Bug Blog

The Disturbing Reason Why Dreaded House Centipedes Possess So Many Legs

There are several different types of arthropods that are commonly spotted within homes, some are non-threatening and others inspire fear, but the house centipede is widely considered to be one of the most disturbing to look at. The Scutigera coleoptrata centipede species is the most commonly encountered species of house centipede. These ugly creatures are notorious for their ability to skitter across the floor at rapid speeds, making them extremely difficult to capture or kill once spotted. Of course, centipedes are known for their numerous legs, and the house centipede is no exception in this regard, but unlike many other centipede species, the house centipede’s legs serve many purposes.

House centipedes are born with only eight legs, and once they reach adulthood, this number changes to 30. The house centipede’s many legs get progressively longer toward the rear of their bodies, which prevents their stringy legs from becoming tangled while they run fast. To be precise, house centipedes have been documented as traveling 16 inches per second, which is very fast for an insect. In fact, if a house centipede were to weigh as much as a human, it would be able to travel at 42 miles per hour.

Centipedes are arthropods of the chilopoda class that split from insects 450 million years ago, and since then, they have developed a variety of different uses for their legs. For example, house centipedes use their rope-like legs to capture and restrain prey in a practice that is commonly called “lassoing.” Believe it or not, but the end of each leg is so segmented that it can coil around a predator’s body in order to be reeled in, so to speak. The house centipede’s fangs, which inject venom, are also modified legs, and they are called forciples. The legs/forciples are shorter and thicker than all of their other legs, but they are multi-jointed, allowing them to grip predators with their fangs. House centipedes also possess peculiar anntana-like legs on both sides of their body. The legs allow the centipede to perform a ritual dance in order to impress females, but researchers are not sure why these arthropods possess a set of legs at each end of their body.

Do you think that the house centipede’s rear resembles its head in order to fool predators into thinking that the centipede is facing them when it is actually turned the other way?