Skip to Content

Vietnamese Centipede

The Very Scary Vietnamese Centipede

Viewed under a magnifying glass, the Vietnamese centipede could easily pass for a monster from outer space, an evil monster for that matter. Though the species is collected and kept as pets by people who collect such things, it is large (for a centipede), extremely fast, aggressive, and has a venomous sting.

Most centipedes are predators and most have a toxic sting. Among the 1,500 or so species known to exist, only a few pose a real danger to humans, but one of those that can is the Vietnamese centipede. Most centipedes have a milder venom and most, being smaller cannot penetrate human skin with their fangs. The fangs by the way are not the type of fangs usually associated with teeth, but are rather a part of the centipede’s front pair of legs.

The Vietnamese centipede lives not only in Vietnam but in other Southeast Asian and tropical countries as well, including Hawaii. While Hawaii is not known as a home to venomous creatures, this centipede is an exception and a visitor to the Aloha state is well advised to avoid them when possible and certainly not try to handle them. One would think that anyone collecting centipedes would avoid this one, but most collectors would like a larger specimen in their collection. Since all the large centipedes have fearsome stings anyway, and this particular species is easily obtainable, the thinking probably is – why not?

The Scolopendra Giants – This centipede belongs is one of the five orders (Scolopendromorpha), and is a member of the Scolopendra subspinipes species. Close relatives include several other centipedes, which as a group make up the world’s largest centipedes, often reaching a foot or more in length. All are quite venomous. Near relatives include the Giant Desert centipede, found in the American Southwest, the Tanzanian Blue Leg Centipede from east Africa, the Peruvian Giant which may be the world’s largest centipede species, the Puerto Rican Giant, and the Megarian Banded Centipede, another giant, found in Southern Europe and in the Mediterranean region. The Megarian Banded is the smallest of the giant centipedes, plus its sting is not as venomous, though you still would not want to test it. It is considered a little easier to handle, and as such makes a good first candidate for a novice centipede collector. The Tanzanian Blue Leg is probably the most attractive of the larger centipedes, with its sapphire coloring. Beauty can be deceiving though, as like other near relatives, the Tanzania Blue Leg is fast, fearless, and ferocious.

Not Just Fierce, But Fast – Although the word centipede roughly translates as “100 feet” in Latin, most centipedes have far fewer feet, or legs, with anywhere from 15 to 30 pair being somewhat typical. The centipede’s body is made up of a series of segments, with most segments having a single pair of legs. Going from the front of a centipede towards its tail, each pair of legs is slightly longer than the pair in front of it, with the hind legs being longest. This is presumably to keep the centipede’s legs from becoming all tangled up when it is running at full tilt, which is very fast indeed. One of the larger species has been known to catch bats in flight. With speed like that, coupled with an aggressive nature, caring for one in a home aquarium tank could easily get a little dicey at times. The centipede is likely unaware that it is a pet, and certainly does not act like one. It won’t try to hunt a human down. It will try to get away if it can. But if cornered, it will stand its ground and probably attack. Personally, if you are a collector, there are other things which might make better collectibles.

Related Resources: