Big Centipedes in Hawaii

This centipede was recently on my deck at home in Maui. I measured it at five inches long and one inch wide. Judging the size of its clinchers (back most appendages), I am lucky it was on the railing, not the floor. It’s venomous fangs are located under it’s head, out of view in this photo.

[See another post showing a close-up of big centipede clinchers. And thanks to reader David for sending a link to this image of fangs.]

The tropics support an abundance of life, and centipedes are no exception. Unlike other tropical critters, this creepy crawler is not native to Hawaii. Centipedes were introduced by foreigners, along with a myriad other insects including mosquitoes and house flies. And like other alien and introduced species with no natural predators, they thrive and grow big.

Don’t Forget Your Slippahs

Most locals have stories about centipedes. People wince as they recount memories of painful stings, which many liken to injection with a large hypodermic needle. As a result, we always wear shoes outside, shake out bedding and clothing before use — especially if it’s on or near the floor.

My former housemate once threw a pair of jeans on the floor after he changed into his board shorts for surfing. He came back after ripping up some waves and changed back into his jeans. Unfortunately, he put on the jeans without checking for centipedes.

But in his defense, he had just moved to Hawaii from the Mainland and had never seen one firsthand. A big centipede, like this one on my deck, was inside and stung his leg from thigh to ankle as they battled over who would get out of the jeans first. He ended up in the hospital.

Up and Dry

Centipedes are known to nest in warm, dry areas, meaning that they crawl up during rain. Since we tend to have a lot of rain in Hawaii, especially in windward areas, I regularly find centipedes hiding under tarps, in plant pots and even under my car tires. I learned long ago not to leave pants, shoes, towels or anything else that I put on my body anywhere near the floor.

However, there is good news about centipedes:  they eat cockroaches!

About Genevive Bjorn

Travel junkie. Organic foodie. Hawaiian at heart. Journalist. Author. Indie publisher.

Comments

  1. Eww. I only ran into 2 while I was on Oahu. The first was about that size and I don’t remember where, but the second was on my way home from the IfA and I came across one on the sidewalk that was at least 12 inches long!

    Looked more like this: http://images.ibsys.com/2005/0901/4924236.jpg

    I’m glad I was paying attention to where I was walking!

  2. yeah seen one of these on the sidewalk on the northshore of Oahu as well, thing was at least 10 inches long and almost 2 inches wide. but it was dead.

  3. Just found one on the inside of my shower curtain that looked exactly like the one in the picture (live by the airport on Ohau). Scared the crap out of my 11 year old who was in the shower at the time.

  4. The Roach says:

    I’m staying in Kihei on Maui and our neighbors just caught one crawling through their hallway. It was at least eight inches long, very fat, very thick, and VERY angry. I freaked out; I have never seen a centipede that huge. It was like out of scifi movie! Instead of disposing (terminating) of the sick creature, our oh-so benevolent neighbors decided to release it into the lawn right outside our condo. Yay.

  5. Indianola_Iowa says:

    Just had one inside my house last night . We live on Schofiled in the Wahiawa area. It freaked out my 11 year old, as he went downstairs for a drink and heard a “crinkling” sound as it scurried across the floor, even with the main kitchen light on. He trapped it under a plastic bowl and called to me for help. It must’ve been 8-9 inches long! Very creepy!

  6. Hello,

    I just wanted to clarify one point in your description of the centipede. The rear appendages that you say are the stingers are not. The business end is under it’s head where 2 very powerful modified legs are used to bite and inject its venom. The rear appendages are used to catch and hold its prey while the head whips around and bites it with those powerful ‘fangs’. They’re not really fangs, but it describes them well. I was bitten last night while lying on my stomach watching a show. I felt something crawling on my back that felt very familiar (I’ve had them crawl on my legs, abdomen, even across my face without being bitten) and i knew it was something much bigger than any of the small bugs i see flying or crawling around this property. I leaped up and tried to take my shirt off as quickly as possible without hitting the centipede so that it would be less prone to defend itself by biting, but i was bitten at the base of my spine. Within 1 minute the slight pain had become a searing white hot dagger plunged in my lower back. In 10 minutes the pain had spread to halfway up my back, to the sides of my abdomen, and halfway down the back of my thighs. I’ve been bitten by centipedes before, but only on the hands and feet. While those hurt like crazy, the pain only lasted for a hour or so. I was bitten by this one at 1am last night and it is now 1:40pm now and the pain is still about an 8 on the pain scale. I went to a local ER and they injected all around with Lidocaine, this helped a bit, but soon wore off. Nausea (about a 6-7 scale rating) also accompanies this bite as well as a slight fever (99.5-99.9 degrees F). As it is in an area hard for me to see, I cannot describe what it looks like now, but I did manage to take a picture and enlarge it to see the 2 classic puncture wounds about 1/2 inch to the left of my spine. Some centipede bites can cause serious complications in certain poor individuals like this poor man who passed away in Turkey from a bite.

    http://www.ispub.com/ostia/index.php?xmlFilePath=journals/ijem/vol2n2/centipede.xml

    Look at the photos of how the toxin and subsequent infection ravaged his poor body. I hope that this does not happen to me as I am not in the best of health to begin with. The centipede that bit me was a 1/4 inch shorter than the one in your picture, but it’s more than big enough for me! You do not have to post this, I just wanted to correct you on which end does the biting so that unwary people who might try and squash the wrong end do not get bitten by the ‘other’ end, which is surprisingly very fast and accurate.

    Kind regards,

    David

  7. David,

    Your thoughtful correction about the business end of a centipede has been noted. Thanks for sending such a detailed comment. The images of the necrotizing bites in the medical paper are disturbing. Take good care of yourself while recovering from the bite, and if you feel your symptoms worsen, please visit the nearest hospital.

    All the best to you,
    Genevive

  8. Hello again,

    Here is a picture of the modified legs that do the actual biting. They are located at the front end of the centipede underneath the head.

    http://www.wemjournal.org/wmsonline/?request=display-figures&name=i1080-6032-012-02-0093-f04

    Notice how they are now very sharp and are attached to some powerful muscles for biting. Hope this helps you.

    Kind regards,

    David

  9. Omg..I have lived in Maui my whole life & I haven’t seen so much centipedes until I moved down to the South End, Kihei. I’ve lived here for almost 2 yrs now and have found about 9 centipedes outside of my home, 2 of them inside. Its a very scary thing to see one crawling. I’ve never got bitten nor my kids but I need some pointers on how to try and keep them away! If anyone know of how please email me..Mahalo

  10. Hello, I am delighted to come here. It is a great forum. I didn’t know about centipedes in Hawaii.

  11. I would love to hear more about turkey.

  12. Maggi Zankel says:

    We loved seeing whale spouts and black tails.

  13. just had one on my leg – just below the knee – while showering. Must’ve come up through the drain. No bite, but even the breeze on my leg gets my attention now. Very trippy little critters up close. They get pretty fierce when you mess with ‘em. Glad it was only 5 or 6 inches long instead of 5 or 6 feet. Just got an idea for a new Pixar movie! With De Niro as the voice. “Are you talkin’ t’ me??”

  14. I found a big, huge scary centipede in my shoe this morning! It rained last night, and I wonder if it crawled in to stay dry. Lucky I checked before putting it on.

  15. Centipedes are a Real Drag. When I first moved to Maui i was sleeping outside and crashed in the middle of a field in Kihei, Woke up like 2 am when one crawled in my pant leg, Scared the Living crap out of me. I was sleeping outside for about a year, and had several encounters with them and I always had this strange feeling that the island liked me and I never got bit by the centipede or even stung by a scorpion. But i am also phobic ,Spiders, Centipeeds. Scorpions All scare the bujezzez out of me. First thing I did when I made enough money was to by a hammock that zips up and encloses itself, so nothing can crawl in with me while I sleep. Then When I made enough cash and got my own place I Put lamenent tile on the ceiling and walls so I wouldnt have to worry about the things falling down on me while I slept and then strung a Hammock in the middle of the room. Im paranoid and Phobic I know lol, but is the only way I could sleep hehe. I dont hate them, but I am certainly terrified of them.

  16. Aloha;

    We stayed in Kaua’i for the month of March on the North shore. It’s very wet up here of course.

    Anyhow, a really good sized one booted across the living room floor while watching television. It freaked me and my girlfriend out good. We have the much smaller version of these guys in our basement at home and are used to catching them. But these guys are HUGE.

    We were able to corner him, but it was a lot of work as he was looking for places to hide, and made his way into our dresser. Not a place we were cool with him hiding overnight.
    So we ended up taking all the drawers out and pulling the frame away from the wall.
    He was a good 8″ long, and it took a number of wacks with fly swatters from both of us.

    We felt bad having to do that. But we didn’t want the likes of him wandering around while we were sleeping either.

  17. We have had about 8 in our home (on the Big Island) since last April. 5 large ones and 3 little tiny ones. Does anyone know if they are like scorpions, in that the tiny ones are more dangerous??? And does anyone know how to get rid of them w/o using poison. We have a tortoise in the back yard and are afraid to lay poison out in case the tortoise gets into it!

  18. Smashed the hell out an 8″ centipede it freaked my girlfriend out but the head part was still moving so I set it on fire and it made a squeeky sound… I had to calm my girlfriend’s nerves or she would not sleep. That was the largest centipede I have seen in my 15 years of living in Hawaii on the island of Oahu.

    I am thanking my lucky stars that I have not been bitten by one especially after reading the previous posts.

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