Why You Should Never Kill a Centipede

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Bugs life

Ever wanted to get rid of the bugs in your house? For many, it can be easy to slip on your ol’ big boots and stomp on them. But you should never step on a centipede. Let’s be honest; we’re not the biggest fans of bugs – especially ones with long spindly legs (yuck). So if we see a centipede, our natural reaction is to grab the bug repellent. However, there’s something about these interesting critters you’ll want to know before you do…

For many, it’s easy to grab the bug repellent, but there’s something interesting about centipedes you’ll want to know before you kill it

Sure, centipedes aren’t the most attractive of creatures in the world, and we can’t say we’re attracted to their slimy bodies or the ridiculous number of legs they have (who needs that many?), but they are pretty fascinating. I mean, having the power to make adult men and women scream the house down must stand for something, right? However, centipedes are especially interesting because they do something special for the household they reside in.

Centipedes are part of the invertebrate family and have no backbone

Although we know them by the name ‘centipede,’ these creatures are officially titled ‘Scutigera coleoptrata.’ However, the Latin name doesn’t really roll off the tongue, so we think we’ll stick to calling them centipedes. You will often (unfortunately) find these creatures in your house, so you may have noticed these creatures have segmented bodies – meaning they are Arthropods. They also have jointed legs and thick skin, and they are part of the invertebrate family. In short, they don’t have a backbone.

Centipedes are officially called Scutigera coleoptrata and are arthropods as they have segmented bodies

In fact, the centipede’s thick skin is its defining factor as an invertebrate and an arthropod. Instead of having a backbone inside the body like many other animals (like us) the centipede has an exoskeleton which keeps all of its bodily bits (very scientific) together. Their outside skin, which is called chitin, is almost like a shell. Because of this, their bodies are extremely tough and durable – which means it will take a lot of pressure and force to harm them. Which is actually a good thing, because…

The centipede has an exoskeleton which is extremely hard and durable

Despite their small size and (slightly) unattractive stature, the centipede is extremely well adapted to its environment – which in some cases, is the human home. If you find a centipede climbing up your wall or having a wander through your refrigerator and on your cheese, you’ve probably found a ‘house centipede.’ However, house centipedes are actually a sign of good luck if you see one. It means you have a sort of security system for your home.

The house centipede is well adapted to its environment and is made up of various smaller groups of centipede

However, humans don’t extend an invitation for the centipedes to take a break in their house – and this can cause a little bit of trouble. Many people who find centipedes in their house will go through various emotional stages. Firstly, there is sheer terror, which may result in the human locking themselves in the bathroom. Then, there is anger. They want to know why the centipede has invaded their space, and how it got there. Then, there is hatred, which is misplaced. If only they knew what good they can do for their home…

Many people will be distressed and angry to find centipedes in their house

For centipedes, the hatred stage is the most deadly. When the human has reached this stage, there’s very little chance of survival. In fact, some people are so scared and disgusted by these critters that they will grab the nearest can of bug spray (or hairspray in some cases) and cover their whole room in the bug repellent. However, if we actually  knew what these creatures do for us, it’s unlikely we’d be so quick to grab the can.

Many people are so scared by these creatures that they will try and kill them straight away

In fact, there are some people that are so scared by these little critters that they have developed a phobia – which is called chilopodophobia. Because of this phobia, these people believe that these animals pose a direct threat to their health and wellbeing and their livelihood. Many people are also scared of centipedes because they are venomous. Although this is the case for various species of centipede, it is not the case for house centipedes. They are not venomous at all.

Many people have chilopodophobia, which is the fear of centipedes - but they are mostly harmless

However, it is untrue to say that house centipedes cannot harm humans – although they only do so as a last resort. They are not venomous, but they do have a stinger which is very similar to a bee sting. Centipedes will rarely pierce human skin or attempt to sting them because they are intelligent enough to realize when they are fighting a losing battle. And considering humans are much larger than centipedes; they’re wise to avoid the person angering the giant.

Centipedes can sting a human, but will only do so as a last resort

So what is this big reason why you shouldn’t kill a centipede if you see one in your home? By nature, centipedes are insectivores. This means that they eat other insects and bugs that live in your house. This means that they’ll be able to get rid of all of the bugs that you actually don’t want in your home. Like spiders, termites, cockroaches, and ants, who make less desirable house guests. So the centipede definitely pays its way.

Centipedes are insectivores, which means they eat other insects and bugs in your house

 

However, their legs aren’t just there to show off to their enemies. In fact, their legs are incredibly useful and help keep up their reputation as the Usain Bolt of the critter world (so they’re a pretty big deal). Centipedes are incredibly quick, and their legs allow them to move at 1.3 feet per second on any kind of surface. Centipedes can travel at the same speed on ceilings, on walls, or even your living room drapes if they feel like it.

Centipedes can travel at 1.3 feet per second on any kind of surface

We all love a good vacation now and then, but the centipede is on the kind of vacation that lasts for six months, twice a year (try and work that one out). The centipede species is native to the Mediterranean region, and have made their way over to various regions of the world to set up shop. In fact, centipedes have even been found in the Arctic Circle! But more often than not, centipedes will opt for a warmer getaway.

Centipedes come from the Mediterranean but have made their way across the world to live in various regions

Centipedes spend most of their traveling time searching for humidity and warmth – and it just so happens that us humans like to keep our homes nice and toasty. During the summer months, centipedes will often hide out in your backyard, in your compost heap on your flower beds. However, as soon as the weather begins to get cooler, they try to find the nearest hot spot (quite literally) and make their way into your house to warm their cockles.

Centipedes are used to the warmth, so will go in search of warmth in the colder months

However, you might not want to watch a centipede while they are eating their dinner – because they like to play with their food before they eat it (and it’s not pretty). Because of their long and strong legs, centipedes are able to grab hold of numerous prey at the same time. After they’ve got them safely in the confines of their legs, the centipede then stabs them with the venom before munching them down in a nice, tasty bug sandwich.

Centipedes grab their prey in their long legs before stabbing them with their venom and eating them

In another awesome twist, the centipede venom is not injected like a bee sting or a scorpion sting. Instead, centipedes like to do things a little differently. Instead of injecting their enemies with a stinger, these animals have ‘forcipules’ which modified legs that are near to the top of the centipede body. These modified legs are almost like pincers, which are full of venom. The centipedes will use these forcipules to overpower their enemies and render them paralyzed. How lovely.

Centipedes have forcipules, which are pincer-like legs that overpower their victims and inject venom

If we’re honest, the fact that centipedes eat the spiders in our house definitely make us love them even more – and they probably really like that. Centipedes are extremely self-aware and will always make sure they are looking their best for you when they’re living in your house. Although they’re not the best-looking bunch, they really do try and often use their modified legs to groom their legs and their body. You have to give them credit; they really do try.

Centipedes are also self-aware and use their legs to groom themselves

If you’re a little shorter than you’d like to be, you‘ll probably do anything you can to make yourself seem taller. This could be adding insoles to your shoes, or backcombing your hair to within an inch of its life to give you a bit more volume. The centipede does something similar. The centipede body is actually fairly small, but their legs and antennae are longer to try and trick their enemies into thinking they are bigger than they are.

Centipede bodies are the same size as their legs and antennae, to make them seem bigger than they are

Of course, as much as they have their advantages – centipedes aren’t exactly the roommates you’ve always wanted (Tom Cruise; yes. Centipedes; no). So if you really can’t stand living with your leggy mates, there are ways to keep them away. First and foremost, the best way to keep centipedes away from is to ensure your house is always dry, rather than humid or damp. The easiest way to do this is to purchase a dehumidifier. It’s as easy as that.

The best way to keep centipedes out of your house is to ensure your house is kept dry

Centipedes are extremely attracted to piles of leaves and wood (I mean, who isn’t?) so it’s also best to move these piles away from your house to make sure the centipedes don’t come knocking. There are also many natural centipede deterrents. Possibly the most accessible deterrent is to spread a load of spicy cayenne pepper around your backyard and your house. Just make sure you don’t get it on your hands and touch your eye when you’re spreading it…

Keeping piles of wood away from your house and spreading cayenne pepper on the floor is a natural deterrent

Okay, so centipedes aren’t the greatest critters on the planet. They may be ugly (sorry, centipedes), they may have some weird eating habits, and they sting you if you get too close – but they also have their benefits. They can eat your spiders, and they will rarely cause you any harm. So next time you go to step on one or grab your can of bug spray; think twice. Do you really need to kill them? We think not.

Next time you go to step on a centipede in your house - think twice

Centipedes aren’t the most welcome of house guests, but they definitely earn their keep every now and then. However, they aren’t the only animals who can help out around the house every so often. Although it may seem easier to step on the animals to avoid them breeding and producing one giant insect family (which is our worst nightmare), NOT killing these critters can often prove beneficial to you and the running of your household. Check out a few of these critters:

There are other bugs which can help out around the house, rather than killing them

What’s red and spotty, and can often be seen flying around your house or perching on your garden plants? Of course, we’re talking about Ladybugs. Whether you call them Ladybugs, Ladybirds or Lady Beetles (all of those names work) this species is incredibly useful to have around your home and backyard – and they’re pretty darn beautiful, too. In fact, Ladybugs have often been written about in ancient legends that stem back to the Middle Ages. How cool is that?

Ladybugs are incredibly useful to have around in your home and garden and stem from the Middle Ages

According to these stories, the Middle Ages were plagued with dying crops and dwindling resources – due to the ever-increasing numbers and swarms of aphids (a form of plant lice). It’s thought that the struggling farmers decided to pray to the Virgin Mary for help. In response, the Virgin Mary sent them thousands of Ladybugs, who would eat the aphids, protect the crops, and help the farmers get on with their lives once more. The farmers were saved (hooray!)

The Ladybugs were supposedly sent by the Virgin Mary, to get rid of the growing aphids problem

Because of their hungry appetite for aphids (ooh, yummy) Ladybugs can be incredibly useful if your garden or your field is suffering from the effect of aphids. The Ladybugs will eat around 50 aphids each day, which means your plants and your crops are less likely to die. Instead, they will flourish! However, Ladybugs are best kept outside. They are not harmful to humans if they make their way into your house (although some are poisonous) they are simply a nuisance.

Ladybugs eat around 50 aphids per day and are best kept inside - although they are not harmful to humans

When many of us think of Praying Mantises, we probably think of the (awesome) Disney movie, Bugs Life. However, many of us may find that Praying Mantises take shelter in our gardens – and immediately assume that they are up to no good. On the contrary, Praying Mantises should be a welcome addition to any garden, as they have a hungry appetite. Thankfully, not for plants. Instead, they feast on smaller bugs and insects that do want to eat your plants.

The Praying Mantis is a welcome addition to your garden as they eat other bugs and insects

If you’re a keen gardener (which is everyone, right?), you’ll know that your biggest enemy is other insects and bugs. There are so many bugs in the world that will slowly eat your plants, your favorite Begonias may be gone in weeks – and nobody wants that. Praying Mantises will eat these enemy bugs, and leave your plants to grow and flourish on their own. In fact, they are so effective at catching bugs that many people will buy them for that purpose.

Praying Mantises will eat the bugs that threaten your plants and let them grow on their own

Of course, we’ve already explained that the helpful centipede will often kill spiders – but that’s just how the circle of life goes (as they say in The Lion King). However, before they are killed by those leggy critters, House Spiders can be pretty nifty in their own right. Although many of us never like to see spiders or cobwebs hanging in the corner of our room – or worse yet, in your toilet bowl (cringe) – spiders can be helpful if they’re in your home.

House Spiders can be useful in your home, even though they can be pretty scary

Although it may be difficult to look at them dangling in the corner with their spindly legs, it’s best to keep your house spiders alive, rather than suck them up with a hoover (we know you do it). House Spiders are incredibly useful for pest control. They won’t eat you (thank goodness), but spiders do have a taste for other bugs, like beetles and ants, that may have taken over your home. They’ll catch these critters in their web, and eat them up.

House Spiders are incredibly useful for pest population control as they eat other bugs

If you have a house that is constantly plagued with ants, and little bugs, House Spiders could be the answer. Most of the time, these House Spiders will make their own way into your home and set up shop, and will soon get to work. However, once they’ve eaten all of your bugs, they’ll want to hang around. For most of us, this isn’t ideal. Instead of killing them, simply take them outside to your backyard and set them free.

House Spiders will eat your insects, but you can set them free instead of killing them

When we were younger, we used to be absolutely petrified by Earwigs. We used to think that if we didn’t clean our ears, they would be overrun with these little critters that would crawl inside our brain. Of course, we now know that that isn’t exactly true – but they’re still not the most attractive of bugs. Nevertheless, they can come in pretty handy when they need to, and they can prove pretty beneficial if they live in your backyard.

Earwigs are not the most attractive of bugs, but they can prove pretty useful

Earwigs can be recognized by their long bodies and their menacing pincers – but these pincers are all for show (what a bunch of show-offs). When you think about it, these earwigs are tiny in comparison to humans, and they know when it’s not a fair fight. Instead, these pincers are used for defense and warning off their enemies. Earwigs will leave you to it if you leave them to do their own job; helping the growth of your garden.

Earwigs have pincers that are used to ward off predators, and will always leave humans alone

Unlike many of the other insects, Earwigs have a pretty varied taste pallet. Instead of simply feeding off the pesky pests in your garden (which is a huge bonus for you) earwigs also have a taste for plants. But don’t worry, they won’t eat your healthy plants. Instead, they will eat the decomposing and dead plant matter that you probably should have pruned off yourself. Thankfully, the earwig is there to take over your job. Bonus.

Earwigs eat small pests and dead plant matter from your garden, which keeps it healthy

When the Spring and Summer months arrive, so do the swarms of bees. For most of us, these flying insects with huge stingers attached to them are cause for concern – especially when they start flying around your precious face. However, Honey Bees are only a danger to humans if they are provoked (and even then it’s just a small sting). Despite this, we will still swipe at them and try to ward them out of our house.

Honey Bees are only a danger to humans if they are provoked, although many of us still try to remove them from our house

However, we should be giving them a pat on the back (or a pat on the wings). Honey Bees are one of the most important animals in our ecosystem. For starters, Honey Bees are essential players in the pollination of other plants and wildlife. Without them, we would struggle to deal with the impending doom of deforestation and climate change. Thanks to these Honey Bees, trees and flowers can continue to flourish on the Earth.

Honey Bees are essential players in the the pollination of plants, trees and flowers

Honey Bees are also essential to human survival (we bet you didn’t realize that, ey?) In fact, Honey Bees make the honey and wax which is used in many of our food and household products. It has been reported that Honey Bees are responsible for a whopping ⅓ of our global food products, and our world would not be complete without them. So just like the Centipede, the Praying Mantis, Earwigs, House Spiders, and Ladybugs, we should avoid killing the Honey Bee.

Honey Bees are a huge part of our ecosystem, and should not be killed

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