? All of the specimens I have seen have differed only in size”.

    I know this post is old…
    its called polymorpha because of the many colors it can be found in. All centipedes will have a similar form, A key trait uniting this group is a pair of venom claws or “forcipules” formed from a modified first appendage

  4. Shrimpman75 says:

    Great Bugman! don’t blow out any braincells through your contemplative effort.

  5. […] sometimes overkill can be a good thing. When one of those nasty eight-inch desert black-and-orange centipedes gets into my house I’ve been known to jump up and down on it for 15 minutes, spray it with Raid […]

  6. Scott Richardson says:

    God Bless U. I would have PTSD from just knowing that thing was in my Shorts for that Long. Bit or Not…

    Anyways, My Skin is crawling just reading your story.

    A Perfect situation for my New Word I have become so fond of lately. Mrrrrr.

    LOL. But I think your right. The likelyhood of this happening twice in your lifetime is pretty close to nil.

    Take care,
    Skippy

  7. antoinette says:

    Though one would think this occurrence wouldn’t happen twice, I’m here to burst that bubble. In my parent’s house just south of albuquerque, on 3 separate occasions I was stung/bit by centipedes. My toe in high school, my back while breastfeeding my first baby (I was 20 then), and then about age 24 I did laundry there and left my basket of clean laundry on a couch. I put on a pair of drawstring comfy pants only to feel the most incredible pain on my upper outer thigh. I had thought my back had been bad, but that was a baby centipede. This one was insane! Once I was able to get the pants off my whole leg was on fire and I had the indentations from all the legs grabbing my skin, 3 different spots the centipede dug the poion claws in, but no centipede. From the indentations I could tell it was big, but when we finally got it out of the pants it was at least 8″ long. So I now have an intense fear of them. Looked like the one in thep

    • antoinette says:

      …the pic. Only it was huge. I still will not sit on their couches.
      I just moved to the north valley, and tonight, about 30 mins ago, I saw another big one. Only 6″ or so. Of course I’m completely awake now lol. So good luck.

  8. JM says:

    Don’t need any more PTSD. I’ve been all over the world and have seen many different types of pedes and treated a few for some pretty gnarly bites. But just this morning here in New Mexico I got chomped on. I was getting ready for work, pulled my pants on and headed for the door. I thought at first it was a tag that I may have missed but I have had these pants for a while now. With the poke turning into a burn I reached back to remove the annoyance and felt it move, just above my tail bone. I grabbed onto it and flung it out and noticed what was causing the pain. It was just like the one in the picture above. So, now with the heebie jeebies and a burning sensation on my lower back I have sworn now to keep all all my clothes off the floor.

    • bugman says:

      We have heard that one needs to be careful when putting on shoes in areas where Scorpions are found. Your comment indicates that Centipedes will also seek out warm, snuggly locations during the night.

  9. Cave In says:

    This year I’ve found 3 of those Tiger Centipedes inside my home above Lyons, CO (elevation 7000′). The 5″ one set off a mouse snap-trap in March, died there. Had to search online to discover who this scary looking critter was, though they seemed to be confined to lower elevations. But just last week I found two more 3″ dead on kitchen floor. Guess they’re getting active at higher altitudes???

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