Contrary to popular belief, centipedes are beneficial insects that feed on other insects that we see as pests. The house centipede is not known for biting humans, but when it does happen to bite a human, the bite is not severe and is similar to that of a bee sting. There are, however, more dangerous centipedes such as the giant centipede. A bite from a giant centipede can cause severe swelling and pain. Centipedes often crawl over humans, scratching their skin where they can inject venom that may cause swelling and infection.
The body of a centipede is long, narrow and flat and has many segments. Each of these segments have a pair of legs attached to it. Located behind the head of a centipede is a pair of venomous claws.
There are two common species amongst centipedes:
The house centipede is grey in colour with long legs that have alternate dark and white bands. It also has three dark lines running along its body from front to back. When fully grown, they average in length between 5 and 8 cm.
The giant centipede can grow up to 20 cm in length and has shorter legs than the house centipede.
These centipedes are most often found in damp and dark places, such as under leaves, stones, decaying logs and cardboard boxes. They are mainly nocturnal and feed on other insects such as flies, ants, cockroaches and earthworms, as well as on other small animals. Giant centipedes can be found inside of human dwellings, usually in damp bathrooms and basements. They are skittish in nature and will quickly crawl away when disturbed.
Head lice are known for causing great irritation, itching and discomfort when they pierce the skin of the scalp and inject their toxins. These toxins can leave a person feeling fatigued and weary. Scratching of the bite wounds may lead to a fungal or bacterial infection. When left untreated, the lice’s eggs can remain in the hair for a long period of time.
A female head louse can lay up to 300 eggs, which she cements onto the host’s hair. This “cement” is so strong that it cannot be removed without damaging the hair and/or scalp.
The eggs hatch in about 5 to 10 days, where after the young will feed on the blood of the host. Head lice spread when people share combs or brushes, or come in contact with each other’s clothes or person. Head lice are particularly common among those who have poor personal hygiene standards, and in over-crowded places.
Although millipedes do not bite or sting humans, they do secrete a liquid that can cause inflammation and even blindness.
These insects usually live outdoors in the garden in damp and decaying vegetation or wood, on which they will also feed. Millipedes sometimes leave the garden and come into the home, often due to rainy weather that causes the water levels in the soil to rise to an undesirable level.
Millipedes roll into a ball and secrete a repugnant brown or white liquid when threatened. This toxic liquid is usually secreted slowly, but some species are able to spray this liquid towards a predator or threat.
Silverfish are a particularly destructive type of insect that enjoys feeding on paper products such as books and photographs, as well as on wallpaper paste. These insects are wingless with flat, slim bodies. Their bodies are fish shaped (tapering gradually towards the back end), hence the name, silverfish.
Silverfish are mainly nocturnal and tend to avoid sunlight, staying anywhere where it is dark and sheltered. Areas in the home that they tend to frequent include basements and book shelves. They feed at night, usually on glue, linen, silk, paper and human food.
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