House Centipede: Rescue and Leg Regrowth

Subject: House Centipedes
Location: Pennsylvania
December 10, 2016 6:34 am
I am a great fan of your site, especially since there seems to be no shortage of interesting photos of unidentified invertebrates from around the world. Among these, there is truly a wealth of Scutigeromorpha pictures on this site, and what saddens me is that most of them are smashed into oblivion.
I’ve always liked centipedes. The local library had a sizable centipede population, and I would discreetly capture and release said centipedes, which are largely gone now due to construction. When I visited my cousins nearby, I noticed they had a house centipede infestation in their backyard, in a leaf pile. Most of these were smaller than a penny and pale gray. My cousins said they rarely saw them inside. Then, my uncle returned with a load of bricks in his car, and among them were a juvenile five-lined skink and the largest house centipede I’ve ever seen. Both escaped uncaught. But then, the next day, I saw a young house centipede dangling in a spiderweb with all of its left legs gone. I rescued the poor ‘pede and as my cousins watched, fed it some spiders. Soon, after, another, smaller house centipede was found. After delivering a “no-kill” lecture to my cousins, I took the ‘pedes home as pets. Soon after their capture and subsequent feeding, both centipedes molted. What was truly amazing was the first centipede regrew all of its missing legs! Two molts later, both ‘pedes are doing fine in separate containers with substrate and bark. I would like to know if these Scutigeromorphae are different species; one is tan and the other is very dark. Also, how large does the average Scutigera coleoptrata get? What temperatures are required for the winter? Thanks for the answers and speedy reply that I know will come!
P.S. : Perhaps I will eventually email you guys a story about my encounters with praying mantids over the summer.
Signature: Lawn/Shrimp

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Lawn/Shrimp,
First we need to tell you how much we enjoyed your submission, and because of your attempts to relocate House Centipedes and to educate your relatives, we are tagging your submission with the Bug Humanitarian Award.  We have read before that partial leg regeneration may be possible with young centipedes and spiders, and according to About Education:  “Should a centipede find itself in the grip of a bird or other predator, it can often escape by sacrificing a few legs. The bird is left with a beak full of legs, and the clever centipede makes a fast escape on those that remain. Since centipedes continue to molt as adults, they can usually repair the damage by simply regenerating legs. If you find a centipede with a few legs that are shorter than the others, it’s likely in the process of recovering from a predator attack.”  According to BugGuide, the House Centipede family Scutigeridae has only two genera, and one of them,
Dendrothereua, is found west of the Mississippi River based on BugGuide date.  The other genera contains only the species known commonly as the House Centipede according to BugGuide, so our best guess is that despite the differing coloration, both of your individuals are the common House Centipede,  Scutigera coleoptrata.  Based on BugGuide information:  “Indoors they are likely to be found at all times of the year provided they have warmth and available prey. In the north they will only be found outside during Summer.”  That leads us to speculate that you should not let temperatures get below 40 degrees Fahrenheit if they cannot shelter without freezing.  BugGuide lists the size as “body length to 3 cm (1.2 inches)” but that does not include the long legs.

House Centipede
House Centipede
House Centipede
House Centipede

1 thought on “House Centipede: Rescue and Leg Regrowth”

  1. Kudos to Lawn/Shrimp! We need more folks like you who respect all life—not just human or selective mammals. Good to know I’m not the only one who goes way out of their way to help these creatures. Earlier this year, I rescued a praying mantis from an abandoned spider web—it was just hanging upside-down by one leg about 15 feet off the ground. It had a string of web stuck under one of the wings, but I was able to carefully remove it without injuring the mantis and released it successfully. Always feels good to help a living thing—large or small. Pass it along!


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