|Image: Tod Baker|
Centipedes have long antennae which they use for sensing their surroundings and finding food. For a giant centipede food can include lizards, rodents, tarantulas and of all things, bats. They are utterly opportunistic and will eat just about anything they are capable of catching and holding down with a dozen or so legs. This, even if it requires crawling into a cave, hanging off the ceiling like a Hallowe'en decoration (using a dozen or so other legs) and catching a bat in mid-air. Some of them have compound eyes that look akin to that of insects, but are in fact just a cluster of simple eyes called ocelli which can tell light from dark and little else. That doesn't mean you can mess with a Giant Centipede though! Let's take a look at why.
For one thing, there are those oddly elongated hindmost legs. Many centipedes can use these as back-end antennae, so coming from behind is not necessarily a great idea.
If you're lucky they'll just flee. While not exactly built for speed, the longer centipedes with fewer legs can run at quite a pelt, some 20 inches per second apparently.
Hopefully they'll be running in the right direction: away. If it gets on you and starts clambering all over you in a fretful state, some giant centipedes can pierce skin with the claws on their feet. Some also release nasty substances from glands near their legs. Now, this could be sticky stuff that can defend against ants. It could be distasteful stuff that could teach some animal what not to eat. It could also be a load of stuff dripping down their legs and getting under your skin through the little holes their claws are creating. This can cause a trail of swollen skin and teach you what not to mess with.
Another thing you have to realise is that not only can giant centipedes run fast, they can also react fast. While you're joking around at the hindmost legs you may well find the foremost legs are greeting you with a speed you hadn't counted on.
Centipedes are fairly long-lived, especially compared to insects. Some can live for a decade in the wild and even longer in captivity, so he could be your dangerous friend for quite some time.
Some females also protect their eggs from predators and cleanse them of fungus. Sometimes her young will even eat their mother when they hatch. Start as you mean to go on, I guess.