Quick: what has 42 to 46 creepy legs, can grow over 20 creepy centimetres long and lives in Texas?
The answer is Scolopendra heros, otherwise known as the Texas redheaded centipede or giant redheaded centipede. Despite its name, it can be found from northern Mexico through the southern US, from Arizona in the west to Missouri in the east. I've always said you can't trust anything with more than six legs, and here's why.
While the invertebrates spend a lot of time safely underground, or hiding under logs or leaf litter, cloudy cool days have a way of bringing them to the surface. Here they prey upon all manner of living things, including some vertebrates: rodents, lizards, toads and even some snakes. Perhaps that's what sent this particular centipede crawling up a broom at Garner State Park in Texas's Hill Country.
While they're not capable of bringing down bats like some of their multi-legged relatives found elsewhere in the world (seriously, go watch that, centipedes are amazing!), Texas redheads do appear able to snatch flying insects right out of the air.
A centipede sting can be thought of a lot like a bee sting. For most folks, it only results in a sharp, brief pain accompanied by swelling for a few hours. But sometimes, this can be accompanied by minor skin necrosis, dizziness, nausea and headaches. And in a few instances, Scolopendra bites have even led to muscle damage, kidney failure and heart attacks.
A sting from one of these critters has never resulted in a human death, but they should be respected at all times. It's no wonder they're so brightly coloured. In nature, that usually means one thing: stay away.
Top header image: Mike Keeling/Flickr