Sunday, May 15, 2011

Encounter with a House Centipede

It was almost pitch black, with a faint light streaming through the makeshift curtain--a white sheet hanging from the gated window. I awoke to the loud sounds of the toilet flushing. Oh my god who's in my apartment? It's still going.... Oh, they must be working on the building plumbing again. What the hell, it's like 3 or 4 am!

I drifted back to sleep. Dreams about shady businessmen out to rob me, and puppies.

I was slowly brought back to the waking world again when I felt an itch. It grew stronger, until I was finally pulled into consciousness. I felt its dozens of tiny legs tickling my neck. I rolled away and quickly jumped up from my mattress pad on the floor. There was an inch-long thing scurrying about where I was just laying. It was making figure eights and not seeming to be headed anywhere. Of course I wanted to get a better look at whatever it was that was just having relations with my neck, so I turned on the light. It quickly scampered into a hole in the wooden floor beside the heater. I should tell the super about that bug and that hole. Maybe I should buy some pesticide myself at the hardware store, and pour it into the hole. Argh, the store opens at 10am. Hmm, may as well look up what kind of bug it was.

And so I turned to trusty all-knowing Google and searched for various terms, "identify insects nyc", "black and white striped legs insects" (since it seemed to leave a leg behind which I picked from my neck). A pretty useful exterminator site was the first hit. After not being satisfied with the results, though, I figured I'd give up and leave it for another day. Since it came from a hole in the wood, maybe it was a carpenter ant?

I mindlessly threw the insect leg onto the floor, figuring I'd sweep it up later. After a minute or so, I saw the thing crawl back out of the hole and come towards me again! Did it detect its leg? It stopped at the edge of the mattress pad, in the shadow. And it just sat there. Now was my chance--I grabbed some paper towel and SMASH! Deaded it.

I picked up the carcass and examined it closely--looked like it had a lot of legs, most of which were detached. And a cucumber-shaped body. Reminded me of a centipede, so I searched Google Images. And yep, that was exactly right. After more searching I determined that these house centipedes actually hunt other insects and are not harmful to humans. Dammit!

Worth reading if you want to know more about house centipedes: This guy's page was also a Google search result. He seems to have had a long history with these house centipedes during his residence in NYC.

Oh yeah, and before lying down again, I noticed about 6 more legs just lying there in the middle of my mattress pad.

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