Centipedes can be identified by their flattened, elongated bodies. Typically colored reddish brown, the body of a centipede is divided into segments, with each segment bearing one pair of legs. The majority of centipedes have short legs, but the house centipede’s legs are extremely long. Despite their name, most centipedes have far fewer than 100 legs, although their swift movements and coloration can sometimes make it appear otherwise.
Located below the mouth, the centipede’s first pair of legs is modified to administer venom to prey and predators. The venom is not normally life threatening to humans. However, the pain from a large centipede bite can be extreme and may last up to several days. The centipede’s head also holds a pair of multisegmented antennae.
Centipedes prefer to make their habitat in moist areas outdoors. They are often found within compost or leaf piles and underneath stones, boards and other detritus. The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) will infiltrate homes, appearing in moist basements, closets, bathrooms, crawl spaces and unfinished basements.
Unlike other species of centipede, the house centipede is grayish yellow in color with three long, dark stripes. Its legs are encircled with alternating dark and white bands. Measuring approximately 2.5 to 5 cm in length, the common house centipede has 15 pairs of long legs. They move very quickly and are sometimes mistaken for spiders.
If you suspect a centipede infestation within or around your home, contact a professional to discuss control and extermination options.