Friday 19 March 2010

The stone dwellers

When repotting a Rosemary I disturbed this Brown Centipede (Lithobius forficatus) which had taken residence at the bottom of the pot. It obviously was taken aback and sat still on the ground for a few moments so I went to grab the camera. Centipedes lose moisture from their bodies quite fast, as they lack an impermeable layer in their integument, so they live in moist environments and are most active at night. For this reason, when exposed from their hiding places under stones, logs (or pots!) Brown Centipedes tend to run away from the light as fast as they can and scuttle under the nearest dark crevice. These common centipedes are carnivorous or detritivorous, feeding on springtails, aphids, flies, spiders, mites, millipedes and molluscs which they immobilise with a venom they inject through fang-like apendages located at the sides of their head.
A close up of the Brown Centipede showing its fattened head with eyes made of a cluster of simple eyes (ocelli), the side of their fangs under its head and their long mobile antenna.
I found this cluster of eggs under a pot last May and a Lithobius next to them. Unfortunately, the little information on eggs I found describes that they lay eggs singly and bury them. I counted 42 eggs here.
Although quick, the Brown centipede is a small animal, up to 3 cm in length, and due to its habits, hard to watch. In contrast the longest centipede can reach over 30 cm. Watch a video of this giant centipede, Scolopendra gigantea, moulting and searching for prey in this post of The Bug Whisperer.

1 comment:

Antje said...

They are adorable, somehow... I wonder if that means I'm sick? ;-)