Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

“Do centipedes really have 100 legs?”

Centipede via the Orkin website

Centipede via the Orkin website

Ah, summertime in Chicago. After six relatively bug-free months, all the little critters have come out to play and provoke questions in The Eight-Year-Old’s wonderfully elastic great brain.

Questions like: “Do centipedes really have 100 legs?”

Although the word “centipede” does mean “100-footed,” my go-to consultant on all home-invading bug species, the Orkin Man assures me that most centipedes do not in fact have 100 legs.

Some of them have 354 (the Geophilomorphs).

To which I say, verily and forsooth, ick.

Don’t despair, the Orkin Man tells me. There are plenty of centipedes, like the American house centipede that only have 30 legs. (Like that makes anything better.)

What determines how many legs a centipede has?

In general, centipedes have one pair of legs for every body segment. A full-grown American house centipede, for example, has fifteen body segments, which is why they only have 15 pairs of legs. Sadly for me, those legs are long, multi-articulate (jointed), and hairy.

To make matters even worse, the legs on the body segment behind the centipede’s head aren’t really legs. They’ve evolved into venomous fangs which the centipede uses to hunt prey. Although centipedes mostly use the fangs to paralyze soft-bodied insects, spiders, worms, and other centipedes, they have been known to bite humans when handled. Centipede bites are extremely painful, and can cause numbness, discoloration, and inflammation.

Which is why it is a totally rational reaction to scream in terror and flee at least three rooms over at the sight of one. (So there, Daddyo.)

Well, that’s all I can take of that.

If you want to know more, find it out yourself.

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