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Megarian banded centipede

Scolopendra cingulata

The most predatory centipede in Ukraine, the Megarian banded centipede can grow up to 10 centimetres long. It has clusters of primitive eyes on the sides of its head. Its back may be dark brown, or sometimes khaki in colour. Its flattened body consists of 21 to 23 segments. Its legs are adapted not only to allow fast movement, but also to grab prey. The back pair of legs (the so-called pulling legs) are hooked and serve as a powerful anchor when grabbing large prey.

The Megarian banded centipede is very common in Crimea and the southern oblasts of Ukraine up to the city of Dnipro. Outside Ukraine, it is found in the Caucasus, Moldova and Mediterranean countries.

During the day, these centipedes hide under stones or in cracks in rocks and soil, and they hunt at night. The Megarian banded centipede feeds on insects, insect larvae and molluscs, and may sometimes even attack small lizards. In Ukraine, only female centipedes are common, breeding through parthenogenesis — that is, without being fertilised by a male. In spring, before laying her eggs, the centipede creates a burrow in the soil and rolls into a ball. She covers the eggs with her body and remains there for weeks, without eating. The centipedes that hatch from the eggs are miniature copies of the adults, but whitish/transparent in colour. If unable to find food for a long time, an adult centipede may eat her own young. These centipedes secrete antibiotic substances, and if the eggs or very young centipedes are separated from the mother, they die from mould. The Megarian banded centipede also secretes a strong poison: it is the only species of centipede in Ukraine that can bite through human skin, although its bite is not lethal. The pain is similar to that of a hornet's sting. After being bitten, a person may have a temperature of over 39°C and the bitten limb becomes significantly swollen, although symptoms disappear after two or three days. Even without biting, a centipede that is frightened while walking across human skin will leave scar tracks that last for a few days, as it has poisonous glands on the edge of each claw. However, if undisturbed the centipede will leave no such marks on the skin.

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