Scolopendra Cingulata—the Centipede That Can Bite
Use this article as a bug identification guide should you meet this Mediterranean creature in your travels, as the Scolopendra is a dangerous little pest and one to be avoided where at all possible.
The escolopendra, as it is known as in Spanish, has the full title of Scolopendra cingulata and lives in mountainous Mediterranean regions. It is often found under stones, rocks and fallen tree trunks where it rests during the day, only to come out at nighttime to feed.
Voracious feeders, they eat cricket, worms, spiders and moths, and have been known to devour young mice. They are not terribly sociable creatures and have been known to partake of a little cannibalism, occasionally eating each other.
Officially classified as centipedes, they have long bodies containing many flattened segments. Their colouring is brown to yellow or orange, depending on age and sex. Young ones are more brightly coloured, and females are darker (as well as larger) than males.
They grow to 10 - 15 cm long (4" - 6") and can live for up to an incredible 7 years!
The Scolopendra hibernates during the winter months, and their breeding season starts in March or April.
The male spins a web and deposit his spermatophore in this web, and waits for a female to come along.
A spermatophore is a capsule or sac that contains spermatozoa for fertilising an egg.
The female takes the spermatophore and goes off with it, and uses it herself to fertilise her own eggs, without further input from the male. This process can take up to 1 hour.
One month later she produces 20 to 30 eggs, which she incubates for a further 1 to 2 months, during which time she wraps herself around them to protect them from predators.
If the female is disturbed at this time, it is not unknown for her to eat her own eggs or young. If they survive to adulthood, they start reproducing when they are a year old.
The Bite of the Scolopendra
The Scolopendra's main weapon is its bite which paralyses its prey.
It will also bite to defend itself if it is attacked.
Like the scorpion, it can lift its tail and its pincer-like claws on one end can deliver a very painful bite which can cause inflammation and pain in the affected limb.
Worldwide Distribution of Scolopendras
Scolopendras are to be found worldwide in the warmer regions of the world, including the southern aspects of North America, South America, Europe around the Mediterranean basin, Asia, Australia and Africa.
There are many different species of scolopendras, and some of the larger varieties can reach 12" or more in length, such as the Scolopendra gigantea as shown here. This creature lives in South America, Trinidad and Tobago and, according to Wikipedia, eats lizards, bats, frogs, mice and tarantulas. Probably humans too.
They say the bite is painful and can cause severe inflammation but is not fatal to humans. No, the actual wording is "unlikely to be fatal" which means of course that it probably is.
Some people actually keep these creatures as pets in a home terrarium!
Those'll be the same people who keep poisonous snakes and other such unlikely pets. Imagine kissing this thing goodnight, giving it a pet or cuddling up to it when you are feeling down.
I don't think so!
My Encounter With a Scolopendra
Look at the picture on the right, then imagine my story.
The grass was getting long in the garden, so I was out there with the lawnmower cutting it. I was wearing denim jeans, socks, and shoes.
I felt a tickle in my legs under my jeans, round about the knee. I immediately let go of the lawnmower and clasped my hands around my leg, but whatever was tickling was moving higher!
I then ran over the underbuild of the house and undid my jeans and pulled them down, and one of these centipedes jumped out from near the top of my leg. My heart was pounding. I was in a state of shock. What an ugly creature and to think it was crawling up my leg!!
It was only later when I described this insect to others that I discovered what it was. Everyone said I was so lucky it didn't bite me.
That is what pushed me to write this hub. Be warned. Cut the grass with elastic bands round your ankles to stop this insect entering and climbing up your leg.
Oh...and mine was at least 6 inches long!