Earlier this morning, I got a bit of a frightening scare. As I was leaving through the garage, a daddy long legs spider shot across the floor and scared the bejeezus out of me. I shouldn’t have been at all shocked by the occurrence considering my garage is an ideal environment for them but I was nonetheless startled when it scurried across. As I got into The Gazelle, I had a bit of a chuckle about it and recalled a similarly frightening incident from back during my residency in South Korea. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the house centipede.
How I first came across this moment? I first came across the house centipede a little over 5 years ago…in late August 2012. I was living in a flat in Pyeongtaek, across from Osan Air Base. On this one particular morning, as I rose long before the sun, I found myself in a completely dark bathroom and when I turned on the lights, I saw a creepy-looking thingy crawling and it had what looked like a gazillion legs. I was frightened beyond belief…mostly because I was still groggy from the sleep and partly because you don’t really expect to see pests crawling along your bathroom floor when you hit the lights at 4:30am. Anyway, after drowning that particular one—the only drain in my bathroom was in the middle of the floor, a design oddity in my book—I wrote it off as just some freak occurrence. However, over the next couple of months, I started seeing more and more of them…like 5 total. That prompted me to do some research. Apparently, they’re independent hunters who typically live outdoors but often travel through door thresholds and foundation gaps into homes. Any residence in South Korea is a gold mine for them because of the rampant design defects from poor craftsmanship and even poorer material. They hunt spiders and other insects that live in residences like ants and silverfish. Though my research indicated that centipedes traveling through drains is a myth, a lot of the online feedback showed them around various drains…in bathtubs, sinks, and laundry drains. That’s where the majority of the ones I encountered were. The online feedback is where I learned how to get rid of them: with bleach. I poured bleach down all of my drains—sans the kitchen drain because I never expected anything to come up that one considering it also was a garbage disposal—and my problem with house centipedes seemed to be solved. That is, until February 16, 2013. It was a Saturday night and I was relaxing on my sofa, eating cheesecake on my scarlet Ohio State Buckeyes plate—my favorite dish of all-time—and watching Killer Klowns from Outer Space on Netflix. Of course, it was dark because you gotta watch that movie with the lights off for effect. So after I finished the cheesecake, I walked over to the kitchen to place the plate in the sink. Though it was dark, I could’ve sworn I saw something move in the sink. After flipping on the light, lo and behold…there was a house centipede in my sink. It stunned me but only for a second. I took a picture of it, flipped on the garbage disposal switch, and turned on the water. It went sprawling down the drain and to certain death. Afterward, down the drain went a half bottle of Clorox.
What it meant to me then? My first encounters with house centipedes were frightening experiences. I typically not moved by the presence of bugs, pests, and the like. I worked in Air Force Civil Engineering so I’ve seen a lot from my days of being a controller for an entomology discipline. The house centipede, with the gazillion legs and the incredible speed, literally scare the $#!+ out of me…had me on edge every time I came across one. I was momentarily frozen. I had the itches, and I think I wasted gallons upon gallons of water just by running the faucet to ensure nothing would crawl up the drains while I was in the bathroom or the laundry room.
What it means to me now? Today, from my perch as a Contracting Officer’s Representative for the Main Interior Building’s pest management contract, I see house centipedes a bit differently. They are largely harmless. The threat to human life was infinitesimal, at best, with very rare bites occurring. They do a heck of a job on spiders though. I found one with a slain spider in its grasp and I thought it was kinda cool although it was still somewhat creepy. These days, if I came across a house centipede, I’d probably just let it be. It’s probably killing off some pest I got in my space that I don’t know about. Well…I’ll leave it alone as long as it’s not in my bathtub or my kitchen sink. They mess around with those areas, they die.