Centipedes are fast, seclusive creatures dealt a bad hand due to myths, including that they're dangerous to humans and have venom in their feet that can make the skin they touch rot off. Despite their imagined danger to humans, these odd-looking arthropods live their entire lives as voracious predators, making them beneficial to humankind in reality. In many species, hatchlings are miniature replicas of their parents in looks and behavior.
Fertilization and Egg-Laying
As centipede adults emerge from their winter hiding places, males deposit sperm packets onto small webs. Courtship rituals may or may not occur, depending on species. Most females lay eggs in moist soil throughout the spring and summer singly or in batches, depending on species. A few species, however, give birth to live young.
Centipedes develop slowly, sometimes with seven or more molts occurring before they mature. In most cases, the hatchlings and immature centipedes closely resemble adults; others, however, have only a few pair of legs. Depending on species, the immature centipedes may or may not grow new body segments and legs as they molt.
Some centipedes live as adults for 5 or 6 years, much longer than many other arthropods. Adult centipedes usually spend their winters in dark, moist, secluded areas that protect them during the colder months. Most centipedes are reddish-brown, brownish or yellowish in color. Adults range in size from less than 1 inch to around 12 inches long. The hind pair of legs is modified to form rear-facing antennalike appendages ; the defined head has a long pair of antennae and pincerlike appendages they use to kill their soft-bodied prey.
Centipedes live their entire lives in moist, dark places; they will die without enough moisture in their environment. It's not uncommon to see several centipedes scurry toward the safety of darkness if you lift up a rock or log; indoors, you might find them behind or under items in a cool, damp basement. Centipedes often lay their eggs in the same type of environment they inhabit: moist soil under logs, rocks or other items. Only the house centipede is capable of reproducing indoors.
With a professional background in gardening, landscapes, pests and natural ecosystems, Jasey Kelly has been sharing her knowledge through writing since 2009 and has served as an expert writer in these fields. Kelly's background also includes childcare, and animal rescue and care.