Would somebody please tell me how to turn off the "terrifying bug magnet" in my house?

August 5, 2007 | 19 comments

Yesterday afternoon my toddler ran out onto the back porch to look for my husband. I was about to turn around and go back inside when I saw some stray toy in his path. I didn’t recognize this long black object with neon red and yellow accents it so I took a closer look. When my son was just about on top of it I realized that it was not in fact a toy, but rather THE BIGGEST FREAKING CENTIPEDE I HAVE EVER SEEN. (I did not use the word “freaking” at the time.)

I’ll just tell you right now that whatever your visualizing is not accurate. In your optimistic naïvete you are probably picturing the type of centipede you may have seen around your own house, that looks like a long worm with a bunch of fuzzy little legs. Though those do exist in our area, that is not, of course, what I saw on my porch yesterday. Because that wouldn’t be terrifying. We only have terrifying bugs at my house. Anyway, if you’d be so kind as to click on this link you’ll see a photo of the type of centipede that inhabits my property: they’re huge, with shiny black bodies; thick, bright yellow legs; a neon red head; and two long, menacing looking stinger things in the back (“stinger things” — hey, I’m not a biologist). The one on my porch was thicker than the one in that photo, and was about seven inches long. I’m not exaggerating. Seven inches.

My husband tried to see the bright side of the situation by suggesting that perhaps they eat scorpions. My glass was still half empty. As much as I would like to have some creature around that eats scorpions, I have to draw the line at giant “I thought this sort of thing only existed in Africa” centipedes. Also, it just gives the whole house a creepy feel to picture these Godzilla vs. Mothra type battles playing out on my back porch, with two freakish creatures attacking and stinging each other to death right next to the kids’ sandbox.

One thing I did take away from this situation, however, was that I am able emit a type of scream even louder and more blood-curdling than I previously thought possible. I actually never even thought of myself of the type of woman who screams about bugs until we moved into this house. I was more of the grumbling profanity type, until I saw my first scorpion inside the house. But after a few months of living in this house that is sort of a suburban freak show of the most horrifying bugs that southern America has to offer, I’ve realized that I’m actually quite a screamer, and that there are distinct levels of screams that vary by type and weirdness of bug. As I have a full thirty minutes of free time in front of me this afternoon, I shall break it down:


Level 1: I first used this scream when I realized that what I thought was a bird on our porch light at night was actually a massive moth. [Rather than a true “AAAH!” scream, this is more of an “Ah?”]

Level 2: This is for when one of the many little lizards that inhabits our house catches me off guard. [There was probably a time in my life when encountering lizards in my bedroom and the kids’ rooms would have resulted in a Level 4 scream, but now it seems kind of charming.]

Level 3: Used for spiders larger than two inches; for when one of the four types of wasps that inhabit our front and back porches flies within two feet of me; for those times when I think there is a small wasp in the house and it turns out to be a gigantic mosquito, of a size that would probably leave me needing a blood transfusion if it bit me; and for scorpion sightings outside the house.

Level 4: Reserved for scorpion sightings inside the house.

Seeing as how the sound I make when I see scorpions inside the house is almost loud enough to wake the dead (or at least all neighbors within a two block radius), I thought that that was really the best I could do. And then I was introduced to the gigantic red and yellow centipede on my back porch by the fact that my toddler almost walked right into it, and I realized that I am in fact quite capable of a new, Level 5 scream.

If I ever see one of these things inside the house I think I might blow a vocal cord. Also, I think that that might just push me over some sort of mental threshold. I have previously joked about moving because of the scorpion infestation but…dude…if I ever, ever encounter one of these “looks like it escaped from an exhibit at the zoo” centipedes inside my house, I’m out. I don’t even know if I’d pack anything. I might just grab the kids, my laptop and any heirlooms and head for a hotel and post the house for sale on a real estate site: “Fully furnished home – lovely! – great price! – perfect for entomologists!” with a note to any realtors, “Don’t let yourself become paralyzed with terror if you see one of the massive centipedes or scorpions, just make a comment about it having ‘rustic charm’ and move on”.

I’m going to file this in the Scorpions category, because I refuse to think about the fact that our house might be infested by another kind of bug so horrifying as to require its own category on my blog.


  1. The Right Side

    Hello! we are having bug fun in our home also. Why not spray the outside and inside with some friendly poison! 🙂

  2. Ouiz

    Oh my gosh. I seriously, SERIOUSLY, would move. This is beginning to feel like the Amityville Horror of the bug world.

    South Carolina is a pretty nice place to live… and in the um, 22 years that I have lived here, I have NEVER, EVER seen a scorpion.

  3. Lynne

    These posts have been creeping me out so I haven’t been reading people’s comments and so I don’t know if any one else has suggested this. Call your parish rectory and have a priest come over and bless your house asap.


  4. Anna

    So your post totally had me in stitches. But I do sympathize. Where I used to live, we’d get ants, mosquitos, and an occasional bat in the house. I could handle the ants; the bats I would leave to a guy. Here we get a regular supply of spiders, moths, and mosquito hawks. I was worried for awhile, but now I seem to have adjusted to them. My kids say, “Mom, look at the spider on the ceiling”, and I say, “eh. it’s not worth the effort of turning my head.” I’m pretty sure, though, that if I saw a scorpion, I’d be finding out my own screaming capabilities.

  5. Tienne

    Oh, that’s horrible. HORRIBLE! Your posts crack me up, though, in a guilty “I shouldn’t be laughing at this” sort of way. But you know, it’s your fault for being so hilarious. 🙂

    The idea of moving has serious merit, if you’re in a position to do that. Cockroaches chased us out of a house in Indonesia when I was 8, so it’s not unprecedented for the human element in an “us vs them” free for all to declare that the bugs win.

  6. Peter

    I was chuckling away condescendingly at your ‘scream levels’ since I am generally calm in these situations (even when my phobia of snakes is confronted) but then I remembered my reaction when tossing the children around in chest deep ocean… and a small harmless fish somehow made it into my baggy swimming shorts.

    The yell was loud, long and hit several octaves before I finally shook the poor creature out… about 20 metres away from the water!

    • judith

      oh, God bless you! Our younger son had exactly that reaction when his older brother told him that mouse he had just seen was now up in his shorts! I still laugh!

  7. Phoebe

    Oh this was hilarious and terrifying all at once! Thanks for the laugh, and for making me feel better about our spider issues…

    I am certain that if I see a large wolf spider in person, such as the one which my mother photographed hanging out on the front of our home, I will become so paralyzed with fear that no scream will even be able to escape my lips.

  8. beez

    Reading all of these, I think I know where Jambalaya comes from.

    Instead of screaming and yelling, have you considered maybe killing these things, cutting off their heads and placing them on pikes around your property as a warning to others who may seek shelter there?

    You could become “Jen, the Impaler.” It would be great! In 20 years, the History Channel would do a documentary on you.

  9. William Eunice

    On the positive side I did read that an entomologist actually allowed himself to be bitten for like 4 seconds by one of those nasty centipedes you have there (BTW, they are the largest in North America which I am sure you didn’t need to know) … Anyway the bite was not so severe as to warrant medical attention. So FWIW the centipede is likely not a threat to your family and you are highly unlikely to see one indoors.

    The scorpions deserve the higher rated screams IMO.

  10. SteveG

    I hate to even say this, and I hate to state the obvious, but I think we now know the answer to why the dude who sold you this house was so eager, and why the prices was so fantastic (don’t even tell me you haven’t had the same thoughts). 😉

    Not saying the house wasn’t an answered prayer, but I think it might have been his prayer that was answered. 😛

  11. Martin

    We used to get those in our home too. One of the employees at the pest control company said he had never seen a centipede as big as the one that we found in our home.

    Between the scorpions, the giant centipedes, and the brown recluse spiders .. we just gave in a lined up a local pest control company to come by monthly year round to spray in and around our home. It didn’t totally eliminate them, but the intrusions are dramatically reduced.

  12. mrsdarwin

    SteveG, my thoughts exactly…

    I have a cockroach scream that approaches operatic levels. But I really hit new octaves when I think that one is dead, and then I nudge it with the broom and it wiggles its antennae at me. Ick.

    You seriously need to ask your exterminator for your money back.

  13. Patrick

    We have centipedes at my place too. Sounds like the same kind; I’ve seen several in the 6-8 inch range. And – sorry to tell you – they’ve made it into the house severale times. I chased one across the living room trying to stomp it and it disappeared under the baseboard. Since then we have been the exterminator’s best friend. Regular servicing seems to keep both centipedes and scorps under control.

  14. Melanie B

    Truly terrifying. I’d be screaming too. I think SteveG might have a good point there. Definitely time to call the exterminator. And Lynne’s idea isn’t a bad one either. Not only because of the scorpions and centipedes, but because you just should have your house blessed.

  15. Jennifer F.

    William – Yeah. So that reminds me. I was Googling around to figure out if these things are poisonous (by the looks of them I assumed they were, my question was really more along the lines of “How many seconds do you have until you die if one of these things stings you?”) and I came across a site where people intentionally let bugs sting them and then they post pictures and comments about it. I think that’s the most disturbing thing that’s come of this whole situation!

    Steve G. – I did indeed think of that. Although, the guy who sold it was a lifelong Texan, the outdoorsy hunter type, and I’ve discovered that these people are just crazy. I have a bunch of relatives like this, and when I tell them about our infestation they make passing comments like, “oh yeah, there was a scorpion wrapped up in my sheets the other night and that sucker got me good! Anyway…” and go on to talk about sports scores. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bug Freak Show that is this house didn’t bother him at all.

    Lynne – I agree. When our second priest gets back in town (we currently have ONE priest for a 4,000 family parish) I’m going to have that done. Deacons can’t do it, right?

  16. Christine the Soccer Mom

    I had the same thought as Steve, and your response about crazy Texans just made me shake my head.

    When I lived in Florida, I had bi-monthly extermination to keep the palmetto bugs at bay. These aren’t your regular cockroach: they like to FLY and they are usually around 2″ long. So I wouldn’t blame you at all for getting regular exterminator visits.

    I also really like the “Jen the Impaler” idea, but that would mean you’d have to *shudder* touch them, right?

    Okay, gotta go and catch my skin, which is now crawling all over the floor.

  17. Rae

    Dealing with a wasp in the bathroom this morning made my heart race and my hands shake–so I can’t even imagine encountering that centipede. Or scorpions!! (Shudder.) Remind me never to move south… 🙂

  18. Malia

    Ouiz, who commented above, happens to live only 5 or 6 miles away from me, and while she has NEVER seen a scorpion in all her 22 years here, I have seen more than I can shake a stick at. Or stomp my shoe on.

    She, on the other hand, is plagued by mosquitos that bite you all day long, while mine wait until dusk to suck us all bloodless.

    What separates the two of us besides the mere six miles is a large man-made lake, which we have determined to be the deciding factor in our vastly differing bug experiences. We figure that our respective critters simply can’t cross over to the other side to plague everyone else.

    So, Jen, you now have a three-pronged course of action before you.

    Call the priest, set up bug-head studded pikes along the perimeter of your property… and dig a moat.


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