Ballad of the Scutigera coleoptrata

Longtime readers will remember my morbid affection for Scutigera coleoptrata—aka, the house centipede—a species of oddly adorable, 30-legged, mostly harmless arthropods that frequently set up housekeeping in bathrooms and basements*. Originally native to the Mediterranean, they now live ... everywhere. (And please, feel free to imagine these buggers speaking in comic, stereotypical Italiano-Greek accents from now on. God knows I will.)

Now, YouTube musician Pink Torpedo has created a song dedicated to promoting peace and understanding between humans and Scutigera coleoptratas. I dig it!

*Side note: Scutigera coleoptrata do not always live in your house. But, when they do, they prefer to live in damp places. Thus, their affinity for bathrooms. Why? Because they don't actually breathe through their mouths. Like many arthropods, Scutigera coleoptrata get their air intake via little valves all along their exoskeleton. These valves are called spiracles. In most species that have them, spiracles can be opened and closed.

Scutigera coleoptrata are not so lucky. Their spiracles are stuck in the open position, which is sort of like only being able to pant, rather than breathe normally. One of the reasons dogs pant is to increase evaporative cooling of the body—walking around with your mouth open exposes the liquid in your body to relatively drier air, the liquid evaporates, and you get a nice cooling effect. But if your mouth is stuck open, you're at risk of dehydration and, sometimes, you're cooler than you really want to be. Scutigera coleoptrata live in damp places because they really need easy access to water. As a bonus, basements and bathrooms maintain a pretty constant temperature year-round, something else that's rather nice if you can't control your own body temperature very well.

Video Link

Big thanks to Will Bower!



  1. Not exactly what I was planning on seeing as I bit into my delicious turkey, provolone, and mustard sandwich.

  2. When I was in grad school I had one of these as a pet in our shared office.  I kept it in a baby food jar and fed it fruit flies from the genetics lab.  My office mates didn’t mind it so much, unlike my pet black widow.

  3. They may be harmless to humans; but they are alarmingly effective at bringing the ultraviolence against smaller bugs(and occasionally one another). 

    1. I used to be very opposed to domestic spiders. Until I started noticing all the dead gnats under their webs. Now I’m inclined to talk to them and offer them water droplets.

  4. Hehe, living in the basement I get to see these guys and spiders all the time, always let them live if they try to bug me, and you know what, my basement is totally insect free aside from them. In relation, I’ve always been partial to the most adorable jumping spider, I have a “pet” one living in my mailbox who greets me every morning.

    1. Jumping spiders are easier to make into cute macros. They seem to have personality. Centipedes, however…

  5. Since your last post on this loathsome creature, I have lived in daily fear of the arrival of your next one.  When is a new post by Maggie going to be headed by a gigantic image of Scutigera, I have wondered.  Today was the day.  (Scutigera — even its scientific name is vaguely obscene.)

    1.  I’ve got a friend who is terrified of spiders, but has no problem picking cockroaches up with his hands to chuck them outside (because roaches attract these damn giant hunter spiders here).

  6. On the off chance you were wondering, these guys are really soft to the touch.

    And yes, I now step on all presumptive lint.

  7. our cats *love* these things. one of them brought me one the other day, now legless after her hunt, and proudly placed it by my chair. she chirped so happily about her catch, and was so proud to be sharing it with me — such a good provider for the inhouse pride! scutigera kinda freak me out because they can go from zero to light-speed in a fraction of a second.

  8. These guys are positively awesome compared to earwigs and silverfish, the bugs that I grew up with in Northern California. Although I was always impressed with the speed and agility of silverfish.

  9. back in my subterranean (basement-dwelling) student days, we used to catch these in a big mason jar and pit them against the spiders that also like cool damp places – sort of a “circus minimus” if you will.   Absolutely unbelievable, WWE-level matchups, epic showmanship on the part of our Scutigera teams, too.

  10. These guys pop up (sometimes with startling suddenness) in our bathroom sink all the time.  We’ve trained the kids to call them “scoots” and they no longer give us the leaping willies like they used to.

    Making up a story about “Captain Scoot,” a four-foot-long superhero of the breed that lived in the bathroom soffit, was probably not my best idea, though.  Couldn’t get the kids to take a bath for over a week.

  11. Of course this had to be posted not 12 hours after I performed some summary justice on one that violated my one rule for house centipedes and spiders: not on the bed.

    I realize that they’re not going to learn to avoid my bed, and as they apparently prefer living in basements & bathrooms (I live on the second floor of a house and my bed is not in the bathroom) I’m not quite sure what they’re doing there in the first place.

    Now I feel bad, despite having given it a burial and thanking it (he?she?) for their hard work eating things I really don’t want in the house.

  12. “…and I won’t cause you harm.”

    Yeah if you don’t count causing fucking heart attacks.

  13. I will spend far more time than I’m willing to publicly admit to safely catch and release bugs I don’t want living in my house.  But these things?  Something deep inside commands me to kill them upon sight.  Cannot tolerate.

  14. I am still unnerved by these things, probably more so since in my place they are often in the kitchen and sometimes even the bedroom too.  It’s more the initial scare of seeing something zip (they are fast) across the floor our of nowhere.

  15. Jeez.  I have these in my house.  Still think that Scutigera’s not relatively cuddly?

      1. A solfugid.  You can see lots of pictures if you google ‘camel spider’, although it’s not actually a spider.  They eat spiders.  And scorpions.  And occasionally birds.

  16. Yeah, spiders I can deal with (I even nurtured a garden spider over the winter after it took up residence in the corner of my kitchen ceiling, feeding it little shreds of beef in lieu of flies) but house centipedes are pretty much the one creature on god’s green earth that I just loathe. I’ll never forget one hot night, sleeping in an old house in Sardinia when one ran all up and over my body…. uggggghhhh!

  17. I checked out this guy’s Youtube page. This seems to be his shtick – writing songs about unloved animals. Here’s one about a pigeon: 

  18. I objurgate the centipede
    A bug we do not really need.
    At sleepy-time he beats a path
    Straight to the bedroom or the bath.
    You always wallop where he’s not
    Or if he is, he makes a spot.

        ” The Centipede”, Ogden Nash

  19. They kill poisonous spiders, such as the brown recluse.  That alone proves their worth as members of the household.  That they also kill termites, cockroaches, and bedbugs is a bonus. 

  20. Gaaaaah one of these suckers had a good time on my arm earlier this morning. I was writing, felt something wiggling around…looked down…O_o The little bugger seemed like he was stuck the first few times I flicked him off. A good gentle flick with a mech. pencil, and he landed on my floor. I let him run away somewhere else. Gotta say, it wasn’t cute at 3 in the morning….XD

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