Micro monster … and the kitchen sink

Not the best of backgrounds, but I takes ’em as I finds ’em … it’s a house centipede (Allothereua maculata) in my kitchen sink. I’ve been enjoying David Attenborough’s documentary series, Micro monsters, hence the association. It is not an insect, but a chilopod.

House centipede, Allothereua maculata

House centipede, Allothereua maculata

Wikipedia says, among other things:

The body of Allothereua maculata is made up of 15 segments and bears 15 pairs of long legs. The body is pale brown with dark markings, and grows to 20-25 millimetres (0.8-1.0 in) long. It bears one pair of antennae on the head and a similarly long pair of caudal appendages at the tail end.

The Atlas of Living Australia says:

Description: Medium-sized centipede with extremely long legs and antennae, and compound eyes. Runs very fast and easily drops legs to avoid capture.

Biology: Active at night. Often found under rocks and in litter. Prefers humid, moist areas. A free-ranging predator of ground-dwelling insects. Prey captured by ensnaring in the long legs. Prey consists of smaller ground-dwelling insects and spiders.

Habitat: Bushland areas in southern Australia but may also be found in gardens [and kitchen sinks].

Native status: Native to Australia.

Maximum size (cm): 3.

Diet: Carnivore.

Danger rating: Harmless [to people].

Colours: Blue, grey, yellow.

Distribution: Southern Australia.

Habitat types: Terrestrial.

It’s nice to think of it beetling around (centipeding around?) the place at night cleaning up other insects, in company with larger spiders that munch up cockroaches. My very own cleaning service!

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8 Responses to Micro monster … and the kitchen sink

  1. Ken says:

    What do you think Joy, it slipped in and couldn’t get out? Some times it doesn’t matter how many legs you’ve got.

    • Joy Window says:

      Yes, the steel sink was too steep and slippery for it to climb out. I took it outside and released it. I’ve had to rescue spiders who get trapped overnight, too, and can’t get out by morning. Sometimes I think I ought to leave in a stick that reaches to the top so any critters can get out by themselves, but then I wouldn’t have a chance to see them!

  2. janebeau says:

    Nice post and lovely contrast to what I’ve just been watching – the other David Attenborough you sent on flying monsters – blimey! Birds as tall as giraffes? xx j

  3. We have a species or more of Scolopendra in New Mexico that are fast and formidable creatures and get far too large for my sensibilities. I’ve found two squished ones in the kitchen this season which can only mean that I’ve likely stepped on them while in a morning stupor at the sink. Talk about a near paralyzing case of the heebie-jeebies! I’m afraid of stepping on the posterior end of one with the anterior end having enough reach to curl around and bite me on the foot!

    Your furry Chilopod looks uncharacteristically tame for Australia compared to our desert centipede, although; I suspect you have other scarier species. I really need to start seeing these things in the light of pest insect control that you’ve shown them in because this is one of very few animals that I’m challenged to appreciate.

    • Joy Window says:

      Hi, Rich. Our biggest is the imaginatively named giant centipede, which reaches 14 cm: http://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animals-plants/australia/nocturnal-house/giant-centipede/

      That URL says the biggest centipede in the world is one in Peru at 30 cm. Holy squeamish, Batman!

      It intrigues me what animals people find scary – they are all so different. But insects, spiders and the like seem to be most commonly feared – perhaps because they are the most unlike us in body and “mind” – their skeleton is on the outside instead of the other way round and their non-mammalian behaviour is unreadable so the potential for control is less. We seem to panic at what we can’t control or understand. I find the forms and colours interesting, often amazing and even beautiful.

      But enough very amateur psychology! Your scolopendra sounds great – do you have any pics? Do send me if you have!

  4. Alan Sandercock says:

    Jane called me into the master bathroom a few weeks ago to alert me to the fact that we had an infestation of small centipedes. I dealt rather un-subtlely with these creepy-crawlies by stepping on them. I then discovered the odd one or two had made it as far as my computer room. And then after another week or two we discovered dead curled up bodies of these same animals in various corners of rooms and behind doors. And so I dealt with those with the vacuum cleaner. Not sure what that was all about, but perhaps this is all a consequence of our dropping Terminix Pest Control!

    • Joy Window says:

      They are apparently harmless to people, just “creepy-crawly”, as you say. I read that they go into homes for water or food. I can’t imagine your house would have much of their preferred food (spiders, soft-bodied insects, worms, and other arthropods, including other centipedes). Has it been really dry outside in your area?

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