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I’ve handled a lot of interesting animals in my career, but none of them raises by consciousness and my awarenees more than a centipede, from the genus Scolopendra. We have here the Vietnamese centipede. There’s a lot of different names for this animal, because it’s range is so wide. It’s all throughout southeast Asia, Indonesia. Even into Central and South America, you’ll see the same genus. There are many types of centipedes out there. The illusion about them, or the misconception about them is that they are friendly.
They are not. Centipedes are a nasty predator, as a matter of fact. They are a venomous creature that has to be handled very infrequently if at all. Centipedes, why they get the name centipede, which really should translate to “100 feet” or “100 legs.” There’s nowhere near that. They’re composed of about 20, 21 body parts, and there is one pair of legs on each on. So I guess “42-legipede” wasn’t a good name. Scientists came up with “centipede” instead. And the many, many species in the genus, all of them are composed the same way, with that segmental body with one pair of legs, one on each side. But the business end of this animal really is the top. He’s got feelers there, if you can see, two pair of feelers that allow him to root around and look for his favorite prey, right, which is anything he can get his mouth on.
These are predators not just looking for insects like most of their counterparts are. They’ll eat small snakes. They’ll east a little lizard. We’ve seen them eat mice here at the store. They are consummate predators. And anything he can grasp, he will try to eat. They’re legs are always splayed out to the side. That’s how you tell it’s a centipede. As we move up at the top, those two pieces there are not legs. Those are the antennae and next to them are the mandibles, the jaws. They have an incredibly sharp jaw, incredibly strong jaw, and right in the back of that jaw is the venom gland. It’s a painful, painful bite. I stopped saying that it would be fatal to a human being, although there was one reported case of a person dying from a centipede bite. That was probably due to an allergic reaction. But still, it’s not something to take lightly.
A centipede bite could send you to the hospital. It’s certainly send you crying into the corner because of the jaw pressure and the venom combined. You can see how quickly it moves with the slightest touch. It flails with those legs. They’re pointy and sharp. They can dig into you. It almost grabs its prey in a snakelike manner, wrapping around it, stabbing it with those legs. And once the jaws come into contact with the prey, it’s pretty much lights out. Centipedes are not my favorite pet, but people do keep them sometimes as a novelty item, just because they want to watch them eat. It’s just God forbid if it ever gets out in your house.
The Vietnamese centipede, a wide-ranged animal with many, many different names. They call it the big-headed Chinese centipede. In Central America, they have a Latin name for it. Regardless, centipedes are all dangerous Even the smaller species that you see in your backyard in North America is a predator that can bite with a slight amount of venom. So take care when you’re picking up this particular arachnid, the Vietnamese centipede.