Giant Desert Centipedes

Otherwise known as giant desert centipedes (Scolopendra heros), or giant redheaded centipedes, have 23 pairs of legs and four individual ocelli on each side of the head. These characteristics indicate that the giant desert centipede belongs to the Order Scolopendromorpha.

Despite their name, giant desert centipede are most often collected from rocky woodlands. They have been located in Arkansas, Southern Missouri, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Northern Mexico. Giant desert centipedes average approximately 15 cm in length.

Giant desert centipedes have distinct coloration. Some specimens display chestnut-red heads and first two body segments, black trunks with green traces and twenty pairs of bright yellow legs. This bright, or aposematic, coloration indicates the giant desert centipede’s confrontational character and poisonous qualities, hence warding off potential predators.

Like other centipede species, giant desert centipedes feed on small insects and arthropods. Their exceptional size also allows them to pursue and feed upon larger prey such as toads, small snakes and other vertebrates. In captivity, giant desert centipedes can subsist on moths alone.

During mating season, female giant desert centipedes lay eggs in the hollowed cavities of rotten wood. Giant desert centipede females watch over their eggs, protecting them from predators and the growth of fungus. Upon hatching, these centipedes possess a full set of legs, although their distinctive color patterns do not appear until adulthood.