House Centipedes – Friend or Foe?

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house centipede

House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) can be found invading homes around the globe. But should you break out the flyswatter or should you simply let them die another day?

house centipede

The common house centipede.

Just the Facts

Maybe you’re already familiar with these small, leggy creatures. Or maybe you’re wondering the exact same thing I was when I signed up to write this article:

What is a house centipede?

In short: they are small arthropods that tend to be dark or grayish-yellow in color with black and white markings and lots of thin legs. Although their actual bodies are about half their overall size, these diminutive creatures have a total radius of about 3 to 4 centimeters when one accounts for their many long legs and the antennas on their heads.

House centipedes are originally native to the Mediterranean region, but they have quickly spread across the world to human homes in many different locales. After all, these speedy little creatures can travel at a rate of 1.3 feet per second.

House centipedes are born in the spring and start off their lives with only 4 pairs of legs. But they acquire more with each molting, gaining up to 15 pairs of legs in their lifetime. These appendages are detachable and can be removed if the centipede gets trapped or is in danger of being eaten.

Centipedes are nocturnal creatures with a preference for cool, damp, and dimly lit spaces. They are most commonly seen indoors during the fall and winter months when they move inside to get away from the cold. They’re also noticeable in the springtime when they emerge outside in order to mate.

House centipedes are quite prolific. The females of this species start to reproduce around 3 years old, laying anywhere from 35 to 100 eggs at a time. And house centipedes of both genders can live up to 7 years. However, they may not survive winter outdoors in colder climates.

Are House Centipedes Dangerous?

House centipede

Tasty! A house centipede enjoys a snack.

Not to your home’s infrastructure. Unlike their cousins the millipedes, house centipedes don’t eat wood. They actually consume a wide variety of the more unsavory bugs that might infest your house such as roaches, termites, silverfish, moths, flies, and bedbugs. As a result, finding one inside your home probably isn’t going to be a serious issue unless you decide to meddle with it.

Finding too many of them, however, could indicate other problems. After all, like most organisms that need to eat to survive, house centipedes will head to places where food is abundant. If harmful bugs are inside your house, you can bet the centipedes will be sure to follow.

House centipedes generally aren’t aggressive and they will run away if given a chance to do so. However, like most wild creatures, they will defend themselves if they feel threatened. Although people may claim to have been bitten by them, these centipedes technically administer venom to their prey via their forcipules or “venomous fangs”. Therefore, they are stinging insects rather than biting ones. But that’s simply splitting hairs if one decides to attack you.

Reports vary on how much that experience might hurt. Some sources state that house centipede stings are extremely painful. Others report that unfortunate encounters are no worse than being stung by a bee. However, anyone can be allergic. Depending on the severity of their symptoms, particularly unfortunate victims might end up at either the doctor’s office or the emergency room.

house centipede

House centipedes are off the wall.

  • Outside near buildings.
  • Wood or leaf piles.
  • Under rocks, logs, or concrete slabs.
  • Garages, basements, bathrooms, crawl spaces, and cellars.
  • Cement block walls.
  • Floor drains.
  • Around cardboard boxes, particularly those on concrete slabs.
  • Cool, damp locations.
  • Cluttered spaces.

How They Infiltrate Your Home

  • Expansion cracks or other breaks in concrete slabs.
  • Sump pump openings.
  • Uncapped cement block walls or those with cracked or missing mortar.
  • Floor drains that don’t have water traps, particularly ones with dry sumps.
  • Small cracks.

Getting Them to Bug Off

Unless you’re allergic to their stings, it might be best to take a hands-off approach to finding a single centipede in your home. However, if they seem to be planning an invasion in a manner reminiscent of the Independence Day aliens, more extreme measures might be necessary.

Best Removal Methods
  • Seal up all external holes so the centipedes don’t have a way to get in.
  • Eliminate their food source by calling a pest management service or taking care of the issue yourself. However, you may want to set out sticky traps to find out what sort of additional pests you’re dealing with before you take either of the aforementioned steps.
  • Reduce moisture in the atmosphere by using a dehumidifier or fan.
  • Remove debris around your house and yard area, particularly stuff that retains moisture.
  • Use a pesticide to get rid of them. If you go this route, make sure to follow all the directions on the product and only use products that are labeled as safe to use in a home environment. Boric acid and diatomaceous earth are considered acceptable, low-risk options. However, all pesticides are poisonous. They can be harmful or even deadly if they are improperly used or stored incorrectly. Keep these items away from children, pets, livestock, and water sources.
  • Contact a qualified pest control technician to take care of the problem for you.

And may you never be bugged by house centipedes again!

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About Lauren

Lauren Purcell is a freelance writer from Savannah, Georgia. She is the proud owner of two spoiled little dogs. Her hobbies include gardening (in case you hadn't noticed), cooking, traveling when she has money, and waiting on her key lime tree to produce fruit.

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