What species of insect is this? – The house centipede

You are here: Home / General / What species of insect is this? – The house centipede What species of insect is this? – The house centipede

Recently, a visitor of my website sent me a question. Antonius wanted to know what species of insect he had found and send me this picture:

spinduizendpoot 

I found it a very interesting question and a pretty good picture too! As you can see, there are quite a few legs on this critter. He has 10 legs on the left side and 9 at the right side. But that is strange, he has more legs at the left side than at the right side! When we look a bit closer we can see that at the rear of this creature there are a couple of stumps, 5 at the left side and 6 at the right side. These are leftovers of where legs used to be. So this critter has a total of 30 legs.

But what type of insect is it? Well, because it has 30 legs it is not an insect. Insects always have 6 legs (another name for the insects is hexapods, which means six legs). So it is not an insect that were looking at. From the number of legs we can conclude that we are looking at a member of the group Myriapoda (which means many legs) and more specific at the group Chilopoda (centipedes). To find out what species exactly we use a key of the centipedes. The museum Naturalis has a great key to the Dutch centipedes which you can find here (unfortunately only in Dutch). By using this key we can find that this is a member of the species: “Scutigera coleoptrata”.

It has the common name: “the house centipede”. It originates from the Mediterranean but can be found in many other places these days. Because it likes humid dark places you are most likely to encounter it in your bathroom. It is a predator which hunts other invertebrates like cockroaches and silverfish. They are able to bite so watch out when you encounter one! Although a bite isn’t dangerous, it is unpleasant and feels like a bee sting. Below you can see a picture of the house centipede when it still has all its legs.

Scutigera_Coleoptrata_in_FranceAnd here is some cool footage of a house centipede:

 

Antonius, thanks for your question!

August 30, 2013March 10, 201705In GeneralTags , , ,

About author

Chris Jacobs (Chris Jacobs)

Evolutionary biologist, eco-evo-devo | seek to increase the understanding of science | PostDoc @ Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology.

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Comments (5)

  1. Replyon Jul 18, 2014, 2:12 am

    Cee

    yikes! I have killed about 6 of these in 2 weeks mostly in or around my bathroom.. is there an infestation ? should I be concerned?

  2. Replyon Jul 18, 2014, 7:10 am

    Chris Jacobs

    Well these critters are hunters. So they won’t be there unless there is something to eat. It is possible that due to hot weather they are seen more looking for water, but I don’t know what the weather is like there. Otherwise it could be possible that you have some infestation of a sort, just check behind boxes and other stuff that is never moved. These house centipedes are nothing to worry about by themselves, they are great at pest control 😉

  3. Replyon Jul 21, 2014, 4:55 am

    Dave MacLeod

    I encounter lots of these guys and I choose to let them run anywhere they like in hopes of them killing these creepy black spiders that mostly live in my basement but occasionally the odd one comes to visit me upstairs!!!!! I do not handle the centipede and I am not afraid of them. I find them fascinating!

  4. Replyon Feb 15, 2015, 1:20 pm

    Tomi

    My sis sent me this txt. msg. so I sent this thru the web:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10202751373904745&set=a.10201705311113829.1073741825.1811744358&type=1

    & I just wondered what it is, so I ended up on this web-link…
    – thank you!

    • Replyon Feb 15, 2015, 6:37 pm

      Chris Jacobs

      You’re welcome!

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