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Centipede in indoor plants
Centipedes or millipedes (order Centipedes, subclass Scolopendromorpha, family Chilopodidae) are fast, hardy, long-legged arthropods that resemble, and are sometimes confused with, earthworms. Centipedes have a flattened body and long, numerous, segmented legs. The total number of segments on the body, known as the number of thoracic segments, varies from 250 to 546, and centipedes will have an average of about 400 segments. Body segments are covered with exoskeletal (carapace) segments, and are subdivided into regions of different function and appearance, from head and front to abdominal segments.
Most centipedes can be divided into head and trunk segments. Each head segment bears one pair of large compound eyes, and there are two pairs of antennae on the head. The abdomen segment carries a pair of large claws used for climbing. The first segment, known as the protonymph (young), has two pairs of maxillipeds (cheeklike structures) and lacks eyes. The nymph phase (adult) has a single pair of maxillipeds and carries three pairs of antennae. Nymphs have a pair of antennae behind each compound eye, forming a triangle between them. Their carapace usually has two pairs of eyespots, some nymphs have three pairs. Both adult and juvenile centipedes often have red or yellow pigmentation, particularly in females, but this coloration often fades with age.
Centipedes have eight legs, the first segment of which is larger than the others, bearing two legs each, and are about equal in size to the body, tapering to a point at the tip. The legs of centipedes are divided into three functional regions: coxa, trochanter, and femur. The first pair of legs carries a large claw, called a forcipule, used for climbing. The other two pairs have smaller claws, called forcipules. In the hind legs, only the femur bears forcipules, but in the front legs, forcipules occur on the trochanters. The coxa and trochanter are the first pair of functional regions on the front legs. The femur of the hind legs contains the knee joint, and the knee of the front legs bears the joint. Between the knee of the hind legs and the coxa, there is a slender flexible tube called the cymbium. This contains a syncytium, a network of many cells connected by extensive cytoplasm.
Centipedes are voracious predators and feed mostly on insect larvae, other invertebrates and occasionally plant debris. However, it has been suggested that the large species of centipede, such as those found in the New World, primarily feed on other centipedes. Despite their size, many centipedes are capable of crawling rapidly. They may be carried, often on the feet, to their places of shelter during rain and can move very quickly. Some can move at very high speeds when fleeing an enemy. They have very poor eyesight and have very small sense of taste and smell. However, they may detect small vibrations with their sensitive feet, and sometimes the hairs at the tips of their legs may detect certain kinds of chemical vapors. Their antennae are typically longer than those of most insects. Many centipedes have hair-like structures around their abdomens, which is an adaptation to keep them warm.
Worldwide, centipedes are most commonly found in tropical and subtropical climates, though there are also many species found in temperate climates. There are about 22,000 species of centipede, of which 4,600 are found in Europe. A number of centipede species have become invasive, and others have been introduced as biological control agents.
As with all arthropods, centipedes possess three pairs of jointed limbs. They generally have six pairs of legs in total, of which the first pair of legs is fused and thus lack claws. The rear pairs of legs are known as tarsi, and are often used to pull out plants during feeding. The final two pairs are the true legs, and are covered with a pair of plates on the front end of the legs known as the claws. Many species have additional small legs which may serve as eyes, and have some other specialized sensory organs. Some species are known to have an enlarged head, or compound eyes, similar to that of many other insects.
Centipedes are often found in moist places such as under rocks, under rotting logs, under logs on the forest floor, or in leaf litter. Some species burrow underground, or under loose earth, stones or logs, often in a protected niche.
In cooler temperate and colder climates, centipedes tend to be found in soil, rotten logs, under bark, in rock crevices, on mosses, etc.They may be found in all elevations, ranging from the very tops of mountains to the very deepest oceans. However, they are most commonly found in warmer temperate climates. Centipedes have become particularly successful invasive species in the tropics, and many areas of their range have become overpopulated. In the tropical countries of Asia, South America, and Africa, some species are considered serious agricultural pests. In North America, where many introduced centipede species are common, centipedes are considered pests of agricultural crops, especially by the citrus industry.
All centipedes are carnivores, eating mostly insects, arachnids and other invertebrates, and occasionally small vertebrates. However, they are most commonly encountered as scavengers on rotting wood and other plant matter. In nature, the food of centipedes is mostly plant material and animal material. They will eat many different kinds of insects, spiders, other invertebrates, and even small vertebrates. However, centipedes can adapt to the conditions in which they live and food becomes less important.
Because centipedes are predators, they can and do feed on a wide variety of other invertebrates. They are not harmful to vertebrates, but they will feed on them if in captivity.
Many centipedes are nocturnal, and some species are active at night.
Centipedes exhibit much social behavior. Many species exhibit parental care, and many species have hermaphroditic sex organs. Most are also capable of self-fertilization, though they must mate before fertilization. The majority of species are gregarious, living in swarms, and all have complex communication systems.
In the laboratory
Most centipedes are very hardy, and are able to survive in captivity for years. However, some species of centipedes have not been tested in a laboratory, so their tolerance for in the laboratory is unknown. Some species are known to live in captivity for at least 2 years, and some may even reach 3 years of age.
Species of interest for the laboratory include the following:
Certain species of centipede are native to caves, such as cave centipedes (Speleoides kohli) and blind cave cent