Dave Jackson, of Cromwell, asks :-

I photographed this insect whilst visiting my mother in Owera. What is it?

Cor Vink, an entomologist at Canterbury Museum, responded.

It is Scutigera coleoptrata, the house centipede, which is originally from the Mediterranean region but has spread to many places in the world, including New Zealand.

As its common name suggests, it is usually found around houses and in New Zealand it is most commonly found in the north of the North Island, although it is occasionally found further south. House centipedes are nocturnal animals and scuttle about hunting insects and spiders that are found in houses. House centipedes can be considered beneficial as they feed on ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, silverfish and termites. Although they have well developed eyes, they mostly use their antennae for hunting. They envenomate their prey with a pair of venom claws or forcipules, which are just underneath their head.

Despite an appearance that many people find fearsome, they are considered harmless to humans as they are unlikely to pierce human skin. House centipedes can grow up to 5 cm long and have 15 pairs of long legs. The name centipede is a misnomer as there are no centipedes with 100 legs – all centipedes have an odd number of pairs of legs.