Discover everything you need to know about centipedes in our guide below.
What Are Centipedes?
While centipedes may look like bugs, they’re actually primitive arthropods.
Some species, like the house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata), are common household pests and can be challenging to eliminate once they establish indoor populations.
While centipedes don’t usually pose health risks, their presence indicates the presence of other pests.
The Behavior, Diet, and Habits of Centipedes
As relatives of insects, centipedes have some distinct differences: the first is their appearance.
While the name centipede literally means 100 legs, most varieties don’t have quite that many. Instead, centipedes have long, flat, segmented bodies with one pair of legs per section, for an average of 35 legs (although different species have 15-177 pairs of legs). The smallest centipedes are about 1.5” long, while the largest species of centipedes, such as Scolopendra, can grow up to 6” long.
Centipedes are native to the Mediterranean and were eventually transported to Mexico and the United States. While they prefer warm climates, they exist in many habitats worldwide, from deserts to moist rainforests.
Species other than the house centipede tend to live outdoors in damp areas like beneath leaf cover, stones, tree bark, or mulch in outdoor landscaping. When centipedes wander into a home or building, they’re usually found at floor level.
Centipedes are fast-moving predators that feed on insects, spiders, and other arthropods. Because they help control pests, centipedes are considered beneficial in small numbers. When their populations grow out of control, though, most people consider them a nuisance.
While the average centipede lifespan is approximately one year, certain species may live as long as six years in ideal habitats.
What Damage Do Centipedes Cause?
Centipedes don’t damage food supplies or destroy household textiles or furnishings. They’re also not known to carry or transmit diseases. That said, centipedes can bite, causing mild pain and swelling.
Interestingly, centipede “bites” aren’t caused by their jaws or mouthparts. Instead, centipedes “bite” with their front legs, which have evolved to look and act like jaws.
These small, modified legs contain venom glands, although the amount of venom present isn’t usually enough to cause any serious harm to people.
How to Get Rid of Centipedes
The best way to get rid of centipedes is to address and remove outdoor habitats that attract them. Tactics like getting rid of trash, rock piles, boards, firewood, and compost piles near the home will help remove their hiding places.
Sealing small gaps and cracks around windows, doors, and your home’s foundation with caulk will exclude centipedes and make it more difficult for them to enter your home.
In addition to removing hiding places and sealing entry points, you can use residual pyrethroids to treat cracks and crevices indoors and outdoors.
For a complete guide on how to get rid of centipedes, check out our blog here.
Centipedes like warm, humid environments that offer plenty of food. To get rid of centipedes, reduce indoor humidity by fixing water leaks, running exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms, and using dehumidifiers in basements and crawl spaces. If you’ve got other pests in the house, like spiders, carpet beetles, or cockroaches, hire a professional pest management team to get rid of those pests and remove the centipedes’ food sources.
While centipedes may bite when trapped, their bites are usually minor. In fact, most small species of centipedes can’t even break human skin. If you are bitten by a centipede, apply an antiseptic to the wound and consult your physician if you believe the bite punctured the skin.