Stigmatogaster subterranea

Western Yellow Centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea

If you turn over a stone or a rock, or lift a paving slab in your garden, like I did here, you may find one of these long, yellow/orange centipedes living underneath it. Because they never keep still and are constantly looking for a way to lose itself under something or by burrowing in the earth once exposed, I have had to photograph it in a small crock dish. Because of its movements I have had to use a very fast shutter speed combined with flash to virtually ‘freeze’ it.

Western Yellow Centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea

It has been dubbed the ‘Western Yellow Centipede’, and it also went by the synonym Haplophilus subterraneus. It belongs to a group called Geophilomorpha, the so-called ‘earth centipedes’. They are also sometimes referred to as ‘wire centipedes’ or ‘wireworms’, and you can see why because of their long length and thin appearance. The is Britain’s longest centipede and it can grow up to 70mm (almost 3in) long. If you took the trouble to count the leg segments in the image directly above you would count 81 of them, which adds up to 162 legs. They can have between 77 and 83 leg segments, which is a diagnostic feature of this species. Another key feature which helps identify it are the numerous small coxal pores on the last leg bearing section as can be seen in the image directly below.

Western Yellow Centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea

You can find these animals all year round in various habitats, but especially in urban environments like parks and gardens. Take a look under rocks and stones, paving slabs, small logs, in leaf litter and under moss, amongst other places, and you may come across it. they are common and widespread up to southern Scotland.

Western Yellow Centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea

Above and below images shows close-ups of the head of Stigmatogaster subterranea. In the image below it has wiggled itself over so you can clearly see the poison claws. They are predatory animals, which will hunt other invertebrates, but will also nibble on the roots of your plants.

Western Yellow Centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea

Western Yellow Centipede Stigmatogaster subterranea

Thanks to Craig Slawson of the Staffordshire Ecological Record for confirming identification.

August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.

25 thoughts on “Stigmatogaster subterranea

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  1. He’s quite a nice looking centipede! Over here we have some huge ones that have much longer legs and are a lot bigger. In fact they look like small mobile fringed rugs – and I’m told they have quite a sting!

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      1. Crumbs Pete! I’m nearly as scared of the centipedes as I am of the carpet spiders! They move like greased lightning. Really odd in that I don’t mind millipedes a bit. I will try and get a pic next time I encounter a centipede, which is most often in the house 😱

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  2. This looks like one of those alien critters from outer space. Must be the colour that makes me feel that way. I’m not a fan of centipedes one bit. Must be all those legs that allow them to move so fast. I find your photos fascinating, but am glad I don’t see the real insect too much around my area.

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    1. They do look kind of alien close up, Vicki. I am glad you find them fascinating πŸ™‚ I tend to come across them when digging in the garden. I am just amazed how such a simple brain can coordinate all those multiple legs.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for your outstanding photos, provided excellent identification. Thought I knew most of the common “bugs” I might find. Just had one of these show up at my house…in Texas! Never seen anything like it and now I know why.
    Unfortunately, I took a picture of it (definitely not as pretty as yours) before I flushed it.

    Liked by 1 person

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