Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Beware...Centipedes and Millipedes

Yup, these creepy crawly creatures also call Maui home. Centipedes are bigger than millipedes and look like they are wearing full plated body armor. They move darn quickly, as the video shows below. And yes, they do bite. Although my experience is, they'd rather run away first and bite only if necessary. 

A friend got bitten one evening walking barefoot across his yard to pick nasturtium flowers for salad.  Even though people like to walk barefoot here, and it feels more "local," it’s tempting the fates. He got bitten and treated it with some ice and an aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce the swelling, but it got infected a couple of days later, and he ended up taking antibiotics.  Centipede bites are not things to fool around with.

My worst centipede experience was when I lived on Oahu. I was 12 or 13, and came home from school to find a big brown stick in my bed. But it moved. It was a really long centipede. I freaked out, of course, and then calmed down, got a big jar, the biggest I could find, and placed the jar over as much of the centipede as I could, wriggled the jar around with the centipede wriggling around partly inside and outside the jar, and then capped it as quickly as I could. It was a nerve wracking experience. We gave the centipede to a friend of ours who gave it to a university bug collector. It was apparently a fantastic specimen, and it is still the biggest centipede I have ever seen.

I’ve had friends find centipedes crawling up from the shower drain while they were taking a shower. That’s definitely not a fun experience. It's more common in ...sigh... Haiku or Huelo than drier places like Kihei or Kahului. 

A curled up millipede. Do not disturb. 
Millipedes seem to be more common than centipedes. I find about a 100 millipedes for every centipede. Both of them like damp, cool, dark places like the edges of compost heaps in the garden or in a bed of mulch, or in dark corners. I haven’t seen any in the house, knock on wood. I hope I’m not enticing the centipede and millipedes to pay a house visit by writing about them.

In the garden, the millipedes are rolled up sleepily… they look innocent enough. I can usually grab them quickly with a gloved hand and toss them elsewhere. 

Watch out! Millipede spotted. Suzanne and I are sifting compost at the community garden. There are always gazillions of centipedes in the finished compost pile. Of course we're wearing gloves!

Supposedly chickens eat millipedes so I collected 30 millipedes in a jar from the garden compost heap, and brought them to our hens who turned up their beaks in disdain. They pecked at a couple, killing them rather quickly, but were fairly uninterested in eating them. To my dismay, I had just released 30 millipedes into our yard and there they were, unfurling and getting the heck away from the chickens! There was another variety of millipede that was smaller and skinnier, and one of the chickens pounced on it. But I wouldn't rely on chickens to keep the millipede population down.

Do you have a good centipede or millipede story? I'd love to hear it.  

NOTE: If you're a tourist, you will probably NEVER see a millipede or centipede in your condo or resort area. Don't worry - they don't usually hang out in tourist areas. 


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