This centipede was recently on my deck at home in Maui. I measured it at five inches long and one inch wide. This is why is why you never leave clothes on the floor and always check your shoes before putting you feet inside. This sting packs a punch like a large hypodermic needle. 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!