The centipedes are back.
They are not back in my bathtub, but today they return to this space, where on Wednesday I told the tale of the house centipede that lived for a while in my tub because I didn't have the heart to kill it.
So many readers responded that I can't resist sharing a few of their stories.
"I took a shower," reported William Bennett, of Chicago, "and dried off with a towel that a very large centipede had hidden in. I did not realize I was rubbing this centipede across my chest until it started to feel unpleasant. Unfortunately, I had to humanely euthanize that centipede, as it had been severely injured by the toweling."
"Recently," wrote Jody Pfeifer, of Evanston, "I picked up my kitchen sponge to wipe something off in our fridge and there must have been a centipede on the sponge because a huge one appeared IN my fridge. It had hopped off the sponge. Yuck!!"
And from Joy Schuler, of Normal: "I even found one shriveled up in a drinking glass."
Since Wednesday, the words "ick," "yuck" and "creepy" have filled my email box — no, not as editorial comment — though many readers said they try to share my live-and-let-live approach to the yucky, icky, creepy, mysterious centipede.
"When I saw my first centipede I was hooked," wrote an Elmwood Park woman who didn't want to be named. "Just watching it scampering around the floor brought a smile to my face. Named my first large one 'Sylvester.' Couldn't think of ever killing them, they are just too interesting to watch. In the past we had dogs and cats but in my later life I only have centipedes and they are easy to care for."
Easy to care for, maybe, but not so easy to eradicate.
"For general insect removal, with a no-kill policy, I use a butterfly net," wrote Tom Donohue, of Mokena. "It easily goes over the invader and when he crawls onto the net I swoop her/him up and walk him outdoors for release."
"Hairspray," advised Mishell Meyer, who does not have a no-kill policy.
"Pouring a cup of bleach down every drain in the house will keep them from coming up," wrote Sharon Paa, a Chicago housekeeper. "Bugs cannot stand smell of bleach."
William Bennett, the man who toweled off with a centipede, reported that he had "developed a tool which consists of a piece of hard paper attached to a broom handle that I coerce the centipede to crawl on and then push it out of a window. Of course this only is humane in warmer months."
Several readers reiterated the fact that the house centipede is not typically dangerous. Even so, even a phantom centipede can terrify.
"I've always been particularly creeped out by centipedes," wrote Jeff Bergstrom, of Rockford. "I was reading your column in bed and I had to cover up the picture of the centipede. My phone was underneath my pillow and it vibrated as I was toward the end and I jumped and yelled like a 3rd-grade girl!!"
Trying to kill a centipede can be more dangerous than the creature itself. A reader named Karen told of an octogenarian friend who fell and sprained her ankle while chasing a centipede across the living floor.
Man vs. centipede is a timeless contest. It is probably as old as humans and bugs. Definitely as old as Jim Ledbetter Sr., of North Aurora.
"As a wee lad growing up in southern Illinois," he wrote, "I was very familiar with house centipedes. We were told their name was 'thousand-legged worm,' and this is what we called them. It was in later years I learned the true name, and that 'centi' was referring to 100, not 1,000. And that 'pede' was for foot. At any rate, you do NOT want to know the things boys can get up to to torture such critters."
Finally, from Ruth Rehwaldt, of Oak Park, a nursery rhyme called "The Centipede's Dilemma."
The poem is credited with inspiring the psychological term "the centipede syndrome." Both poem and syndrome refer to the paralysis that comes from over-thinking the obvious.
Here's one of the poem's several versions:
A centipede was happy — quite!
Until a toad in fun
Said, "Pray, which leg comes after which?"
This raised her doubts to such a pitch,
She fell exhausted in the ditch
Not knowing how to run.