A colossal creepy-crawly catch: Man finds 14.5-inch-long centipede

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Clayton Cambra holds up a 14.5-inch centipede he caught in the woods near his home in Honokaa.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Clayton Cambra gestures to a stuffed grizzly bear in his home in Honokaa.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Clayton Cambra holds up a 14.5-inch centipede he caught in the woods near his home in Honokaa.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Clayton Cambra caught a 14.5 inch centipede in the woods near his home in Honokaa.

HONOKAA — Clayton Cambra is “fascinated by ugly creatures.”

So when the 65-year-old Honokaa resident spotted a huge centipede scurrying about in a wooded area behind his home, he did what someone fascinated by ugly creatures would do. He captured the venomous arthropod with a bucket.

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“He stood up in the 5-gallon bucket like a cobra. Standin’ right up. It’s creepy,” Cambra told the Tribune-Herald Thursday. “He crawled out of that bucket four or five times before I got him here.”

Cambra, a Hawi native who owned a tannery and taxidermy shop in Fremont, Calif., before retiring, then did what comes naturally — at least to him.

“I put it in a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. Then after it died, I took it out and thawed it. And the next day, I put him on a piece of Styrofoam board and pinned him out and injected him with formaldehyde,” he said.

The gigantic invertebrate measures 14.5 inches from antennae to the tips of its tail-like hind legs.

“It’s a monster. Even when it was dead, I was nervous touchin’ it,” Cambra said.

Dan Rubinoff, an entomologist and director of the University of Hawaii Insect Museum, saw a photo and said he thinks Cambra’s specimen is a Vietnamese centipede (Scolopendra subspinipes).

“It’s definitely got to be the largest individual I’ve ever seen of it,” Rubinoff said. “… I get ’em in my yard all the time, 6 to maybe 7 inches. Definitely, I’ve never seen one that big.”

Rubinoff said there are other species in Southeast Asia that grow even larger, and added, “Those are really frightening.”

Cambra’s catch is displayed in a museum-like room in his home with about 50 trophy specimens.

There are numerous stuffed animals — not of the toy variety — displayed meticulously in a fastidiously clean, dehumidified environment. They include a grizzly bear, a small black bear with front paws at the ready while standing on its hind legs, a mountain lion gazing from a shelf as though surveying prey from a tree limb, an arctic fox, a beaver, raccoon, skunk and numerous birds, including wild turkeys and pheasants.

The room also boasts more mounted heads than grace the walls of most old-school Texas barbecue joints, including several species of deer, elk and wild boar.

The colossal centipede represents something different than the room’s other display items, and Cambra said he rejected a $1,000 offer to part with the creepy-crawly critter.

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“I don’t want to sell it. If I get rid of it, I ain’t got it. I want to keep it,” he explained. “People collect all kinds of things. I know people on the computer (who) collect these alive and keep ’em as pets. I don’t want that damn thing alive.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.