Giant red-headed centipede: Big, bold, and venomous

Giant red-headed centipedes, also known as Texas red-headed centipedes (also known as “what the…???!!!”) are fearsome-looking bugs. They’re huge – averaging 6 or 7 inches (15 – 18 cm) but occasionally reaching up to 12 inches (25 cm) – and they’re venomous, with a sting that those unfortunate enough to have experienced it liken to that of a bee or a scorpion.

Even though they’re centipedes, they have only 21 or 23 pairs of legs, not the 50 their name would seem to require. Watching this video, you’ll probably agree that 21 pairs of legs is more than enough. This critter can move pretty fast.

And as if being huge, excessively leggy, and venomous weren’t enough, these guys are hungry. According to Texas Hill Country ( they can kill and devour creatures many times their size and are known to eat lizards, snakes, and frogs.

We were fascinated to see this giant red-headed centipede in the tree stump den but we hope it keeps its distance and doesn’t decide to move into the house. We can cope with scorpions – they don’t run very fast and they’re easy to pick up and put outside – but a centipede like this might be very hard to catch.



      1. OMG. I was extremely creeped out. Have been snake hunting , catch and release, a few times and not scared of snakes but this guy was CrEEpY! I managed to get him contained and released him back by the creek. Iā€™m still looking for any eggs in the house šŸ˜µā€šŸ’«šŸ¤£

        1. I would NOT have been happy. These guys can grow to 12″ long. I also am not afraid of snakes – I like to think I could reason with a snake – but a 6- to 12-inch venomous centipede in the house might prompt me to move back to New Zealand.

          Dan and I are wondering if perhaps our centipede was the same one you found and released by the creek. Next time, if you could just paint one of his toenails, maybe we could recognize him?

  1. my wife just found one on our porch. Awesome creature. Our first to see one and we both from Texas. I am 71 and never saw one so we looked it up. Got him in a 5 gallon bucket to watch a little bit and going to release him in a field in a few minutes. This guy was under our kitty carrier case and we are going to the vet today. what a surprise. My wife let out a gasp when she picked up the carrier container. But we both find this Giant red head just awesome. If you ever run into one you will know. huge, black with red orange head and legs.

    1. Wow. Dan and I have actually never seen one of these beasts with our own eyes – we’ve only caught them on camera. But we’ve heard lots of stories, and they always involve shock. We applaud you for releasing the centipede without harming him. Most of us were brought up with the attitude that the only good bug was a dead one, and yet that’s so wrong, and we are running out of bugs. Over the past 4 or 5 years here in our backyard we’ve lost most of our snails, fireflies, dragonflies, big ants, daddy longlegs spiders and others I can’t bring to mind right now.

      Thank you for writing to us. I hope all went well with your visit to the vet.


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