Wifi issues meant that I couldn’t upload this blog yesterday, but here it is now! The species that I’m focussing on this week is the centipede Lithobius variegatus, nicknamed the Variegated Centipede. In my opinion, it is one of Britain’s prettiest myriapods (centipedes, millipedes and relatives), with its purple banded legs, and mottled brown upper surface.
Lithobius variegatus is one of the most easily identified British centipedes, by its colouration alone. It is a fairly large species, typically reaching 20-30mm in length. The species which it is most easily confused is the ubiquitous Lithobius forficatus, with which it frequently occurs. Lithobius forficatus is a uniform chestnut brown, with unbanded legs.
Lithobius variegatus is common throughout the West of Britain, but is scarce or absent in the extreme South-west of England, and South-western Scotland. There are scattered records from East Anglia and London also. Here is a link to the BMIG (British Myriapod and Isopod Group) website, showing the distribution and other information:
The best way to find this species is to look under logs and stones in rural areas of Western England, particularly in ancient woodland. The best times of year to look are autumn and winter, particularly in mild and wet spells. If you do find it, it’s likely to run away very fast! All Lithobius species can move with considerable speed, as they are active predators of springtails and other small invertebrates which share their microhabitats. Large individuals have jaws which may be strong enough to give a small nip to any person who annoys them enough, so handle them with some caution! That said, I’ve handled many individuals, and haven’t been bitten yet!
If you do find the species, take some photos and put it on iRecord. Records are urgently needed for a new centipede atlas!