Thursday, March 10, 2016

Scutigera coleoptrata in Curabitur vanis Or, A House Centipede Loose in the Classroom

At first I thought the name of this bug was "Cleopatra", but it is not, thankfully.  The creature certainly doesn't look like the mosaics I've seen of Cleopatra.

Earlier this week some of the boys discovered one of these lovely creatures inside the sink in my husband's classroom.  My husband, who despises killing anything (even gross, disgusting bugs),  "rescued" the thing and set it free.  Later during math class he heard some squealing as the girls saw the centipede scuttling across the floor and under their table.   A rather outgoing, gregarious young lady told them all not to worry.  She picked the thing up and let it crawl around on her arm as she walked to the trash can.

She is braver than I.

House Centipede Science and Math 

The Scutigera coleoptrata, or "house centipede" as it is more commonly called because it seeks shelter inside our houses during the colder months, becomes more active when the weather gets warmer (as noted in the story).  They originally came from the area around the Mediterranean sea, have up to 15 pairs of legs, and using these can travel at an amazing speed of up to 32 miles per hour.   In case of an emergency, these legs can also be detached for a quick escape.  Their legs are also used to sting their prey, injecting venom to paralyze and kill the unfortunate insect.   If their prey happens to be a wasp, this centipede is intelligent enough to sting it and then back off, waiting for the venom to take effect before consuming it.

If one of these gross bugs lived a maximum of 7 years (which it can) and began laying 150 eggs a year (which it can) for 4 years (they cannot lay eggs before the age of 3), up to 700 of them could hatch and be running around in your sink or basement as they like warm, humid environments.

House Centipede Funny Fact 
(courtesy of wikipedia) 

In 1902, C. L. Marlatt, an entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture, wrote a brief description of the house centipede:

It may often be seen darting across floors with very great speed, occasionally stopping suddenly and remaining absolutely motionless, presently to resume its rapid movements, often darting directly at inmates of the house, particularly women, evidently with a desire to conceal itself beneath their dresses, and thus creating much consternation.