Sunday, September 18, 2011

One Hundred Steps – The Centipede

Centipede loosely translates to one hundred steps per second, which is the speed at which A) a person moves away from such a creature and B) the speed at which the creature can move. I say “loosely” because I made it up. Centipede combines the Latin roots for “hundred” and “foot”, referring to the many legs of this predatory arthropod.

When this centipede darted across the shower stall floor I took all one hundred steps as I leapt from corner to corner trying to avoid the incredibly swift, zigzagging beast.

Centipede is actually a misnomer considering they can have any number of legs ranging from 20 to 300 depending on the species. Centipedes are different from Millipedes. They both have many segmented bodies but centipedes have two legs per segment where Millipedes often have four per segment.

Centipedes have an odd number of segments including the first segment that has modified legs, known as forcipules, which they use to inject venom into prey. Depending on the size of the centipede they can sting and harm a human. This one is a Florida Blue Centipede (Scolopendra viridis) and is about two inches long with small pinchers. Some centipedes can cause anaphylactic shock and since I had yet to I.D. it in the shower I did my best to step around it.

In a way, this species is my friend. They hunt roaches and spiders at night. I just prefer that the action is on the outside of my house. What comes around goes around and they in turn are preyed upon. I’ve seen Loggerhead Shrikes and Mockingbirds munch on centipedes. During the day the centipedes hide in moist areas like leaf litter, under the bark of a tree or in an exfoliating luffah.

There’s no shortage of critters that get into my house from my wooded neighborhood. I’ll continue to protect my fortress, all the while curious as to what’s going on just a few steps out side my door. 

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