Alien-like cen­tipedes cause alarm

Auckland City Harbour News - - MILESTONES - ELESHA ED­MONDS

Alien-like crea­tures have been seen scut­ter­ing with great speed around homes and gardens.

The ap­pear­ance of the crit­ters has sparked alarm among Auck­land res­i­dents with re­ports of them be­ing seen in Mt Al­bert.

But rest as­sured, the com­mu­nity hasn’t be­ing in­vaded by aliens - the crea­tures in ques­tion have been con­firmed as sim­ply the house cen­tipede. The cen­tipede comes from Scutig­era fam­ily and can grow up to 40mm long. It can have up to 15 pairs of legs which makes for an un­usu­ally brief sight.

‘‘There’s not much chance of hold­ing them be­cause you couldn’t catch them,’’ bug ex­pert Brian Law­ton says.

‘‘It’s the move­ment that gets peo­ple ... they have so many legs and glide over the sur­faces.’’

All cen­tipedes are con­sid­ered preda­tors with a ‘‘sharp mouth’’ lo­cated at the top of their head.

They usu­ally eat flies and cock­roaches but have oc­ca­sion­ally have been heard to take a nip at hu­mans.

Law­ton says their bite has been de­scribed as painful as a bee sting, but there’s only way to find out.

‘‘I’m go­ing to have to be bit­ten by one so I know what it’s like,’’ he says. ’’I sus­pect they prob­a­bly could give you a lit­tle nip.’’

How­ever he says the cen­tipedes would prob­a­bly not bite if they are han­dled gen­tly.

‘‘If you squeeze or re­strain it then of course it will fight back,’’ he says.

The crea­tures are usu­ally found in older houses such as vil­las. ’’They come in the house and chase and catch other bugs,’’ Law­ton says. ’’There’s cer­tainly no dis­ad­van­tage hav­ing them in your house.’’

Law­ton is the founder of Hands on Crea­tures and has a house full of creepy crawlies. He doesn’t have any house cen­tipedes but is the proud owner of a gi­ant scolopen­dro­morph cen­tipede, which is na­tive to New Zealand.

Their bite can re­duce a grown man to tears, Law­ton says. The gi­ant cen­tipede is a reg­u­lar fea­ture in his in­ter­ac­tive talks at schools.

‘‘I bring it out and when I tip it out on the floor, you should see some peo­ple’s faces. ‘‘It’s got that S-shape move­ment and is a bit slip­pery ... but we al­ways man­age to catch it.’’

Have you seen a house cen­tipede in your house? Tell us about it at Neigh­

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