In Defense Of The House Centipede

I understand: You wouldn’t catch up and release the creature shown below, like I did yesterday. You’d probably run screaming from the room that you saw one of these scurrying quickly across, possibly to retrieve a shotgun with which to dispatch so seemingly an alien invader (click it for the bigger picture):


That’s where knowledge might come in handy. I say “might” because even if you know these are actually beneficial critters to you, they do have a Creep Factor of 15 (based on their pairs of legs), which can cause even the most rational person to run into the arms of the the nearest Orkin Man, or to roll up a gasoline-soaked newspaper, setting it aflame after attaching it to a 10-foot pole and whacking it to death.

Nevertheless, since it is spring and a high time when you might come across one of these, I shall implore you to administer mercy and restraint upon encountering Scutigera coleoptrata. They aren’t commonly called “house centipedes” because they are from the Planet Crawlazzz. They are there in your domicile helping keep in check the populations of other arthropods that also scurry around your place… assuming you don’t bugbomb it so often that you’ve modified your DNA and started growing additional thumbs. Out of your ears.

It won’t help them me pointing out that they are venomous, delivering their dose through a pair of modified legs near their heads. Worse still: they are faaaaaaast. Capable of moving at upwards of moving 1.25 feet per second. That may not seem like much, but let’s comparatively and unscientifically extrapolate:

If a one-inch-long house centipede can run its length 15 times in a second, that’s basically the equivalent of of a 6-foot tall person running 90 feet per second (6 x 15). Need an animal kingdom point of reference? Cheetahs churn up 103 feet per second. Need more? Compare that with the fastest human on earth, Usain Bolt, who holds the world record time of 9.58 seconds in the the 100-meter race. That’s roughly nothing more than a lousy 34 feet per second.

Like I said: FAST.

But put the broom down and hang on for a second, trying to keep in mind the old adage:

The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

See, house centipedes don’t care about you. In fact they are generally considered harmless to humans. But even if one [frightened squeeee!] was to end up racing along your leg, odds are not only wouldn’t it sting you, but if it did its sting couldn’t penetrate your skin. At worst if felt, it would be akin to a bee sting. Instead, what house centipedes care about and hunt are the creepy things that you’re living with — and make no mistake: you are.

So remember. If you kill a house centipede, the life you save won’t be your own. It’ll be those of the spiders, roaches, bedbugs, termites, silverfish and ants all around you.