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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to Craig Slawson of the Staffordshire Ecological Record for confirming identification.
August 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.