Facts About Centipedes
Centipedes are predators. They eat spiders, insects, and even other centipedes. They live in damp environments. Scientists think that this is because the centipede's body does not retain moisture very well. Centipedes stay where it is humid so they do not dehydrate.
House centipedes are common in many parts of the United States. They normally reach about 10.5″ in length, but their long legs make them look bigger. The large tropical centipedes can reach 3″ in length. In the desert southwest, some species of centipede reach 8″ in length. Giant centipedes in South America reach almost 12″ in length.
Females of some species of centipedes produce unfertilized eggs. Most female centipedes, however, fertilize their eggs with sperm that the males produce. Most males leave the sperm for the females to find. In a few species, the male performs a courtship ritual.
After fertilizing the eggs, the female centipede deposits them in the soil. Some centipedes, including the house centipede and the stone centipede, put the eggs into holes in the soil. They put a single egg into each hole and then cover the hole. There can be as many as 50 eggs. After depositing the eggs, the female centipede leaves.
Other species of centipede, including the tropical or giant centipede and the soil centipede, make a nest for the eggs. The nest is usually in the soil, but the females sometimes make the nest inside a rotting log. The female cleans the eggs to prevent fungal damage. She stays with the eggs until they hatch and the immature centipedes can hunt for food.
When they hatch from the egg, immature house centipedes only have 4 pair of legs. As they grow, they add body segments and legs each time they shed their skin. Other species of centipedes emerge from the egg with all of the body segments and legs that they will ever have.
Centipedes have a pair of claws just behind their head. These claws are connected to a venom gland. The centipede can use the venom to paralyze its prey. Small centipedes may not be strong enough to bite humans. People often receive a scratch from the small centipedes.
Large centipedes are strong enough to bite humans and deliver a dose of venom. Most people get a swollen red spot that itches for a few hours. Some people even get a sore at the bite site. This can be tender for several weeks.
A few people are allergic to centipede venom. Victims should be observed carefully. If they show signs of headache, dizziness, or nausea they should receive medical attention.