Centipede — nasty insect. It is believed that this ugly creature is very poisonous and can harm a person. But, despite the frightening appearance, most of them are not particularly dangerous, with the exception of such monsters as skolopendra and several other rare species.
The origin of the species and description
Centipedes belong to the subclass of invertebrates, which unite four classes of terrestrial arthropods. There are over 12,000 species of centipedes, including 11 fossils that lived about 450 million years ago. The well-identified fossils date back to the late Silurian period and are today considered the oldest arthropods to have come from the ocean to land.
Due to the similar structure of the limbs and a number of other features, for a long time centipedes were classified as insects, but they are not. In the course of long research, it was found that centipedes represent a sister group in relation to ordinary insects, that is, they have a common ancient ancestor, but all kinship ends there. This species of arthropod formed the superclass of the same name — centipede, which belongs to the tracheal subphylum.
Interesting fact: Adult centipedes can have from 30 to 354 legs, but the number of pairs of limbs is never even. In a house centipede or an ordinary flycatcher, as it is also called, the legs grow gradually as the individual grows up, and as a result, sexually mature centipedes have 15 pairs of limbs. If a flycatcher has less than 30 legs, it is not yet sexually mature.
Appearance and Features
Centipedes have a very specific, even frightening appearance. An adult centipede grows up to 4-6 cm in length. Like all arthropods, the flycatcher has an external skeleton, which consists of their chitin. The body is strongly flattened, divided into 15 separate segments, each of which has a pair of legs. The most recent pair is much longer than the others and looks very much like a mustache. In females, the hind legs can be twice the length of the body itself. For this reason, it is very difficult for an ignorant person to determine — where is the head of this ugly creature.
The body has a yellowish-gray or brown color with longitudinal red-violet stripes, the legs are also striped. The front pair of legs of the centipede in the process of evolution turned into maxillae, with which it defends itself and quite deftly captures prey. The head is small, with complex compound eyes on each side. Whiskers of adults are very long and look like whips, consisting of several hundred segments. With the help of antennae, the centipede constantly evaluates many parameters of the environment, it can sense danger at a fairly large distance.
Interesting fact: Due to the special body structure, which consists of very mobile segments, flycatchers are incredibly dexterous and capable of moving at speeds up to 50 meters per second, both on horizontal and vertical surfaces.
Now you know what a centipede looks like. Let's see what this insect eats.
Where does the centipede live?
Centipedes are found in abundance in countries and regions with a temperate, hot climate.
The natural habitat of its habitat is:
- the entire Middle East, northern Africa, central and southern Europe;
- southern regions, central Russia, the Volga region;
- Ukraine, the entire Caucasus, Kazakhstan and Moldova;
- Mediterranean countries, India.
For reproduction, normal life, centipedes need moisture. In the forests, it is easy to find it under almost any stone, at the roots of trees, among fallen leaves. With the onset of autumn, these creatures are looking for warmer, secluded places and quite often appear in human dwellings. In apartments, houses, they most often do not live permanently, but only wait out the cold. In winter, they hibernate, but with the first warmth they come to life and move to their natural habitat.
In human dwellings, flycatchers can be found:
- in basements and cellars;
- any areas with high humidity.
An interesting fact: Penetrating into a dwelling through cracks in the walls or through a pipeline, centipedes live only in one specific place and do not move. They do not breed to incredible numbers like cockroaches, they do not spoil food, furniture, flowers, and so on.
Sometimes flycatchers appear indoors even in summer. They can be attracted by various insects that live in abundance in human housing due to poor sanitary conditions.
What does a centipede eat?
All centipedes are predators, including flycatchers.
Their usual diet is:
- ants and their eggs ;
- cockroaches, including domestic ones;
- flies, ticks and a number of other harmful insects.
They are not dangerous for people and animals. The poison that the centipede is capable of producing can paralyze and kill only small insects. This creature, despite its vile appearance, brings many benefits to agriculture, so it is protected in a number of agricultural countries.
Having caught a fly or a cockroach, the centipede does not start eating immediately — she injects a portion of her poison into a living victim and waits until he completely immobilizes her, and only then eats her in a secluded corner. The flycatcher keeps insects with its numerous legs, powerful jaw, and the victim has no chance of salvation. From 3 to 5 insects can be destroyed at a time.
Despite the fact that house centipedes are not dangerous to humans and do not attack him, these creatures should not be taken with bare hands, as they can bite in defense. Their sting is similar to a bee sting and can cause allergic reactions in children and allergy sufferers.
Interesting fact: If centipedes are wound up in a living room, then getting rid of them is very difficult, since they are not tempted on baits, they are not significantly harmed by adhesive tapes — lost limbs are regenerated in a fairly short period of time.
Character and lifestyle features
Centipedes are predominantly nocturnal, but can also be found during daylight hours in shaded areas. Flycatchers — these are real sprinters among all their relatives. If at rest this creature presses tightly against the surface, then during the run it raises the body as much as possible.
Excellent vision and smell, a special structure of the legs, which allows you to stay on sheer walls, made excellent hunters out of centipedes. Due to the flexibility of the body, they are able to penetrate even the narrowest gaps. For normal life, a lot of energy is needed, so they are almost constantly in search of food, hunting down gaping flies or spiders.
Sometimes centipedes are called centipedes, although these creatures have a lot of differences and not only in appearance. Centipedes, which live mainly in the tropics, are not as harmless as their centipede relatives. Their poisonous bite can cause significant harm to human health, even death.
Interesting fact: After touching centipedes, be sure to wash your hands and in no case touch your eyes, because poisonous glands are located on the sides of the body of these creatures, and the poison can cause severe irritation of the mucous membranes.
Social structure and reproduction
All centipedes are solitary, but when they meet randomly, individuals usually calmly crawl away and fights between them are extremely rare. Cases of cannibalism among these creatures were not observed. The last days of May or the beginning of June are the breeding season for centipedes. By this time, the females begin to produce special substances, attracting the male.
They have a peculiar fertilization process:
- the male closes the entrance to his dwelling in the ground with a cobweb and deposits it in the resulting pouch your spermaphore;
- the female crawls under the sperm sac and clings to it with her genital appendages, and after a few days she lays her eggs in a dug hole, which she then closes with sticky mucus.
The clutch may consist of 70-130 eggs. For several weeks, the female guards the masonry, clasping it with her paws. To protect against mold, it releases a special substance. The larvae appear together. They are white at first and very soft with four pairs of legs. With each molt, new pairs of legs grow in young animals, and the body color gradually darkens. Only after the fifth or sixth molt, the larvae will have 15 pairs of limbs. Under natural conditions, centipedes live 4-6 years. Juveniles become fully adult-like only after puberty is complete.
Centipede's natural enemies
Centipedes have a small number of enemies, because due to the large number of venom glands they do not to the taste of many predators, and for some they can also be dangerous. However, centipedes don't mind biting snakes, rats, and even cats. For rats and pets, snacking on these creatures threatens to infect with parasites that can inhabit the bodies of poisonous “caterpillars”.
It has been noticed that some species of centipedes, such as scolopendra, in an artificial habitat can eat their own relatives, especially young ones. In nature, this happens extremely rarely and only with an insufficient amount of habitual food. Most often, these creatures coexist peacefully, without getting involved in fights. Only sometimes males can interlock with their numerous legs and lie curled up for 10-15 minutes, and then disengage and go about their business again.
Interesting fact: The largest representative of the centipede superclass reaches a length of 35 centimeters. This is a poisonous giant centipede that is found only in the tropics and its bite is often fatal to humans.
If a young inexperienced bird accidentally grabs a centipede from the ground to eat, then immediately spits her out. More experienced individuals do not touch centipedes at all.
Population and species status
Populations of centipedes are not in danger, as they are very prolific and have practically no enemies. More often the opposite task is — how to get rid of them if they settled in a house or apartment. Despite the fact that flycatchers are not dangerous to people and even destroy harmful insects, living with them on the same living space will not be pleasant for anyone. This can become a very serious problem, since conventional insect repellents are powerless here.
It is necessary to change the conditions comfortable for these creatures and then they will leave on their own:
- Centipedes are very fond of dampness, which means it is necessary to remove the source of high humidity — do not leave puddles and wet rags on the floor, fix the taps;
- ventilate the premises more often, and if necessary install a ventilation system;
- destroy all insects in the house, as they can lure centipedes as a food source;
- remove all old rubbish from the basement , rotten boards, mold;
- to close the way for centipedes to enter the premises — install screens on windows, repair floors, and so on.
As soon as living conditions no longer satisfy the flycatchers, they will immediately leave the territory. If these creatures have settled in a summer cottage, then you should not disturb them, as they eat many harmful insects. In some countries, for example in Ukraine, flycatchers are listed in the Red Book and are protected.
The centipede is not the most pleasant neighbor, but it is better to be “friends” with it, as it benefits a person, effectively destroying many insects parasites that are dangerous to humans. This is exactly the case when appearances are deceptive and behind the vile appearance is a small friend, not a big enemy.