What is the largest centipede in the world?


Photo credit: Katka Nemčoková

It might not surprise you that the world’s largest centipede is called Scolopendra gigantea, also known as the “giant Amazon centipede.” Centipedes belong to the class Chilopoda, a subclass of myriapods known for their large number of legs. But how many centimeters does this giant measure?

What are the dimensions of the largest centipede in the world?

Centipedes live on land. Human beings do not appreciate them because their many legs give them an appearance that is often considered frightening. They are often related to centipedes but differ in size, shape and even behavior.

If you travel to the northwest of South America or to the islands of Trinidad, Jamaica, Hispaniola, Saint Barthélemy, Guadeloupe and Martinique, you may encounter a creature that is sure to send shivers down your spine. The size of Scolopendra gigantea usually reaches between 25 and 30 cm in length. But we have already measured specimens at 40 cm. Venomous, it is very aggressive. But if its bite is very painful, it rarely remains fatal. Just like other centipedes, it secretes a toxin which it uses to defend itself against predators. It contains acetylcholine, histamine and serotonin. This makes for a generally irritating cocktail that can cause swelling, burning and itching of the skin.

How to protect yourself from Scolopendra gigantea?

Better to avoid contact. For this, some precautions can be taken. If you are fascinated by these creatures, the first tip is to avoid touching them. The safest way to scare the animal away is to take out your flashlight because it is lucifuge, that is to say it is afraid of light. She will immediately turn back. People who want to limit their presence take care to clean up dead leaves and other decomposing vegetation around their house. Diatomaceous earth can also be a valuable ally. Applied in cracks and other potential passage areas, it will deter centipedes from settling.

A major rival

The giant centipede has a rival: Illumina insularis is a species of centipede discovered in 2018 in Madagascar. This is a species of giant centipede whose body can reach 32 centimeters. As new discoveries can always arise, there may be other individuals or even species of centipedes still unknown that could exceed this record size.

Can we come across centipedes in France?

Centipedes are found on every continent except Antarctica. In France, the most common centipede, the one that we can encounter in our homes, is the centipede. Originally from Mexico, it can invade homes in which the subfloor, around drains, the basement or the bathrooms are too humid. When the outside temperature drops in the fall, it likes to find refuge in our heated interiors. This pales in comparison to the giant centipede: it only measures 2.5 to 5 cm in length. It has 15 pairs of legs as well as long antennae. It moves quickly and hides in any crevice where it can find calm and security. Although we don’t like to encounter it, it is useful for controlling other unwanted insects such as spiders, bedbugs, cockroaches, silverfish, carpet beetles and ants.

Reproduction of centipedes is generally sexual. Males secrete pheromones to attract females, then perform an elaborate courtship dance to woo them. Once the female accepts the male, fertilization takes place, and she then lays her eggs in a shelter or nest that she builds. The eggs hatch into young centipedes which undergo several molts to reach adult size.

The centipede remains above all a timid animal. If, however, your skin is bitten by its two fangs accompanied by venom glands present under the head, take the time to clean the wound with soap and water before disinfecting the area concerned.

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