Stone Centipede

2014 July 12

Sam and Rosie found me this nice Stone Centipede under a rock on July 12, 2013.

I posted about these before, way back in 2008. The pictures at the time were actually fairly good, but a bit piecemeal because I couldn’t get detail of the whole body at the time. So these pictures are more to show the whole centpede at once.

I didn’t annoy it sufficiently for it to spread its poison claws at me, but you can see them as the bulges on either side of the head.

There are several of the stone centipedes in the genus Lithobiomorpha that look like this specimen, but I strongly suspect that it (and the previous one, for that matter) is Lithobius forficatus, the “Paving Stone Centipede”. Why do I think this? Well, first of all, it is a very close visual match. I’m not seeing any actual differences. The clincher for me, though, is that species is another introduction from Europe, and is well-known for living in “human-modified” areas. And, given that centipedes are wingless, they’d have to get here either by walking, or by being carried. And, as I discussed in the previous post on stone centipedes, they would have had to walk a long way. So, a centipede with a demonstrated tendency to get carried around by people is more likely to have colonized this area than one that would have had to walk.

These aren’t a particularly harmful introduced species, though. The things that they eat are mostly certain other introduced species, like earthworms. This particular species has a reputation for running rapidly for cover when exposed, which the centipedes around here certainly do.

The first thing people always ask me when I mention centipedes is, “do they bite?” Well, they haven’t bitten me. According to this posting, though, in 1928 a German dermatologist by the name of Hase[1] tested them out, and found out the following things:

1. The poison claw can only penetrate where the skin is soft, like the crook of the arm (which would account for why none of them have ever bitten me on my hands)

2. If they do bite, the pain is immediate, usually with some bleeding, and is at maximum intensity for maybe 2 to 6 minutes. It feels like a “burning, prickling, or electric shock”.

3. A welt is left for about 20 minutes, that may be a couple of inches in diameter. The bite site is then numb for up to a couple of hours. Then it fades, and no harm is done.

So, overall I’d rather not get bitten by one, but it isn’t going to be a big deal even if it does bite.

[1] Hase, A. (1928): Neue Beobachtungen über die Wirkung der Bisse von Tausendfüssen (Chilopoda). Beiträge zur Experimentellen Parasitologie. 2 – Parasitology Research 1 (1): pp. 76-99. A literal translation of the title is “New observations on the effect of the bites of thousand feet (Chilopoda). Contributions to the Experimental Parasitology.[2]” The paper is in German, of course. It is available online through Springerlink, but . . . holy cow! They want $40 for it! For an 86 year old paper!

[2] “Experimental parasitology” appears to be the field where the investigators intentionally give themselves parasites, and then observe the results.

3 Responses
  1. Carole permalink
    July 12, 2014

    Good information. I’ll be giving the ones around here a closer look.

  2. christian james cuizon (Philippines) permalink
    December 14, 2014

    can you put some other centipede species cause im planning to make one as pet … 😀

  3. December 15, 2014

    Christian: I can try, but we have a serious shortage of centipede species here in northern Michigan. Not like what you have in the Philippines, or other moist, tropical/semitropical areas.

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