Scutigera coleoptrata, commonly known as the house centipede.

Every house has its quirks. Creaky floors, a lingering odor, doors that won’t shut, ghost sightings. These quirks tend to become part of the backdrop of everyday life, and while you may occasionally grumble about them eventually you get used to them… normally.

Unfortunately, one of my house’s quirks is Scutigera coleoptrata, the house centipede.

It’s not an infestation, per se. I learned that they prey on other insects and creepy-crawlies, so while ants or cockroaches or bedbugs range from pest to horror, the house centipede doesn’t eat your food (or you), isn’t poisonous, and actually gets rid of annoying things for you. I would liken it to having wolf spiders around the house. But… did you see the picture? I’m shuddering even now.

I rarely see them. They love darkness and they’re startlingly fast until they get really big. It lulls me into a false sense of security when I haven’t seen one for days or weeks at a time. Then one day, BAM! Out of the corner of my eye something with far, FAR too many legs goes dashing across my wall and hides behind a piece of furniture. I inevitably jump a little when this happens, because I just never get used to them. Something about them is just a bit too alien for me to appreciate aesthetically, and we all have instincts regarding sudden unexpected movements.

That’s a really polite way of saying I hate the little bastards. You eat insects for me, wonderful, now do it outside damn it! I’ve come to the conclusion that the natural defense mechanism of the species, aside from having such a creepy appearance that you don’t want to get close to it, is the awful way they smear if you don’t take exceptional care in killing them. Can you really be bothered to kill them when you’ll have to scrub the wall later? The leg-twitching of their death throes is also enough to give you nightmares.

Maybe I don’t know how good I’ve got it. Perhaps in other parts of the world they don’t have a little household predator eating pests or even poisonous things that like to slip into the house. I know some places in Kentucky have brown recluse problems, for instance, and I count myself lucky in that regard. Still, I doubt there will ever be a peaceful accord between myself and the nightmarish critters. Let the entomologists extol the virtues of the humble house centipede; myself, I plan to squish ’em.

(image courtesy of wikimedia commons: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c8/House_Centipede.jpg )

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