Centipedes

Facts, Identification & Control

Latin Name

Class Chilopoda

Appearance

What do they look like?
centipede image

  • Body: Centipedes are elongated, with flat, segmented bodies that contain a pair of legs per segment.
  • Color: Centipedes occur in several colors and patterns but most common are brown and reddish orange.
  • Size: They range in size from 4 to 152 mm, depending on the species.
  • Head: The heads of centipedes have a pair of long and sensitive antennae.
  • Claws: They have small mouths and have large, clawlike structures that contain a venom gland. Because most centipedes are carnivorous creatures that forage for food at night, they use their claws to paralyze their victims, such as worms, spiders and small vertebrates.
  • Legs: The name centipede, which means “100 legs,” can be somewhat misleading: centipedes may have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs.
centipede illustration

How Did I Get Centipedes?

House centipedes prefer damp and dark areas. As a result, homes with moisture problems can attract these pests. Residents may see them in basements, closets, or bathrooms, sometimes even in tubs or sinks. House centipedes will prey on insects that are in the same areas.

How Serious Are House Centipedes?

Though possible, centipede bites are rare, and their venom only causes mild irritation. And since they eat insects, most people consider them harmless and even beneficial. However, they may become a nuisance. Worried residents may crush a house centipede, which can leave behind stains.

How Can I Get Rid of Centipedes?

What Orkin Does
Centipedes are a diverse group of Arthropods with a range of behavioral characteristics. Therefore, when centipedes become a problem, the first thing to do is contact your local Orkin pest management professional and request an inspection.

Once the inspection is complete, your Orkin technician will prepare a centipede treatment plan designed to control the centipede species causing problems. Centipede treatment usually involves both non-chemical and chemical control methods, but the treatment plan will emphasize finding where centipedes are located and how they are getting inside the home.

Some non-chemical treatments that may be included in the treatment plan include:

  • Moisture: Reducing moisture problems by repairing water leaks or using dehumidifiers
  • Clutter: Reducing clutter that provides centipedes with protection and a place to hide. Your pest technician will likely point out these places and recommend not allowing stored items to be stacked right up against the wall or rest directly on the floor.
  • Other pests: Reducing the number of insects and spiders that provide a food source for centipedes
  • Openings: Sealing holes, cracks and gaps that enable outdoor centipedes, insects and spiders to get inside a home
  • Vaccuuming: Removing indoor centipedes with a vacuum

Generally, chemical control methods are used for temporary centipede control. If needed, your Orkin technician will use insecticides in cracks, crevices and other centipede harborage areas. If the centipede population is especially heavy outdoors, the plan may include chemical applications to the cracks or gaps in the foundation, in the crawl space or the mulch around the house.


Signs of a Centipede Infestation

Centipedes typically leave no direct signs other than the sighting of the centipede itself. They are rarely seen by humans due to their nocturnal activity and the speed with which they move.

Facts

Where do they hide?
Adult centipedes hide in moist, dark and secluded areas during winter. They place eggs in dampened soil during summer or spring. As centipedes become adults, they grow a complete set of legs and extra segments. Most centipedes live for more than a year and some up to six years.

Nocturnal
Centipedes may enter houses and buildings, but they do not roam during daytime. Centipedes are fast moving, agile, nocturnal animals. They hide in damp areas around bathrooms, closets, basements and other sites typically infested by pests.

What do they eat?
Most centipedes are carnivorous and prey upon soft-bodied insects, spiders, worms and other arthropods, including other centipedes. Read more about what they eat.

What about damage?
Centipedes are not likely to consume wood. In actuality, arthropods commonly known as wood eating centipedes are millipedes. While millipedes do closely resemble centipedes, millipedes are herbivores and detritivores, subsisting on dead and decaying plant material, including wood or cellulose material.

Do they bite?
Centipedes are venomous. Their venom allows them to attack prey and defend themselves against predators and other natural enemies. Centipede venom is not normally life endangering to humans, although the bite can be painful.

Lifespan
Provided that they are able to escape from predators and that their surroundings are conducive to survival, centipedes can live as long as six years. Among arthropods, this lifespan is considered longer than many.

Eyesight
While some centipedes have compound eyes containing as many as 200 optical units, others do not have eyes. All centipedes have very poor eyesight and track their prey through the use of touch and smell.

More Information

Biology
Centipede Bites
How Many Legs Does a Centipede Have?
What Is the Difference Between Centipedes and Millipedes
Centipede Eggs
Centipede Reproductive Cycles
What Do Centipedes Eat?

More About Centipedes
Are Centipedes Dangerous?
Centipede Infestation
Centipedes in the Bathroom
Centipede Repellents
How Do Centipedes Get in the House?
What Attracts Centipedes?

Types
Types of Centipedes in North America
House Centipedes
Giant Desert Centipedes
Poisonous Centipedes
Texas Redheaded Centipedes
Clear Colored Centipedes
Identifying Centipedes