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Tales from the woodpile #1

August 13, 2013

Whoever said that this July was one of the warmest on record wasn’t living on Junction Hill. We have been through a pile of firewood. Last weekend we headed up to the woodpile again to split some more fuel. What we discovered in doing so was a collection of animals equal in variety to those in the Healesville Sanctuary, but these ones don’t cost anything to visit.

DSCN2602The critter pictured left is one of a number of species known as House Centipedes. They all belong to a group known as scutigeromorphs, which are distinguished by having compound eyes. All other centipedes have single-lens eyes. This one, an import from the Mediterranean, is Scutigera coleoptrata. You can tell by the pair of prominent spines on the first joint of legs 6 to 14 (true!). The adult has 15 pairs of legs. The centipede pictured only has eleven pairs, meaning it has only been through 4 of its nine moulting phases. Either that or I chopped off four pairs of legs when splitting the wood … only joking.

The other centipede I came across (pictured right)DSCN2609 is of the Order Scolopendramorpha. Identifying it further meant getting up close and personal with it and it did not appear to be in the mood, hence I wasn’t either.

Both species are predatory, feeding mainly at night on spiders, cockroaches, ants and other centipedes. In S.  coleoptera the antenna act as both a touch and a smell organ. These animals deserve to be left alone. As ferocious as they look, they play an important role in reducing invertebrate pests. And you should see them play soccer.

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