Scary River Centipede
Location: Cahaba River, AL
December 13, 2010 12:45 am
I looked through many pictures, but because I am scared of things with so many legs I felt sick. All I can do is ask, what kind of bug is this? I found it while swimming in the Cahaba River by my Grandmothers house near Birmingham, Alabama in July.
It was found inside the river and swam kind of fast…well, it squirmed through the water fast. The creature is four or five inches long. I was wondering if it might be what bit my foot while I was swimming the week before? The picture is what I got when I scooped it up with my cousin’s swim mask.
Signature: Grossed out Nursing Student
Dear Grossed out Nursing Student,
Though it looks very much like a Centipede, this Hellgrammite is actually an insect larva. Imagine the winged adult male with saber-like mandibles an inch long, and you will have some idea of what the adult Dobsonfly looks like. Hellgrammites can bite, and the bite might even draw blood, but the fierce looking creature is actually harmless. Fishermen relish them as bait. When he was researching his book, Daniel tried unsuccessfully to uncover the origin of the word Hellgrammite, but even without an origin, the name seems appropriate for this fascinating insect.
Update: June 20. 2021
We love the comment we just approved: “They are called Helljamites…grandpa told us kids if one bites you you may live and helljamite not !!!”