S. Alternans socialization. Have I failed or am I impatient?

Scoliolioli

Arachnopeon
Joined
Dec 27, 2019
Messages
3
Hi everyone!

I'm new and just got into researching centipedes as a hobby. I've always thought centipedes are cool, but was told horror stories about how deadly they are. So even though they were cool, I'd still kill them if they came into my house.

Fast forward to 2016 when I saw a video on YouTube. Someone was showing his method to socialize his centipedes, and I wanted to do that with local 'pedes if I ever got the chance.

So after practicing catching these guys (starting with dead/dying specimens. I didn't want to get tagged), I found this huge s. Alternans near my front door in September 2019.

Now this was my first time catching a healthy, BIG specimen. I grabbed it behind the head capsule to prevent a bite. I am pretty sure it was a rough catch, and it may have resulted in problems later on.

So, I tried socializing it. It seemed to be working. Nope Noodle is its name. Noodle tends to be super chill and doesn't mind being pet. It never wants to be hand-fed, so all I can do is keep my fingers close to its antennae as I pet it. I even got to handle the guy/girl twice... Until Nope went into premolt in late October and molted in December.

After that Nope has not let me handle it. Disappointing, but Ok, I'll respect that. Just a couple weeks ago it was Ok with petting. Recently Nope has gotten used to resting above ground during the day, but any attempts at petting now result in it bolting it into the closest tunnel it can find, waving its terminals at me.

Just this morning I went and tried petting it before refilling its water dish. I got bit on my right index finger. I was able to get Nope off of me before it could envenomate me. Oddly enough I went on to do the usual cage maintenance without being attacked further.

So what gives? Have I permanently messed up in socializing this pede? Does this mean Nope will hate me for all time? Is lifting an enclosure lid (sterilite bin lid with holes) spooking the pede?

On the bright side, Nope Noodle has helped me dispel many of the awful things my family believed about these wonderful animals. Regardless of whether socializing Nope is a success, being able to prove centipedes aren't out to deliberately attack humans is a huge win for me!

TL;DR: I started caring for a s. Alternans. Socializing seems to be failing, after a string of successes. Wondering if the centipede will forever hate me.

Here's a picture of the Nope!
20200130_095030.jpg
 

chanda

Arachnoprince
Active Member
Joined
Jun 27, 2010
Messages
1,831
Noodle is behaving like a normal centipede. He will not "hate you for all time" - nor will he ever like you - because centipedes are incapable of those emotions.

To him, you are a big, scary potential predator and something to be avoided. He does not want to be held. He does not want to be petted. He does not want to be hand-fed. Running away from you, popping down his burrow, hiding when the enclosure is moved or disturbed (like opening the lid), and even "biting" when you get too close or poke your fingers at him are all normal, expected defensive behaviors. His earlier behavior - allowing you to touch or pet him - was abnormal. It's possible that he permitted this because he was a little sluggish as he approached his molt - or he could have just been uncharacteristically cooperative - but that does not mean that you can reasonably expect him to always behave that way.

I know there are people out there who claim to "socialize" their centipedes, and perhaps there is even a small bit of truth to it. While centipedes are incapable of bonding with their keepers or feeling affection for them, I suppose it is possible that they could learn to recognize the keeper as "not a threat" causing them to behave less defensively when handled. Centipedes and spiders are capable of some degree of learning or conditioning, such as recognizing and responding to food cues like the opening of an enclosure by approaching the opening, while a spider or centipede that has not learned to associate those cues with feeding is more likely to run away and hide.

It's also entirely possible that the "socialization" is pure coincidence. I have handled wild S. polymorpha (who I can guarantee had never been "socialized") without being tagged - because I simply allowed them to crawl on my hands and arms, as if I were just another rock or branch or something for them to climb on. As long as I am perceived as an object rather than a threat, they have no reason to bite.

Either way, you should keep in mind that this is a wild animal, no matter how much you might attempt to socialize it - or how successful you might seem to be. Even the most docile, cooperative centipede (or tarantula or scorpion) can change in an instant and sting or bite or envenomate you if startled - or for no apparent reason at all.
 
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Scoliolioli

Arachnopeon
Joined
Dec 27, 2019
Messages
3
To him, you are a big, scary potential predator and something to be avoided. He does not want to be held. He does not want to be petted. He does not want to be hand-fed. Running away from you, popping down his burrow, hiding when the enclosure is moved or disturbed (like opening the lid), and even "biting" when you get too close or poke your fingers at him are all normal, expected defensive behaviors. His earlier behavior - allowing you to touch or pet him - was abnormal. It's possible that he permitted this because he was a little sluggish as he approached his molt - or he could have just been uncharacteristically cooperative - but that does not mean that you can reasonably expect him to always behave that way.

I know there are people out there who claim to "socialize" their centipedes, and perhaps there is even a small bit of truth to it. While centipedes are incapable of bonding with their keepers or feeling affection for them, I suppose it is possible that they could learn to recognize the keeper as "not a threat" causing them to behave less defensively when handled. Centipedes and spiders are capable of some degree of learning or conditioning, such as recognizing and responding to food cues like the opening of an enclosure by approaching the opening, while a spider or centipede that has not learned to associate those cues with feeding is more likely to run away and hide.
Thank you for taking your time to reply! I am aware a centipede can't "like" nor "hate". I just thought something was going wrong. I'm glad to know it's just behaving normally!

Even if Noodle continues to view me as a threat and gets defensive, that's okay. The fact alone that I can show my family what centipedes can truly be like is huge for me. I even have a relative who, if he sees any outside in his garden, has stopped killing them on sight and is letting them be!
 

Staehilomyces

Arachnoprince
Joined
Mar 2, 2016
Messages
1,430
"Socialize" really isn't the right word, as there's nothing social about it. Centipedes do definitely get used to handling, and when worked with properly, can get to the point when you can practically reach in and pick them up. But they don't "like" you, they're merely capable of learning not to fear you.

However, I can say from experience that they can learn both ways. Screwing up repeatedly can and will cause a pede to become nastier and nastier to the point where it's pretty much untouchable.
 

dragonfire1577

Arachnolord
Joined
Oct 7, 2015
Messages
637
My big female Scolopendra sp. white leg was always very relaxed when I had her, never really changed after she got used to handling. On the other hand my somewhat "socialized" male tends to be kinda skittish only after molting but chills out after a little time and food. He is definitely much calmer than when I got him though, I don't really handle pedes anymore but I'm fairly sure I could still pick him up without issue. After a molt try feeding a good amount and then handling the pede when it is walking slowly around the enclosure, I find they tend to be easiest to work with when they aren't sprinting around but when they are moving so you don't need to disturb them from resting. I currently have a younger female white leg too and despite not having her too long she has been uniformly defensive so far, somewhat similar to my male before I worked with him. I probably won't handle her at all and see if she calms down like the others or stays pissy after some time. I haven't worked with alternans before but I don't think you messed your pede up or anything but I'm not sure how applicable my advice with this species is to alternans.
 

Scoliolioli

Arachnopeon
Joined
Dec 27, 2019
Messages
3
Thanks everyone for replying! One last thing: considering s. Alternans is a reclusive centipede (a.k.a. pet holes), would Noodle resting above the substrate during the day mean anything? I've never seen anything like this. :D I've noticed Noodle tends to stay above ground until about 3 pm.
 
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