Super rare and venomous centipede found in University of Leicester academic’s home

The first recorded Scutigera coleoptrata in Nottinghamshire (Credit - Dr Richard Jones)

  • Scutigera coleoptrata is a carnivorous, venomous, insectivore, and the fastest-moving centipede in the world. It is a native of southern Europe
  • There have been fewer than 50 reported sightings in the UK since the first reported case in 1883 and associated with the importation of rags from the Mediterranean
  • Reported sightings have been on the increase in recent years
  • One potential explanation may be that climate change is allowing the species to colonise more northerly latitudes.
  • This individual is the first confirmed instance of S. coleoptrata in Nottinghamshire.

A rare, venomous centipede has been discovered in Nottinghamshire for the first time. The discovery was made in the home of University of Leicester academic, Dr Richard Jones, Associate Professor of Landscape History in the Centre for Regional and Local History on 11 January 2024.

Scutigera coleoptrata, commonly known as the House Centipede, is a voracious predator of insects and arachnids. Possessing large bulbous eyes and extremely long legs, it is the fastest-moving centipede in the world. It uses its long front legs to lasso its prey and its fearsome fangs to inject them with venom.

This centipede is thought to be indigenous to the Mediterranean but has spread through much of Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. However, the critter remains extremely rare in the UK.

Their bite is thankfully non-fatal to humans and has been described as akin to a bee sting.

Dr Jones, who lives in Upton, near Newark-on-Trent, spotted the centipede in his downstairs bathroom. 

He had the centipede formally identified by Steve Gregory from the British Myriapod and Isopod Group and later reported to the Notts Wildlife Trust and Notts Biological and Geological Records Centre.

The sighting was then added to iRECORD, a national database hosted by the Biological Records Centre, part of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

According to an article published in early 2023, there have only been 38 confirmed sightings since 1883. However, in the last few years, the number of reports has been on the rise.

In 2023, ten new verified sightings of Scutigera coleoptrata were added to iRECORD.

Experts suggest that climate change may be one factor that is enabling this Mediterranean animal to move north and perhaps establish permanent colonies. They also suggest that AI has allowed easier identification of animals and plants captured in mobile phone photographs leading to the rise in reported sightings.

Dr Jones said: “'I really encourage people to keep an eye out for the unusual and report their findings. There are some brilliant experts out there willing to help and confirm identifications. The more information we can gather about the changes taking place in our environment right now, the better equipped we'll be to assess the likely impacts of increasingly warm temperatures in the UK. It's often the smallest things that are the most important.

“Encounters such as this are a reminder that we should expect the unexpected as the world warms. This centipede has brought that home to me, literally.”

Dr Jones’ new housemate remains at large and he is taking every opportunity to observe its behaviour.