What's That Bug?
July 27, 2005 1:24 PM   Subscribe

What's That Bug? Got a bug in your house that needs identifying? These lovely people have the answers. Good to know that an Oooh! Bug is actually called a House Centipede.
posted by crapulent (61 comments total)
Fascinatingly gross. Neat site.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 1:32 PM on July 27, 2005

Those house centipedes always freak me the f*ck out. I don't care what anyone says, I think they must be dangerous because they look it. Look at that, they are dangerous, they can reduce otherwise rational people to the reasoning level of your garden variety Creationist or Intelligent Design proponent.
posted by OmieWise at 1:40 PM on July 27, 2005

/runs screaming from the computer
posted by cleverusername at 1:46 PM on July 27, 2005

Right there with you, OmieWise. I'm the Resident Bugkiller of the household, and house centipedes stop me cold. And not because I'm merciful. The other day I found one in the tub, and couldn't decide what to do. After deliberating for a bit, I finally turned on the tub faucet and let the bug wash down the drain. Totally irrational, because for all I knew it could climb right back up--but I didn't want to get any closer to it.
posted by voltairemodern at 1:50 PM on July 27, 2005

This is a good site, thanks!

My first encounter with a house centipede was horrifying, and I really am not at all the kind of person who gets freaked out by bugs and snakes and stuff. I'd never seen anything like it.

I actually wrote a short story about the encounter and submitted it to McSweeney's website and they actually published it. *pats self on back*
posted by Specklet at 1:54 PM on July 27, 2005

Ewwwwwww. Skin crawling. Hair standing on end.

Bugs are yucky.
posted by WaterSprite at 1:57 PM on July 27, 2005

Love the site!

And I'm the resident bug-saver. Clear cup, 3x5 card, and someone to open the door for me. That's all I need. My services are for sale, if you're interested.
posted by Moral Animal at 2:00 PM on July 27, 2005

I ran across a centipede in my tub in NYC. I'd been away from the apartment for a few days and it must have crawled up the drain. It was trying to climb the slick walls of the tub, but thank god it wasn't getting anywhere.

I don't know if it's the tons o' legs or the long antennae but it's the only bug that makes my scalp tingle. I ended up grabbing it with a wadded up tissue, and flushing it. Ugh.
posted by splatta at 2:00 PM on July 27, 2005

Ack. I am not a huge bug fan, but there is no bug except the house centipede that can actually make me scream, flee, and make my boyfriend go kill it like some sort of 60's cartoon lady. Dangerous or no, I hate them for being gross, and even more for undermining my sense of gender equity. It doesn't help that we live in a basement apartment, and the little bastards are everywhere.

Thanks for the pictures - I am going to go scrape off the top layer of my skin now. *shudder*
posted by hilatron at 2:00 PM on July 27, 2005

Neat website.

The "worst bug story ever!!" sounds very much like a mild case of delusional parasitosis to me--multiple dermatologists, repeated bug-bombings and clothes-washings helpless against it, etc.

That diagnosis is made with all the full authority inherent in lay armchair analysis, so I'm sure some skeptical sorts would like huge quantities of salt.
posted by Drastic at 2:11 PM on July 27, 2005

I agree, there's just some unnatural-looking about house centipedes. I remember the first time I saw one, it looked to me like it was running backwards at great speed. I think that's part of what freaked me out.

Shortly after that we had a dog-day cicada in the house towards the end of a cookout/party. It was a big ugly thing that made the most godawful screeching noise as it buzzed around. I killed it from a distance with bug spray. It sure helped us get rid of those lingering guests that wouldn't leave though.

More recently I have encountered both a glorious luna moth and a female eastern dobsonfly, both identified with the aid of the Audubon Society Book of Icky Bugs.
posted by kcds at 2:12 PM on July 27, 2005

My favorite personal bug story involves box elder bugs, which are individually not scary at all--they're mostly annoying.

For context, you need to understand that they were very rare in the bit of the midwest I grew up in; I'd never seen even one before one particular warm late-summer day. I was reading in bed, and shadowy movement caught the corner of my eye. I glanced out the window, and the outside of it was just crawling with the little fellows. Living carpets of bugs are always fun!

It got downright biblical over the next few days. The added problem was, the family was doing a major roof-replacement project at the time, so they got inside, too. We got into a system where anyone who wasn't actively working on the roof had the task of manning the shop-vac and sucking them in, just to keep the sheer numbers under control in the work area.

This led to the problem of having a shop-vac full to the brim of live squirming insect mass. There was a brief family conference on what to do about this. We look thoughtfully at the vac-fulla-creepy-crawlies. The eureka circuit trips in my head.

"Burn them," I suggest. I was fifteen or sixteen at the time, so this was with the absolute moral certainty, the down-the-bones-conviction that the whole of the universe is on your side, that billions of years have led to the deep rightness of this very moment, that adolescent males are blessed with, and later found religions with if they don't shake it off.

"I don't think they're really flammable," my father points out. My mother, however, is looking speculatively.

"Spritz them with gasoline," I retort, with the long-suffering patience of all teenage boys with their slow-witted patriarchs, but generously forgiving them for that which they are too old to know what they do.

"Um..." says my sister, not quite sure about this. But I've inherited my pyromanic tendencies from my mother, and her eyes have lit up, seeing the light.

So that's what we did. Dumped the shop-vac out on the driveway, poured a generous amount of gas over the pile--slowly collapsing and expanding by brownian squirm--stepped way back and threw a match. A satisfying whoosh of exploding fuel vapors and a few minutes later, there was just a yard-plus carbon smear on the drive that took a week to finally disappear.

Box elders were consistently found upstairs for the next year, but never hit the area in those kinds of numbers again.

I can see that it would be an even better story if it had been a shop-vac packed full of house centipedes, though.
posted by Drastic at 2:27 PM on July 27, 2005

I lol'd.

posted by zenzizi at 2:31 PM on July 27, 2005

We got camel crickets in our basement when I was growing up. Scared the bejesus out of me.
posted by smackfu at 2:34 PM on July 27, 2005

Oh, and here's this site's page on crickets, which lots of scary photos.
posted by smackfu at 2:37 PM on July 27, 2005

Agreed, house centipedes make me genocidal. I just leapt in to recommend Microcosmos to anyone who thinks bugs (other than house centipedes) are cool.
posted by leapingsheep at 2:41 PM on July 27, 2005

Metafilter: slowly collapsing and expanding by brownian squirm
posted by brain_drain at 2:46 PM on July 27, 2005

I think house centipedes (though, growing up, my mom called them something...crazy...scootigeeras? no clue how to spell that) are fascinatingly beautiful and complex. I'm with Moral Animal...a clear cup and piece of mail is all I need to sate my irrational guilt at killing an...insect.

This is a great site, thanks.

Guilty story: we once had wasps randomly coming out of our bathroom vent...all summer, a wasp here and a wasp there. One day, I got so fed up with running out of the bathroom to fetch the cup and paper, that I whipped out some "flying insect killer" and just sprayed one out of the air.

The thing died in the most pitifully slow, writing, awful manner I think I could imagine. I felt so terrible about it.

I ended up getting the cup, taking the wasp outside, and stepping on it.

Man, that's pathetic...
posted by tpl1212 at 2:51 PM on July 27, 2005

aaaaaagh camel crickets *hurl*
posted by yoga at 3:09 PM on July 27, 2005

This site made me an insectophile when i saw it on sensibleerection. I have never seen as interesting looking bugs as on that site, not for lack of trying afterwards. I emailed the guy asking if he knew any other good bug sites but he didnt get back to me, also his links section is empty. So, this may be as good as it gets, folks. Now, if someone has a good image collection of bugs, thats another story...
posted by GleepGlop at 3:11 PM on July 27, 2005

a shop-vac packed full of house centipedes

...will be chapter one of my new book, Reasons I Wake Up Screaming In The Middle Of The Night
posted by hifiparasol at 3:14 PM on July 27, 2005

House centipedes are child's play. Growing up in the Texas hill country we had these guys:

The photo doesn't show scale. They're typically about 8 inches or longer. A friend once had one drop from the bathroom vent above him onto his head while showering.
posted by tippiedog at 3:21 PM on July 27, 2005

The house centipede is sometimes known as Fluffy, from a 2001 Sluggy Freelance comic.
posted by Araucaria at 3:32 PM on July 27, 2005

Southern California:

One night, my family and I were all surrounding the TV with my brother on the floor, and a scorpion came darting from under the couch and headed straight for my brother. My mom freaked and ran after the scorpion with her shoe. That was the scorpion's last conscious thought.

I also caught a centipede in a cup (like the Texas one above) when I was younger and tried to keep it as a pet. I fed it Oscar Meyer bologna. It preferred to chew off it's own antennae and instead. It didn't live too much longer after that.

My father used to find tarantulas out in our backyard. To show us they weren't scary, he pet it on the back and had us do the same thing.

And, lastly, rattlesnakes. Everywhere. The firemen were fairly good about being prompt and cutting their heads off.

Good childhood.
posted by Moral Animal at 3:33 PM on July 27, 2005

Those house centipedes always freak me the f*ck out. I don't care what anyone says, I think they must be dangerous because they look it.

My reaction exactly.
posted by Foosnark at 3:39 PM on July 27, 2005

I'm with you, Moral Animal. In the Texas hill country, we had poisonous snakes in our yard (rattlesnakes, copperheads), and lots of scorpions in the house. Because we had a pier-and-beam house (vs. concrete foundation which is the current standard in this part of the country), the scorpions liked to enter the house from the crawlspace. Standard practice was to shake out any pair of shoes before putting them on and to inspect the bed before entering.
posted by tippiedog at 3:40 PM on July 27, 2005

Despite a meticulously clean top-floor apartment, we get a 4" specimen of that second type of centipede about once every two weeks. Horrible, horrible things and even with a book you can't be sure you'll crush them.

I hate New England.
posted by Ryvar at 3:42 PM on July 27, 2005

Tippiedog - as hardcore as we feel, I think it's nothing compared to those in the Australian Outback.
posted by Moral Animal at 3:47 PM on July 27, 2005

I'm a 6'4" man, approx 200 lbs. When I see one of those evil centipede fuckers I run.
posted by surferboy at 3:47 PM on July 27, 2005

I once grabbed a book off my desk, opened it to the bookmarked section -- and screamed as a house centipede ran out and onto my leg.

In the same apartment, I was once taking a bath when a large house centipede floated past me.

I moved.
posted by showmethecalvino at 3:52 PM on July 27, 2005

Honey, Please. I've been killing spiders since I was thirty.
/Woody Allen
posted by OneOliveShort at 4:25 PM on July 27, 2005

So that's what those things are. Even my cats, who normally enjoy chasing bugs, keep their distance from the centipedes.

When I was working for the U of C press, I betrayed the cause of feminism by shrieking (loudly) and jumping on a chair at my first encounter with a water bug. Apparently, they enjoy hanging out in the basement under Wieboldt Hall (when they aren't hassling innocent editorial assistants, that is).
posted by thomas j wise at 4:32 PM on July 27, 2005

Truly great site, thank you.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 4:39 PM on July 27, 2005

oh god, I feel faint....
posted by scody at 4:47 PM on July 27, 2005

I'm another freak who actually likes the house centipedes. If it wasn't for them and the spiders the basement would be crawling in sowbugs. I figure they all sort each other out in the end. Mostly the centipedes dislike light and avoid contact, so it's just the visual yikes to get used to.
posted by nanojath at 4:53 PM on July 27, 2005

By a strange coincidence I was just looking at this site today. We have little teeny tiny yellowish bugs that seem to enjoy paper and wood surfaces -- at least that's where we see them. They are very fast, and I still can't identify them. Maybe they're baby roaches.

Speaking of roaches, those house centipedes, scary as they are, are great roach hunters. I no longer squish them.
posted by swift at 4:54 PM on July 27, 2005

Thanks a lot for reminding me of that house centipede that ran under the stove last week and is unaccounted for...

The first time I saw one, it was in the hallway, and I tried several times to smash it with a shoe before it escaped. Into my bedroom. That was a bad night.

I think what makes them so distrubing is the way they move, with those long legs constantly shifting around in different directions. It makes it hard to tell what they really look like.

At least I know what they're called now.

And the lizard near the bottom of the centipedes page is really cute.
posted by obvious at 4:55 PM on July 27, 2005

Add me to the list of house-centipede-phobes. Thanks for the Sluggy link, Araucaria, since "Fluffies" are what we call them around here. I, like surferboy, am a large man, and I scream like a girl and flee whenever I see one of those horrible creatures. Then I make my girlfriend go kill it.

I was also very happy to see the page about dobsonflies, since now I know the true identity of the Amazing Camp Airy Death Bug (circa 1992).
posted by Faint of Butt at 4:59 PM on July 27, 2005

I can deal with centipedes.

I've been bitten (twice) by a brown recluse spider. Please do not fool with that, if you should get one. They are night hunters, and tend to be shy. If you plan to clean an attic or a seldom-used cupboard, spray it a day ahead, and wear long sleeves and gloves when you do it. Both times I got bitten was in bed, because the bed is a mattress on an old waterbed platform , and they seemed to live underneath it in the dark. I haven't been bitten since we spray underneath the platform a couple of times a year.
I mention this because they seem to be moving north, and a lot of docs will tell you they don't have them in your area. They may, and there are places to look up where they've been seen.
Pictures of wounds (not for the faint of heart, and NSFW) which you can avoid, but a nice database about where folks have been bitten and when. (Via Metachat.org)

It starts by looking like a burn, with a huge blister. The venom is necrotoxic, and it's a catalyst, not consumed in the reaction, so it just keeps spreading under the skin. In a couple of days, it's likely to look like a miniature bedsore (I hope you do not know what that looks like.) The part you worry about is that it causes "cellulitis", which is an infection of the fatty tissues, and it's hard to get rid of because fatty tissues aren't well vascularized.

Sorry if this disturbs you. I don't mean to. I want to mention they are spread much farther north than a lot of doctors think (mine was very clever) and that it can be very hard to treat if you don't know what it is. It's relatively easy to avoid, and I'd rather you had the tools to fight back with to avoid the problem.

(I am sincerely sorry if I upset anyone, my intent is simply to give you enough information to protect yourself.)
posted by unrepentanthippie at 5:16 PM on July 27, 2005

God this thread is making me itchy.
posted by jrossi4r at 5:19 PM on July 27, 2005

i found one of those "house centipedes" on my bedroom wall once! scariest bug i've ever seen!

i could only bear to look at the site for about 30 seconds before i started getting really skeeved out. *shudder*
posted by geeky at 5:27 PM on July 27, 2005

What *is* it about these things? I kill them for Faint of Butt, and in return I make him kill most other things. But he STILL has the better end of the deal I think!

Ick. Ick. Ick.
posted by Jenesta at 5:36 PM on July 27, 2005

Check this sucker out. I took this photo a few months ago in San Antonio. The shiny thing is a quarter.

posted by iconjack at 6:25 PM on July 27, 2005

Holy Christ! As if it didn't look dangerous enough, it has a friggin' bright red head!
posted by swift at 6:53 PM on July 27, 2005

god, i'm glad to live in the great white north, where bugs die young. and small.
posted by RedEmma at 7:05 PM on July 27, 2005

Oh god, I feel faint.... I can't bear to look at another photo! Damn you people, stop posting pictures!!!

(As for the centipedes- While they were overrunning my basement, I called them "channings"; they reminded me of grotesquely huge, undulating false eyelashes. I pray I never see another one, roach killers or not.)
posted by maryh at 7:20 PM on July 27, 2005

Centipedes? I got centipedes. House centipedes and 8-inch nasties like in iconjack's picture. Lots of them, some summers. They like the shower. It's bad enough to encounter one, but an entirely different thing to find ones self naked in a small room with 'em.

Got bit by one of the big guys last summer. It hurt, a lot, and left a scar.

Once after putting my kid to bed, I felt something weird in my belly button, and upon inspection found a one-inch version curled up there. The missus said I made sounds that are not often heard from an adult male.
posted by Absit Invidia at 7:41 PM on July 27, 2005

Amen, RedEmma. Around here the most irritating things are the daddy long legs, and they just bump around like idiots.

I have never seen a house centipede, and hope not to.
posted by jokeefe at 7:41 PM on July 27, 2005

I had a metallic black mud dauber wasp flying slowly through the room. When it lands, it flicks its wings to flash the blue-black color. Zapped it with bug spray, it died horribly, but I didn't want to get close enough to swat it.

I do like a lot of the bugs that are out in the yard. I have green praying mantises, they are a half inch long early in the year, then get maybe 2 inches long. Not threatening, they are slow movers. And I have a bunch of fireflies every year.
posted by jjj606 at 7:59 PM on July 27, 2005

One lazy Sunday morning, cashiering at a drugstore, I had a house centipede zooming all over. It's at my register! It's in aisle 6! It's back at my register!

I hadn't had much sleep the previous night and was dangerously close to nodding off. That centipede fixed that right quick. As mentioned before, I think it's that hypnotic and distinctly insectlike way that their legs cascade that make them so creepy...

(At first I assumed it was a silverfish, but later figured out what it really was...)
posted by neckro23 at 9:09 PM on July 27, 2005

Iconjack, I fought that thing in Final Fantasy III. It gave me 700xp and an ether.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 9:16 PM on July 27, 2005

The only good things I can say about House Centipedes is that they're not too fast, and they're very squishy. And, fortunately, I only see one every six months or so.
Also, great site.
posted by Busithoth at 10:28 PM on July 27, 2005

House centipedes are the best! Growing up in Scotland, amazing bug encounters were few. The only memorable one was with a stag beetle; imagine a flying Matchbox/HotWheels car with a bottle opener attached.

But here in Canada, we've got great bugs! If only we had lightning bugs (aka Summer Night Acid Flashbacks), it would be perfect. But I'm happy with house centipedes, june bugs, jumping spiders, crickets and cicadas.

tpl1212, the house 'pede's latin name's Scutigera coleoptrata, which might explain your mom's name for them.
posted by scruss at 4:00 AM on July 28, 2005

Do I laugh? Do I cry? Do I scream? ALL THREE!! Bwaagghlrlrghhahaha!!
posted by cavalier at 7:13 AM on July 28, 2005

I didn't know centipedes ate roaches...damn, who do you root for in that fight? Centipedes, since there's fewer of them, I guess.

I think the cries of "eek" here are funny. There are some really lovely-looking, non-lethal bugs on that site too. Although I could have gone without knowing there is a bug known as a "toe-biter" that both flies and swims...and bites you. That's wrong.

Shout out to all the fellow Texans...anybody else here seen a tarantula migration? That's a hell of a thing to witness. Most of them get squashed when they cross a road though.
posted by emjaybee at 7:23 AM on July 28, 2005

This thread should be labeled "NSFPWAPAHFI" - Not Safe For People Who Are Paranoid About Huge Freaky Insects.

Like me. I am SO glad that we moved from South Texas to Montana a few years ago -- in Texas, you can throw a saddle on some of those fuckers.
posted by davidmsc at 8:00 AM on July 28, 2005

And all along I thought my fear of house centipedes was abnormal.... There is truly something primordially disturbing about them. Even killing them is not for the squeamish: their legs fall off and start wriggling like mad. I always get the horrifying thought that the legs will just turn into to more centipedes.
posted by malaprohibita at 8:18 AM on July 28, 2005

Lest we forget the clock spider or camel spider.

/gouges out brain
posted by jewzilla at 5:02 PM on July 28, 2005

Well, at least it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one with these crawling around my house. Actually I think it might make me feel a little less freaked out the next time I see one, also with the knowledge that they aren't harmful and are actually good at keeping out other bugs. The only worse thing than house centiipedes are cockroaches. At least with centipedes, I don't see them all that often. Sometimes a couple of times a day, almost always just one at a time, and often I can go weeks without seeing a single one. Whereas with roaches, you know as soon as you turn out the lights, they're all going to come out of hiding and start crawling anywhere and since it's dark you can't see them. Not to mention the horror of being grossed out when you open the fridge, the medicine chest or a kitchen cupboard. Years ago, I lived in an apartment for a short time that was crawling with them. I just have to keep reminding myself of how awful that was and hope that helps me get over an occasional centipede.
posted by marsha56 at 6:04 PM on July 28, 2005

Thanks for this post. I love bugs. (^_^)
posted by MightyNez at 6:48 AM on July 29, 2005

What's wrong with you people? House centipedes are awesome.

Seeing pictures of the toe-biter, on the other hand, made me feel distinctly uncomfortable about the fact that I'm sitting on the floor.
posted by squidlarkin at 8:43 AM on July 29, 2005

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