Centipedes have flattened, multisegmented bodies and a pair of legs on each body segment. The first pair of legs is modified into poisonous jaws beneath the mouthparts. Centipede antennae are elongated and have 14 or more segments. Centipedes are grayish yellow or reddish brown in color and may have three dark, long striations. Their legs are encircled with alternating dark and white lines. House centipedes measure approximately 25 to 38 mm in length.
Centipedes can be beneficial in that they consume cockroaches and other house pests as prey. However, an infestation of these arthropods can become a nuisance. In order to prevent an infestation, homeowners can take the following steps.
Because centipedes thrive in wet habitats, infestations often occur in places that harbor excess moisture. Centipedes are less likely to appear in properly ventilated basements and crawl spaces, so a dehumidifier may be of use in combating an infestation.
In addition, a profusion of dark cracks and crevices may encourage an infestation. Homeowners should regularly inspect the structure for cracks and crevices and ensure that soil slopes away from the foundation so that water drains away from the home.
Compost piles, mulch, rotting wood, rocks, bricks and leaf litter provide perfect breeding grounds for centipedes and should be kept at least three feet away from the foundation. Similarly, low-growing vegetation should be located far from buildings in order to discourage the entrance of these pests.
Garage doors, basement doors or windows, and crawl space vents are common centipede entry points. Inspect these and make any necessary repairs.
While residual insecticide may also be used on the perimeter, treatment of an identified infestation should be left to the homeowner's local pest control expert.
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