Though the name "centipede" means "a hundred legs", most centipedes actually have much fewer. The common centipede has 15 pairs of legs and is an agile hunter.
Centipedes can live up to three years.
Adult centipedes have 30 legs. They are 2-3cm long.
Common centipedes are long thin, rusty-brown-coloured creatures with segmented bodies and a single pair of legs on each segment. There are two long antennae and a modified pair of legs that function as jaws at the head. The hind pair of legs project backwards and are as long as the centipede's antennae, making it difficult to tell which is the front end.
They are widespread and common in Britain and Europe.
Centipedes can be found under stones, in soil and decaying matter. They are commonly found in gardens.
They feed on insects, spiders and other small invertebrates including other centipedes.
Common centipedes are fast crawlers and can crawl backwards almost as easily as forwards. They have poor eyesight and rely on their sensitive antennae to find their way around. The hind pair of legs have sensory bristles that allow them to feel their way when crawling backwards. Centipedes are nocturnal and prowl around at night searching for prey, which they paralyse with their venomous claws.
The exoskeleton has no waterproofing so centipedes prefer to stay in damp places. During summer, centipedes will burrow into the soil to stay moist.
Centipedes locate each other by means of pheromones which are released by the female. When a male has located a female, he weaves a small silk pad and deposits a small package of sperm on it. The female then picks up the package with some special claspers at her rear end. The eggs are laid singly in soil.
Centipedes have only 14 legs when they hatch. As they grow they shed their skin and grow new segments and legs.
Common centipedes are not listed as endangered on IUCN Red List.
If a centipede loses a leg it can grow another to replace it.
There are 44 species of centipede found in the UK.