Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Commonly-Kept Centipedes

Commonly-Kept Centipedes

Arizona centipede (Scolopendra heros) -- This species reaches a length of around seven inches and is the largest centipede found in North America. A desert animal, it ranges from northern Mexico to the southwestern United States, where it is found under rocks and logs where the humidity is locally high.

There are three distinct subspecies. The Arizona centipede, Scolopendra heros arizonensis, is the most common on dealer lists. It is tan in color with a black head and tail, and bright orange antennae. At first glance it is difficult to tell the head end from the tail, which most likely confuses predators and gives the centipede extra time to escape. The bluetailed centipede, S. h. heros, is yellowish in color with lighter legs and a blue or purple patch at the tail end. The third subspecies is S. h. castaneiceps, known as the redheaded centipede. It is brown or tan with yellow legs and a bright red head. All come from similar habitats and all can be cared for in the same way. All of these subspecies are also sold under the names "giant North American centipede" and "Sonoran desert centipede".

The bite is potent enough to kill frogs or mice. This species should not be handled.

Peruvian giant centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) -- One of the largest centipedes on earth, this monster reaches lengths of over a foot. Other similar species include S. viridicornis and S. crudelis (these may in fact turn out to be different names for the same centipede). It is sometimes sold as the Peruvian orange leg centipede or Peruvian yellow leg centipede. All of these are native to the rainforest floor of Brazil and Peru. The bite is very painful and should be considered potentially dangerous. Despite the painful bite and forbidding appearance, natives in South America roast these animals over a fire and eat them.

Vietnamese giant centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes) -- Another large tropical centipede that reaches lengths of almost a foot. It is found throughout southeast Asia and the Phillipines. In appearence, it is tan or amber in color with a darker head and tail. The bite should be considered medically significant, and this species has been blamed for at least one human death.

Garden centipede (Scolopocryptops sexspinosa) -- This one of the centipedes that are commonly found under rocks and logs in woods and gardens in the midwestern and eastern United States. Related species in the same genus include S. peregrinator, S. rubiginosa and S. gracilis. Despite their small size (about two inches in length), these reddish-orange or greenish scolopendromorphs are faithful replicas of their larger tropical cousins, and prowl the leaf litter hunting for small arthropods. The bite is painful but not threatening, and the garden centipedes can be kept in the same warm and damp conditions as their larger relatives.

House centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) -- Although not found on dealer lists, this centipede is relatively common inside houses, where it hides in warm dark places by day and emerges at night to feed on flies and other small prey animals. It is sometimes found by human occupants when it falls into a sink or bathtub and cannot climb out. A member of the scutigeromorph group, the house centipede differs drastically in appearence from the larger scolopendromorphs found in pet shops. The legs are long and thin, while the body is more rounded than most centipedes. It can be kept in much the same conditions as the smaller scolopendromorphs.

Other species of Scolopendra are also sometimes available from time to time, identified largely by their locale. Some of the varieties which appear are the Vietnamese purple centipede, Florida Keys centipede, West Indies orange centipede, and the South African rainbow centipede. All are cared for in the same manner.

1 comment:

PETER E. said...

In 1969 as a young boy, my brother and I where traveling through a desert region of Arizona (FT.Huachuca), sitting in the back area of the family station wagon. Both myself and my brother were looking in the same direction out of the back window. The car was traveling down a dirt road. Both of us saw crawling over a dried out tree stump a centipede at least 12 inches long, with a body color of burnt orange, with no other markings. Of course we yelled out to our father to stop and let us look for it, but he would not believe us. What type of centipede would that have been.