With their multiple legs, long bodies and twitchy feelers, centipedes aren’t the prettiest bugs. Indeed, these critters can scare people so much that their first reaction is to reach for the bug spray. Before you do that, however, there’s something about centipedes that you should know.
They may not be winning any beauty contests, but these little monsters are actually pretty incredible – and not just because they can turn grown men and women into shrieking banshees. To start with a single fascinating fact, they actually have no backbones.
The centipedes, that is, not the screaming humans. Otherwise known as Scutigera coleoptrata – no wonder they de-latinized it – the common house centipede is an arthropod. This means that not only does the creature have jointed legs and no spinal column, but it also has thick skin.
Incredibly thick, in fact. One of the defining characteristics of arthropods is their exoskeletons. The solidified, shell-like casing – or chitin – makes them as tough as a tank in their world.
So despite being widely hated and feared by humans, centipedes have a lot going for them. Diversity, for one. Yes, so-called “house centipedes” aren’t in fact just one species. They’re actually a group of similar species, though most of them have a yellowish tint to their segmented bodies.
What’s more, their bodies are designed to confuse. Not only are centipede legs long in comparison to their torsos, but so are their antennae. As a result, the critters may appear to be double the length that they actually are – and those legs aren’t just for show, either.
Yep, a centipede can really move. Their lithe limbs can take them across surfaces at up to 1.3 feet per second from a standing start. Furthermore, it isn’t just floors that they can scurry across; walls and ceilings won’t stop their sprints, either, as these creepy-crawlies can cling to sheer surfaces.
Centipedes are more than used to traveling, too. Technically, the little stowaways are on permanent vacation, since they originally come from the Mediterranean region. Moreover, this detail explains why they make their way into homes – and it’s not to scare humans, despite what you may think.
Centipedes like humid environments, and they love the fact that you keep your home warm for them. They often come out of hiding from their compost heaps or piles of garden debris when the weather cools. Humans aren’t the most hospitable bunch, though.
“We get these hellacious suckers in our apartment like clockwork around the change of seasons,” one Ars Technica forum user wrote back in August 2001. “I’m sorry but nothing that big, with that many legs, should have any right to be anywhere NEAR a house!!… DIE, DIE, DIE!!!”
And it would seem that many people agree with this opinion. “I’m so afraid of centipedes that if I see one, I will literally burst [into] tears,” a Chicago Now blogger wrote in February 2014. “[Then] I start looking for… a can of hairspray or bug spray, and I go to town.”
Actually, a lot of people with chilopodophobia – a fear of centipedes – think the arthropods will pose a threat to them. Some people even believe that the critters have a venomous bite. Yet while it’s true that centipedes have venom, house centipedes can’t really hurt humans.
They can sting but only do so as a last resort, and the effect is no more severe than that of a bee sting. In fact, the creatures struggle to even pierce human skin. They’d rather run in the opposite direction, since a human is like a living mountain to them. Centipedes are smart enough to recognize danger.
Yet while humans have no need to fear centipedes, the same cannot be said for other bugs and insects. House centipedes are insectivores: they eat other household pests. And it’s this that actually makes them good house guests. They pay rent by eating your spiders and unwanted squishy squatters.
Plus, not only do they make a meal of the things that you don’t like, but they’re very good at it, too. And that’s another time when their long legs come into play. They hold their food – sometimes including several victims at once – while they deliver their venom.
Incidentally, one other thing that people get wrong about house centipedes is that they don’t actually bite; rather, they sting. Yes, their venom is injected with “forcipules,” which are adapted legs found close to their mouths. They have also been observed kicking their prey with their legs.
And if their table manners haven’t won you over to their side yet, consider this: house centipedes are also self-conscious. Yep, you might think they’re hideous, but they do their best to look good for you. They even use their forcipules to groom their legs.
That said, if you still prefer a less “leggy” roommate, there are several ways to discourage house centipedes from bunking with you. If you keep your house dry – for example, by using a dehumidifier – then they will be less interested in your abode.
Moving any piles of wood or leaves away from your house will also make centipedes less frequent guests. If they don’t live close, they’re less likely to visit. Furthermore, spicy cayenne pepper is said to be a good natural deterrent, so spreading it around your house may prove effective.
While they may not be the most glamorous of lodgers, then, at least house centipedes help around the house. Indeed, they’re only a real problem if you have an infestation. So the next time you go to step on a centipede, think about it: it might help you out more to let it go.
And it’s not just centipedes that sometimes need a helping hand. Of course, when faced with an enormous spider – complete with bulging abdomen and long, hairy legs – a lot of people would flee in panic. And that may particularly be the case in Australia, where some species of arachnid are dangerous. But when some citizens of that country spotted a spider in danger during flooding, they put any fears they may have had aside and did something awesome.
In March 2018 residents of Queensland, Australia, found themselves battling against heavy rainfall and floodwaters. According to News.com.au, the situation in the state was so bad that local authorities officially declared the area from Cairns to Townsville a “disaster zone.”
That month, the north-west region of Queensland saw floods of a kind not witnessed since 2009, in fact. The weather was so hostile, moreover, that a group of more than 70 schoolchildren ended up getting stranded while camping at Echo Creek – an adventure center near Koombooloomba National Park.
And as the students were isolated at the adventure park, with no foreseeable way out, authorities were forced to start a rescue effort. Fortunately, the army managed to get food supplies to them, despite the adverse weather conditions.
There was also a plan to move the kids out of the area by plane – but, with more rain on the way, the operation had to run against the clock. Nevertheless, the children were eventually rescued, and in a March 2018 interview with The Courier-Mail, State Disaster Coordinator Deputy Commissioner Bob Gee would praise those who helped in the effort as “outstanding.”
Hundreds of homes in the state of Queensland were affected by the torrential rainfall during the period, too. When the banks of the Herbert River burst, for example, flood water flowed through residential areas, causing widespread damage to private properties.
And it wasn’t just people who had to suffer through the downpour and its effects: animals were also displaced by the severe weather. A crocodile was spotted lunging at a vehicle in the state; meanwhile, reports emerged of snakes swimming through the floodwater.
But one video of a creature in the flood particularly caught people’s attention online. And the subject of that video wasn’t, as it turns out, a conventionally cute critter, either. That’s because it was a spider – and an enormous one at that.
The clip in question was posted to Facebook by a Queensland resident named Andrea Gofton. And it’s perhaps no surprise that the footage subsequently garnered thousands of views; after all, it’s pretty dramatic.
It shows what appears to be a road submerged in flowing flood water. Hanging above the ground, though, are a few leafless branches – and it’s these to which the gigantic spider clings. And down to its size, its long, thick legs and hairy abdomen, the creature is arguably an arachnophobe’s worst nightmare.
Gofton had originally spotted the eight-legged creature in the Halifax neighborhood, where the overflowing Herbert River had engulfed local streets. Unfortunately, it appeared that the spider had become caught up in the disaster and was trying to avoid being swept away by the water.
But while plenty of people wouldn’t have had the guts to go anywhere near the stranded critter, Gofton was up to the challenge. And, in the video she can be seen extending her hand towards it to demonstrate its size.
“I reckon it’s a funnel,” Gofton goes on to say, as her hand hovers right next to the creature. And she sounds remarkably calm, even though Australian funnel-web spiders can kill humans if life-saving antivenom is not administered to victims in time.
However, the video’s caption suggests that someone was brave enough to take things one step further. This read, “My excitement for the day… Saved a spider,” indicating that either Gofton or someone she was with had managed to relocate the unfortunate arachnid.
And, according to Australia’s Channel 9 News, the spider was indeed moved from its precarious position. Apparently, locals took hold of the branch that the creature was perched on; the spider was then relocated to an avocado tree in the city center, where the water level wasn’t so dangerous.
What’s more, people online were quick to thank the individuals concerned for their heroic actions that day. Indeed, although the footage of the spider gave Facebook user Karen Cusimano “some serious heebie-jeebies,” she was full of praise for the spider’s saviors. “Good job rescuing him!” Cusimano commented underneath the video.
Another Facebook user, meanwhile, wrote, “Good for you. Most people claim to love and respect wildlife, but only if they’re cute and cuddly.” And, eventually, the species of the spider was determined, too.
It turned out that the creature in the video was most likely to be a whistling spider rather than a funnel-web, as Gofton had claimed. This species is often referred to as the bird-eating spider, but that’s somewhat of a misnomer: they’re much more likely to opt for insects, frogs or other spiders instead.
Plus, while whistling spiders have long fangs, their bite fortunately isn’t fatal to humans. The species may pose a deadly risk to cats and dogs, however – so it’s definitely worth keeping pets well away from any of these arachnids.
So, while the thought of going anywhere near a spider that size might send some people into a cold sweat, it’s still heartwarming to know that the creature in this video was saved by some brave humans. And the story serves as a reminder that in times of natural disaster, animals are often victims, too.