“What is this!?!!!” begins this query, sent in by a first time mom who is “slightly terrified” of the organism she found when unclogging her shower. At first she thought this long, reddish-brown critter with antennae was a parasite, but after a while became uncertain and hopes that we can identify the organism for her.
To start off with, our reader provided quite a lot of context, which we are very thankful for, as well as some clear photographs and videos which really help us identify the creature. Her decision to unclog her shower came as a result of finding out that “honey isn’t the most common origin of botulism” (a rare, but fatal disease caused by a number of things). Once she got to unclogging her shower, which is located on the basement level of her house “built prior to the 70s”, this organism came up with the other detritus. Naturally, our reader became concerned and the conclusion her mind jumped to was that it might be some type of parasite, and that the water she and her baby had been showering in was contaminated.
Following this, she placed the organism in a stainless steel bowl with wet paper towels and wrapped it up in a plastic bag, “so that it was nearly airtight if not completely.” The next day, when she opened the bag, she discovered that the organism was still alive. It was then that she thought it might not be a parasite after all, but a baby centipede. She wants to release it into the outdoors but worries that, in the case it is a parasite, it will harm other organisms. Thus far, she has continued to keep it in “captivity”, and though she feels guilty about this, her priorities are protecting her baby and cat, which is understandable, and her “fears have not yet been assuaged.”
Well, we hope that we can assuage her fears by letting her know that her latter guess of this being a centipede is correct, and it is not a parasite! Centipedes are predatory arthropods. This means that they are carnivorous and eat other animals, and that their body is made up of segments and has a hard exoskeleton which protects them from other predators. Although certain centipede species can be harmful to mammals, it really depends on their size. The smaller they are, the less dangerous, and this centipede is really quite small. This is because centipedes produce a toxin which they inject into their prey using pincers at the front of their heads, and the smaller the centipede, the less poison they can secrete. Nonetheless, when they feel threatened, they may also bite animals larger than themselves, such as humans, though when they are anything smaller than the giant centipedes of the tropical regions, their sting is most likely only going to cause some itching and mild pain. Our reader mentioned she had minimal contact with the centipede when she put it in captivity, and she was right in doing that.
Now, how this centipede ended up in our reader’s shower drain we cannot say for sure. Perhaps there were some dead flies or mites down there it wanted to eat, or perhaps it just fell down there. Either way, it is not going to have contaminated our reader’s shower water, and is also not going to be a danger to other organisms (other than the moths, flies and other insects it hunts) if she releases it into the wild. Therefore, we recommend that she does release it from its steel prison and into the wild, where it can roam free.
To conclude, the organism our reader found in her shower drain is not a parasite, but a centipede! While centipedes are not completely harmless, one of this size is not going to cause our reader, her baby, or her cat any substantial harm, and our reader has already done a great job of preventing the centipede from stinging herself or others. We hope that this article was insightful, but mostly that it quelled any of the fears our reader had for the safety of her baby. If she has any other questions or queries, she is welcome to share them in the comments section!