What is a Centipede?
Centipedes are a group of insects that are members of the phylum Arthropoda, and make up the class Chilopoda. There are more than 2,800 species of centipedes. Some centipedes that are found in the tropics can be deadly to man. Centipedes look similar to worms or caterpillars, yet have as many as 170 pairs of legs. A centipede's body is divided into sections, each having a pair of legs. On its head is a pair of antennae and a pair of jaws, with a pair of modified legs behind the head that work like fangs and are used for fighting.
What do Centipedes Eat?
Most centipedes eat worms, insects and mollusks. The giant desert centipede will also feed on small lizards. Centipedes are active hunters and primarily seek out live food to kill and eat. Scutigera coleoptrata is the common house centipede. It is bluish gray in color, and has very long legs and antenna. They move very quickly and can be mistaken for a spider. Some feel these types of centipedes are beneficial because they actively hunt and eat spiders and other insects found in the home. The common house centipede is not a health threat to humans or pets.
How do They Find Food?
The fangs behind the centipede's head are called "poison jaws." The centipede has a gland in its head that fills the fangs with poison. The centipede uses this poison to kill its prey. Centipedes are active and aggressive hunters that move quickly and hunt at night. Centipedes have poor eyesight and detect prey by their movement and vibrations. Typically, centipedes in captivity will not accept food that is dead. They use their poisonous fangs to overpower their victim before consuming it.
Ann Johnson has been a freelance writer since 1995. She previously served as the editor of a community magazine in Southern California and was also an active real-estate agent, specializing in commercial and residential properties. She has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University, Fullerton.