How to Tell Male From Female Centipedes

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Take a flashlight outside on a muggy summer night and you might catch a glimpse of a centipede speeding on many legs toward prey. Despite the centipede's creepy-crawly appearance, you might be happy to note its presence: The centipede favors dining on termites, cockroaches and other destructive pests. It's nearly impossible to tell a centipede's gender without microscopic scrutiny, but should you be fortunate enough to witness mating behavior, the difference will be clear.

Breeding Behavior

When a female is ready to breed, she releases pheromones to attract a male to the area. A male spins a pad using silk from his body and deposits sperm on top of it. This pad -- known as a spermatophore -- contains pheromones that the female finds attractive. If she does not seem interested, the male "dances" to attract her attention, being so bold as to approach her and tap her legs with his antennae.

Nesting Behavior

Once the female has passed over the spermatophore to fertilize her eggs, she will deposit the eggs in soil or a decaying log. The female curls around the eggs to protect them and grooms them to prevent fungal growth. She will eat or abandon her eggs if disturbed.

Upon Close Examination

Should you choose to look at a centipede to find its gender, be careful of the fangs, which administer a painful bite. You'll need to move quickly to capture a live one. Dead male centipedes often release their genitals from the last segment of their bodies. Other differences are more difficult to discern, such as slightly modified legs on the 15th segment of the male.

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Author

A former world-class swimmer, J.T. O'Connell shares her love of adventure travel, extreme sports and pets through thousands of published articles. O'Connell studied journalism at Grand Canyon University, and brings professional experience as a tour guide and travel consultant. She authors the blog, Traveling With Large Dogs.