Monday, May 2, 2011

SOIL CENTIPEDE


Soil centipedes in the genus Geophilomorpha are commonly found hiding under rocks, logs, and may be dug out of the soil while digging holes for planting. There are over 1200 species within this genus and each are blind.....I supposed having eyes does you very little good when living underground. They have 27 or more pairs of legs, and will always have an odd number of pairs. Their coloring ranges from reddish-brown, tan, or brown. They have flattened heads and flexible bodies. They are able to flex, and bend themselves in half, which allows them to move around in tight quarters. 

Like all centipedes they are predators of other insects. These guys will feed on the larvae of other insects found in rotting wood, in the soil or under stones. They are especially fond of earthworms.  Sometimes the predator becomes the prey and this centipede will find itself dinner for a beetle, larger centipedes, birds, skinks and other small predators. 

Soil Centipede mid-moult
Centipede reproduction does not involve copulation. Males deposit a spermatophore for the female to take up. In one species, this spermatophore is deposited in a web, and the male undertakes a courtship dance to encourage the female to engulf his sperm. In other cases, the males just leave them for the females to find. In temperate areas egg laying occurs in spring and summer but in subtropical and tropical areas there appears to be little seasonality to centipede breeding. It is also notable that there are a few known species of parthenogenetic centipedes.

Females of Geophilomorpha show far more parental care, the eggs 15 to 60 in number are laid in a nest in the soil or in rotten wood, the female stays with the eggs, guarding and licking them to protect them from fungi. The female in some species stays with the young after they have hatched, guarding them until they are ready to leave. If disturbed the females tend to either abandon the eggs of their young or eat them; abandoned eggs tend to fall prey to fungi rapidly.

No need to fear these centipedes, as they will not bite humans, and have no toxic venom to harm us even if they could. I must correct my comment here. I recently led a trail hike with a group of kids. We flipped logs to see what we could find and one little boy found one of these centipedes. He picked it up to show me and it did indeed bite him. He said it felt like a hard pinch. He dropped it quickly and scurried away to safety. So apparently they can bite when provoked.
They prey on many harmful beetle larvae and help aerate the soil, much like earthworms do. Their rapid movements and subterranean habitat can make them a bit unnerving, but like all insects and their relatives, they have their purpose in the environment, and these guys are fun to watch!

14 comments:

  1. They can make one yelp a little when they crawl on your arm while collecting some wood.

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  2. Yes they sure can, they move so quickly

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  3. What? Soil centipedes are some of the slowest centipedes there are.

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    1. They may be slow for a typical centipede, but still fast for an invert. When I flip rocks they disappears into cracks, crevices or into loose soil in record time. Certainly much faster than many other arthropods.

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    2. I have been on a research mission trying to discover what type of critter I occasionally find when transplanting-leading me here. Details such as head shape I haven't been able to determine because they vanish so quickly I only get a glimpse. Not being a centipede expert, these guts move pretty darn fast to my eye as well.

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  4. depends when you find them. in early spring and on cold days they can be quite slow. when its hot, they zip around with more energy.

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  5. My daughter had to be "bitten" by one of these guys because she yelled out that something bit her and hurt pretty good. She had a bathing suit on and I found one of these in there. There was a puffed up area and has a couple of red patches on her back where it was. Good to know they can't hurt her but it definitely did something to her that hurt.

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  6. These things have been coming into our house lately. Ick!

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  7. I find and catch them all the time. It doesn't hurt at all.

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  8. Found a little one and I plan to release it our in backyard in morning - creeped the bleep out of me, but it is now safe in a container with air - wonder how it got into the house? And if it brought its siblings along...LOL

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  9. I found one of these soil centipedes today , got a good picture and posted it on Facebook , didn't know what it was at first , but it was fascinating lol.

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  10. I found one of these soil centipedes today , got a good picture and posted it on Facebook , didn't know what it was at first , but it was fascinating lol.

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  11. I just found one, and it has around 25 segments. Oh, dear!

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