How to Recognize Giant Carnivorous Centipedes

Two Parts:Identifying the Ethmostigmus rubripes (Giant Centipede)Identifying the Scolopendra Gigantea (Peruvian Giant Yellow-Leg Centipede)

The giant centipede is not your average backyard or attic centipede. On the contrary, these carnivorous large insects can inject venom toxic to mammals that can cause severe pain for days.[1] Knowing how to identify one can help you to sidestep one and let it carry on with its own business, while you get on with yours somewhere else.

Part 1
Identifying the Ethmostigmus rubripes (Giant Centipede)

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    Note where the giant centipede is located. It is usually found throughout Australia (except for Tasmania) Oceania, (New Guinea, Solomon Islands) and in Indonesia, Southeast Asia and China.[1] If you live anywhere in these areas, you can ask locals for their knowledge about the extent and location of these centipedes.
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    Check the color. These centipedes usually range from dark blue-green-brown to orange yellow with black stripes. The underside and legs are yellow. The antennae are usually yellow too, but sometimes these are found in darker colors.
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    Check the body shape, number of body segments, and number of legs. Giant centipedes usually have long and flattened bodies, 25 or 27 body segments, and 21 or 23 pairs of legs. They measure around about 16 centimeters (6.3 in) in length.
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    Watch for fangs. They usually look like large pinchers at the bottom on the head.
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    Know where they hide.They are usually found hiding under logs, leaves, rocks, etc. They are solitary, terrestrial, and nocturnal, so you probably won't see them running all about during the day. Giant centipedes can be found in dry and moist areas.

Part 2
Identifying the Scolopendra Gigantea (Peruvian Giant Yellow-Leg Centipede)

  1. Image titled Recognize Giant Carnivorous Centipedes Step 6
    Know where this centipede can be found. As their name indicates, the Peruvian giant centipede (also known as the Amazonian giant centipede) lives in parts of South America and the Caribbean. They prefer tropical or subtropical areas and are most common in St Thomas, Grenada, Jamaica, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, St Martin, Trinidad, and the northwestern regions of South America. You can check for their popularity in your area.
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    Know what they look like. These insects are usually very large, being among the largest of all centipedes, ranging in length from 9 to 12 inches. Their body typically consists of 21 to 23 well-marked segmented areas with a pair of legs on each segment. The head is covered in a shield, from which protrudes a pair of sensitive antennae. Near the head is also located a pair of modified legs with sharp claws called forcipules. The body is a coppery orange to maroon color with black bands, and the legs (and underbelly) are yellow, as its name suggests.
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    Know their behaviour. These centipedes are jumpy and can move very quickly if disturbed, and can climb most vertical surfaces. This centipede is known for its extreme aggression when looking for food and can kill and eat most small animals such as birds, lizards, and mice. They are nocturnal and usually hide during the day.


  • Look for simply a long body and yellow legs with black bands on top. Once you see these, you can be pretty sure you've found one. Their colors are usually more prominent then those of regular house centipedes, which are paler in color.
  • If you see one of these, it will probably run (since they are very skittish), so move out of the way in case they accidentally run the wrong way and up your pants. In that case, it can possibly pierce the skin with their sharp claws. Some can release nasty substances near their legs, used as to discourage other animals from eating them or pursuing their trail. If this gets into open skin, it can cause it to swell. So it's best just to stay out of the trail of wild ones.
  • Some people like to keep these centipedes as pets.
  • You probably wouldn't pick up a centipede by its head, but actually it's not much safer to touch its back end. For one thing, those elongated hindmost legs are actually another set on antennae, and a centipede can also curl up and bite the hand that's holding its tail.


  • Never try to pick up or get too close to a giant carnivorous centipede. Though usually not fatal to humans, their bite is definitely not pleasant and can be extremely painful.

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Categories: Biology | Bugs