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For Love of Insects

Ms. Gaw has a description of a silverfish-induced homicidal rage that very much strikes home for me.

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a silverfish in the flesh. But I get the same overwhelming feeling of disgust from Scutigera coleoptrata, the house centipede. I hate those nasty little fast motherfuckers. Shriek aloud and kill kill kill when I see them.

For some reason, I learnt from a college dormmate that the house centipedes were called silverfish, and continued to call them by that name for years. Miranda’s story taps into this primal disgust, even though I know she’s talking about a different critter.

They are poisonous. Apparently they’re not much given to biting people, but when they do it can cause pain and swelling, similar to a bee sting. Nor are they, I think, good to eat — whenever my cat has eaten one, he has followed up by running from room to room at top speed, yowling piteously. Trying to outrun his own stomach, I reckon. Serves him right for having such awful taste in food.

And I’ve seen their bite at work, too, back when I thought they were fast the better to run away.

Desultor is supine on his dorm bed, looking benevolently up at the ceiling. All alone. Outside, the day has been darkening into evening — the light in the east-facing room is gray and flat. He notices an enormous big-bellied spider in the inch-wide crack between the ceiling and the molding. He gazes upon it placidly, contentedly; at peace with death’s place in the universe and his room.

Desi: Spider, thou art hideous to behold. And yet I call thee friend, yea, even brother. Thou slayest insects which vex me. Lo, why should I live, and not thee? Did not the same God make us both?

A blur of motion in the channel between the molding and the ceiling. Velocity probably over a meter per second.

Desi: Oi, what’s this then?

It is a large house centipede, certainly over an inch long, and it is bearing down on the spider, which calmly awaits it.

Desi: You finna get yours now, nasty-ass silverfish motherfucker! I hope you get some spider eggs laid in your paralyzed ass or some shit. Punk-ass silverfish bout to get busted! Aw shit!

The centipede closes on the spider, and they’re together, and then they part by a few centimeters’ space. The spider gives three or four convulsive jerks, smaller and weaker each time, and is still. The centipede picks it up and carries it along the molding, disappearing out the transom.

Desi: Whoa. Heavy.

Incidentally, that wolfish centipede is the only one of its kind ever to enter my sight without my at least attempting to kill it.

18 Responses to “For Love of Insects”

  1. Ezra Cooper Says:

    *Hom*icidal, dear Desultor?

  2. Ezra Cooper Says:

    The picture on the page you cite is quite different from the sliverfish one can find by going to a certain popular search engine and entering the word “silverfish.”

    I feel that I’ve seen both of these things and, by yours and Gaw’s descriptions, I’m astounded that I was not more afraid than I was in these encounters. Here now I have spent the whole evening wrapt in terror, at the Silverfish, the House Centipede, and the 1920 YMCA Massacre, and all three only in the mind’s eye. The mere diagram of the silverfish sent me into shivers. Now, this PHOTO of a House Centipede. I’ll have no more of this. . .

  3. Desultor Says:

    Oops! I guess I mean insecticidal. That sounds doofy though, ’cause of insecticides. If there were a class of product called “homicides” maybe that would change things too… I suppose cigarettes, guns, ground beef might fall into the category of homicides as Raid and others fall into the insecticide category. Anyways, maybe what I meant is “murderous”, or “atom bomb dropping”.

  4. Desultor Says:

    I wish I knew more about the YMCA massacre!

  5. jared Says:

    dude, i fucking hate those things! i call them ‘cambridge bugs’ as big yellow introduced me to their hideousness. sadly, i only managed to drown and burn one of them, but at least they’ve been warned.

  6. Desultor Says:

    They don’t take warnings, man! Those things are pure evil. Now they’re just mad at you. And even though the bite of one doesn’t hurt permanently (if you believe it), what would the bite of a THOUSAND do?

  7. llisa Says:

    sometimes desi says “caterpillar” instead of “centipede,” and vicey versey, and o! it cuts to the quick.

    big yellow PRIDE! let’s get charla in on this thread…

  8. Geegaw Says:

    Duuuuude, I know those things from my time in Cambridge! I thought they were called “East Coast silverfish”! I mean, I basically hate my silverfish because they look like your house centipedes (though, thank GAWD, move at a snail’s pace in comparison) plus the fact that silverfish eat books… Love your site as always, –Miranda

  9. Ezra Cooper Says:

    Who is this llisa and why doesn’t s/he have a website with periodical posts in reverse chronological order?

  10. swans Says:

    I’ve killed a few of these Cambridge nasties in my apartment. A horrible specimen in my bathroom was at least three inches long. I felt so vulnerable in my pajamas and bare feet, yet I managed to muster enough disgusted rage to corner the sucker and squash it with a shampoo bottle. Little writhing amputated legs everywhere.

  11. francis Says:

    i know this post is old, but i just wanted to let you know i hate these things with a passion. i just attempted to kill one, but i think i partially wounded it. the thing was a monster. these things in my basement bathroom are enormous, man these things are nasty.

  12. Angelina Says:

    I also hate these lil’ bastards, but I have one question …Do they bite??If so,what would it do to you and look like??I think they are biting me in my sleep and need to get to the bottom of this. I had some books in the basement of my old apartment and when i moved them up and into my new room i;’m guessing I brought them along with me..:( Please help!

  13. desultor Says:

    Hi Angelina,

    They’re incredibly horrifying, but they don’t bite humans. Check out the link I provided in the original post, or this site:


  14. silverfish Says:

    Lepisma saccharina (generally known as the fishmoth, urban silverfish or silverfish) is a small, wingless insect generally measuring from half to one inch (12-25 mm).

  15. Köpa Cialis receptfritt Says:

    I searched in Google for massacre and I found your blog 🙂 Great blog, Respect!

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