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Giant centipede found in the UK

31 August 2005

An example of the world's largest species of centipede has been been found crawling up a living room wall in Islington.

Mr Aaron Balick found the centipede in his living room after hearing a rustling sound coming from under some papers behind his television. 'When I lifted the papers, I saw this prehistoric looking animal skitter away behind a stack of books,' Aaron said.

Aaron managed to capture the centipede in a large plastic container and took it to the Natural History Museum to be identified.

First live specimen

The giant centipede, Scolopendra gigantea, is a highly venomous centipede native to Central and South America.

The specimen found is over 23cm long and 2cm wide (without legs). Its discovery in the UK is very unusual and in fact this is the first live specimen of this species that the Museum has ever been asked to identify.

The giant centipede is over 23cm long.

This giant centipede specimen is more than 23cm long.

Centipede stowaway

Museum experts believe that it could have found its way to the UK as a stowaway in electrical equipment or a large import of fruit.

Stuart Hine, insect expert and manager of the Natural History Museum's Insect Identification Service, said, 'Large and exotic invertebrates are transported with goods all the time. But you would expect that something of this size and ferocity to be discovered long before it reached the haven of someone's home. Aaron was incredibly brave to have tackled this centipede as he did'.

Diet of locusts

The centipede, which has still not yet been sexed, is happily residing at Stuart's home. It is being fed on a diet of locusts and should live for decades in captivity. Stuart is curious to see how big it will grow, having seen one report of a 45.72cm specimen (18 inches) from Venezuela.

Insect Identification Service

The Museum's Insect Identification Service mainly takes calls from members of the public about insects they have found in their home or garden. It also provides an identification service for commercial purposes such as identification of crop pests.

The majority of these identifications are performed by the department's specialist entomologists and backed up by the department's unrivalled insect/arachnid collections and associated library.