Currently viewing the category: "Centipedes and Millipedes"

Hi there,
This thing wasn’t in my home thank goodness. I was staying in a hostel in Toronto a couple weeks ago. When i arrived at the hostel way earlier than standard checkin time, they let me settle into a room anyhow because it was completely empty. they had cleaned it the day before and so there was no one staying in there at the time. Later that day another girl moved into the room, and she told me that she had been staying in there a couple days earlier, but had been moved out so they could clean the room because she had been getting weird rashy-looking bite marks all over her arms and legs. she showed me – just large red patches. no one else in the room had been bitten/stung/affected, but they decided to clean the room anyhow. a few days later, i was changing in the room one morning when something moving caught my eye. I glanced at the floor to see something dash out from the general area of a pile of luggage and run across the floor in front of me. i was stunned for a moment watching this bizarre thing and then, not having anything with which to really catch it, i tried to grab at a shoe to give it a whack (i’m not much for killing bugs though, but i didn’t feel i had much in the way of options just then). before I could get it though, it ran underneath a pile of luggage under a girl’s bunk. and she was sleeping in it at the time, so I didnt think it would be very good of me to go through her luggage, have her wake up and smack me thinking I was stealing something. The thing was never seen again during my stay. My first impression of it was that it looked like a translucent brown shrimpish thing. kind of like root beer candy, that sort of translucent brown. it was quick, it had something clawlike off the front. I didnt get an accurate leg count unfortunately… it had a small tail that was sticking out the back of it. like a shrimp. and it was certainly a couple inches long. I described this thing to a few people in toronto, and more than one of them said ‘oh that’s a silverfish!’ I’ve seen silverfish before, theyre tiny and silver and fishlike. but these people insist silverfish in toronto look like brown shrimp things. i dont know if that’s just a common torontonian nickname or what. My dad seems to think it might have been some kind of scorpion, which I guess half fits the description. I was looking at photos of pseudoscorpions and thought perhaps that was it, until i saw that those guys are much much smaller than the critter i saw. my beast looked a bit thinner and longer as well. Also, being a hostel, people come from all over the world. This bug could have i suppose hitched a ride from anywhere on earth..?! Any thoughts on what this might have been? I’m just really really curious. The hostel might like to know what’s creeping around in their rooms as well. Thanks for your help!
Andy Scheffler

Dear Andy,
What an awesome letter. I hope I can help. I’m guessing house centipede. Very quick, transluscent, about 30 legs. We get lots of questions about this one. They are predatory, eating small insects, and not dangerous to people. No way it caused the girl’s rash.

this centipede was found on a trail at the Rancho Mission Viejo Land Conservancy reserve about 5 miles off the 5 Freeway down Ortega Highway. Got a Latin name?
Thanks···.

The multicolored centipede is the common name for Scolopendra polymorpha. Here is some information from the website
http://www.goldenphoenixexotica.com/cent.html
Scolopendra polymorpha This Scolopendra polymorpha is a local Arizona species. Polymorpha is Latin for ‘many form’ and it lives up to its name. We have seen these entirely yellow, orange, blue, and any gradation in between. In December of 2000 we spotted a baby blue polymorpha with bluish black bars within the Phoenix city limits. We were recently pleased to see a specimen at the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute about seven inches long and about as big around as a finger. We keep these on soil just damp enough to change the color. A bit of sand in the soil mix is ideal. Keep the substrate shallow if you wish to easily view your centipedes. These creatures are voracious predators that inject venom with forelegs which have been modified to function as fangs. They thrive on a diet of crickets or cockroaches that have been fed nutritiously. Humidity is easily supplied by daily misting. Even a very small polymorpha is capable of administering a bite capable of causing sharp discomfort. Pain arising from the bite of larger polymorpha may well be proportionate, and additional effects remain unknown. Handling is therefore NOT recommended. The picture to the left above is one of the low desert forms. Those to the right are high desert forms. The rightmost centipede is coiled around a clutch of eggs. She will continue to hold her young in this manner until dispersal.

I’m hoping you can help me out with a bug identification. We live in York, PA, in a brick house that’s about 150 years old. We have these "creatures" that emerge in various places… I’ve seen them in the basement laundry room– usually when I pick something up off the floor– but also in the living room and dining room, scurrying across the floors or up the walls. They look kind of like the silverfish drawing, but they are longer and thinner, probably a little less than a half inch wide. They range in size from 2-3 inches long, but once I swear I saw one that was at least 4 inches long one time in the basement. They are gray in color, very flat, very fast, with lots of legs, but they don’t seem to have the tentacles off the front and back like the silverfish drawing. I wish could get a picture of one– unfortunately when I see one I’m so darn startled that I end up crushing it to an unidentifiable pulp!!! Any help available? Tricia

Dear Tricia,
You have house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata). They are harmless, and actually eat other tiny pests that enter your house. We have some nice photos on our site www.whatsthatbug.com which you can view by clicking the centipede button.

I have been searching the web to see if I could find out what these weird, ugly bugs are that we have seen in our house. Alex wrote to you on 6/2/02 and describe the exact things we have. These bugs were NOT on the links you had attached. We live in Raleigh, NC. The bugs are FAST! I mean you see them and then they are gone. I thought is was some form of millipede or centipede, but I haven’t been able to close enough to one to find out. They have MORE than 8 legs and the legs are at least two jointed because they hold the bug up off the ground like a spider more than a centipede or millipede. They are between 2 and 4 inches long. The legs are slender and black and I honestly haven’t seen too much of the body except that it is thin, almost like it is only there to attach the legs. Thanks for any help you can give us.

Dear Liana,
I have contacted our local Museum of Natural History, and the entomologist I spoke with is also stumped. However, he did foreward this contact person in your area who might be able to assist in your identification. The really confusing part of your description is the size of your creature. 4-5 inches is huge, not for the tropics, but for the continental U.S. at least. The only possibility I have if your description is accurate, is that somehow you have acquired an exotic import that is happy with its new environment, and that is reproducing and moving with you from house to house, perhaps when you pack. Has either you or your roommate been to the Amazon, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Tropical Asia? Something fitting your description could originate in any of those places. Please keep us informed if you ever get a proper identification, or better yet, send us a photo of the creature if possible. You might also want to write to www.cryptozoology.com because those folk specialize in strange sightings. Here is the reply I got from Brian at the Natural History Museum:

Hi Daniel
Thanks for sending the letters. There is a guy in North Carolina who specializes in Millipedes named Rowland Shelley. He’s at the North Carolina State Museum (at least as of 1998) P.O.Box 27647, Raleigh 27611. Unfortunately I don’t have a phone number or e-mail but perhaps a website for this college will list his number(s) or someone there can forward these messages to him, etc… That’s all I could come up with for now! GOOD LUCK!! Brian Harris ___________________________________
Brian P. Harris
Entomology Section
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

I have been searching the web to see if I could find out what these weird, ugly bugs are that we have seen in our house. Alex wrote to you on 6/2/02 and describe the exact things we have. These bugs were NOT on the links you had attached. We live in Raleigh, NC. The bugs are FAST! I mean you see them and then they are gone. I thought is was some form of millipede or centipede, but I haven’t been able to close enough to one to find out. They have MORE than 8 legs and the legs are at least two jointed because they hold the bug up off the ground like a spider more than a centipede or millipede. They are between 2 and 4 inches long. The legs are slender and black and I honestly haven’t seen too much of the body except that it is thin, almost like it is only there to attach the legs. Thanks for any help you can give us.

Dear Liana,
I have contacted our local Museum of Natural History, and the entomologist I spoke with is also stumped. However, he did foreward this contact person in your area who might be able to assist in your identification. The really confusing part of your description is the size of your creature. 4-5 inches is huge, not for the tropics, but for the continental U.S. at least. The only possibility I have if your description is accurate, is that somehow you have acquired an exotic import that is happy with its new environment, and that is reproducing and moving with you from house to house, perhaps when you pack. Has either you or your roommate been to the Amazon, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Tropical Asia? Something fitting your description could originate in any of those places. Please keep us informed if you ever get a proper identification, or better yet, send us a photo of the creature if possible. You might also want to write to www.cryptozoology.com because those folk specialize in strange sightings. Here is the reply I got from Brian at the Natural History Museum:

Hi Daniel
Thanks for sending the letters. There is a guy in North Carolina who specializes in Millipedes named Rowland Shelley. He’s at the North Carolina State Museum (at least as of 1998) P.O.Box 27647, Raleigh 27611. Unfortunately I don’t have a phone number or e-mail but perhaps a website for this college will list his number(s) or someone there can forward these messages to him, etc… That’s all I could come up with for now! GOOD LUCK!! Brian Harris ___________________________________
Brian P. Harris
Entomology Section
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Please look at the attached picture. I live in VA and these are in my house. I used to think these were silverfish because the smaller ones don’t have such large legs/antennae…but I really have no idea what they are.
Thanks for your time!
Mike
What’s That Bug? is cleaning house, posting images that slipped through the cracks, and we though you would enjoy Mike’s photo of a house centipede.

I think they are called house cenitpedes. And from what I read on the net, they can "?bite/sting?" people. But they are normally very shy and fast.

Dear Liana,
House centipedes do not get four inches long, but often things are not the size they appear. Also, your initial letter from Alex said they were not house centipedes, so I never even suggested that possibility since I thought he was certain your creatures were not house centipedes. House centipedes have about 15 pairs of legs, and the final pair are elongated. They are not harmful, and are actually beneficial as they devour unwanted insects.