Are House Centipedes Dangerous? Uncovering the Truth About These Creepy Crawlers

House centipedes are often seen as creepy crawlers that might cause fear, but are they actually dangerous?

These arthropods have elongated bodies and numerous legs, making them easily recognizable among household pests.

Despite their somewhat scary appearance, it’s important to understand their behavior and the potential risks they pose.

While house centipedes can hunt down and feed on other small insects, such as cockroaches and spiders, their presence inside a home usually indicates a larger infestation issue.

Are House Centipedes Dangerous
House Centipede

They are mostly active at night and prefer areas with high humidity, like basements or bathrooms.

Interestingly, centipedes provide some benefits by destroying other insects in your home that could be harmful or annoying.

As for their danger factor, centipede bites in the United States generally lack enough toxicity to be life-threatening to adults and children.

However, it’s still crucial to be cautious, as their bites can cause discomfort to some individuals.

Overall, house centipedes might make some people uneasy, but they pose a minimal danger and can even help control other insect pests within the household.

House Centipede Overview

Physical Characteristics

House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) are distinguishable arthropods with several unique features, such as:

  • Length: Up to 1½ inches long
  • Legs: 15 pairs of long, slender, almost thread-like legs
  • Color: Brown to grayish-yellow body with three dark stripes on top
  • Leg Bands: Dark and white bands encircling each leg

These barbed legs can be helpful in holding onto their prey.

Habitat and Behavior

House centipedes are arachnids that have adapted well to various environments, ranging from the Mediterranean to North America. Their preferred habitats usually have high humidity levels:

  • Indoors: Basements, storage areas, laundry rooms, garages, bathrooms, cabinets, and damp places under potted plants.
  • Outdoors: Crawl spaces, crevices, and cracks in walls or foundations.

Being nocturnal creatures, house centipedes are mostly active during the night. They’re known to feed on smaller arthropods, including spiders, silverfish, carpet beetle larvae, and even cockroaches.

Their presence indoors might indicate a more significant issue, such as an abundance of prey arthropods or more severe infestations.

House Centipede

CategoryHouse CentipedesMillipedes
Leg Pairs15 pairs2 pairs per segment
Body ShapeFlattened, segmentedCylindrical, elongated
HabitatIndoors & outdoorsOutdoors
Humidity LevelsHighMoist environments
NocturnalYesMostly

Are House Centipedes Dangerous?

House Centipede Bite

House centipedes are usually not dangerous, as their venom isn’t powerful enough to cause harm to humans.

Their bites can be compared to a bee sting, causing redness, swelling, and pain.

However, some people may experience an allergic reaction. These insects are primarily predators, eating other insects like silverfish, ants, roaches, and spiders.

Example:

  • Bee sting: painful, may cause an allergic reaction
  • Centipede bite: similar to a bee sting, may cause redness and swelling

Effect on Humans

Although house centipedes possess venom, the effects on humans are not severe. In most cases, their bite is harmless, causing only minor discomfort.

People may experience swelling or inflammation, but these symptoms typically subside within a few hours.

House centipedes generally avoid humans and are rarely seen in the open.

Characteristics of house centipede bite in humans:

  • Minor discomfort
  • Swelling or inflammation
  • Symptoms subside quickly

Impact on Pets

House centipedes can bite pets, causing similar symptoms as in humans. Most pets recover quickly from a centipede bite, with no serious health implications.

However, pets may experience pain, swelling, or an allergic reaction, which should be monitored.

Comparison table: House centipede bite on pets

House Centipede

PetBite symptomsSeverity
DogsPain, swellingGenerally minor
CatsPain, rednessGenerally minor
Small mammalsPain, swellingGenerally minor

House Centipedes as Pests

Infestation Signs

House centipedes are mostly nocturnal and may not always be visible. Indications of their presence include:

  • Sightings of live or dead centipedes
  • Shed skin, as centipedes molt throughout their life
  • Small bites on other pests, like silverfish and cockroaches

Food Sources

House centipedes feed on a variety of small arthropods:

  • Silverfish
  • Firebrats
  • Carpet beetle larvae
  • Cockroaches
  • Spiders

Their presence could signify a larger pest issue, as they typically come indoors when attracted to an abundance of prey.

Prevention and Control Methods

Here are some methods for preventing and controlling house centipedes:

Physical Barriers

  • Seal cracks and gaps in the foundation
  • Install door sweeps
  • Repair or replace damaged window screens

Environmental Changes

  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture
  • Clean up damp areas like basements, storage rooms, and bathrooms
  • Clear away organic matter from drains, gutters, and around your home

Chemical Control

  • Apply diatomaceous earth around infested areas
  • Use household pesticides according to label instructions

Keep in mind that centipedes, in general, are not aggressive toward humans and may even help control other pests. However, they can be a nuisance when present in large numbers indoors.

House Centipede

House Centipede Benefits

Eating Unwanted Insects

House centipedes provide several benefits by consuming unwanted insects in your home. These arthropods feed on a variety of pests, including:

  • Silverfish
  • Firebrats
  • Carpet beetle larvae
  • Cockroaches
  • Spiders
  • Ants

By eating these insects, house centipedes help to control their populations and prevent infestations.

Natural Pest Control

House centipedes can serve as a form of natural pest control, limiting the need for chemical treatments and sticky traps. They can be particularly useful for controlling insects that are resistant to certain pesticides.

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly, reducing the need for chemical treatments
  • Targets numerous types of pests
  • Works around the clock by being most active at night

Cons:

  • May cause discomfort or fear for some people due to their appearance
  • The presence of house centipedes may be a sign of an existing insect problem

Comparison Table

 House CentipedesChemical TreatmentSticky Traps
Eco-friendlyYesNoNo
Targets multiple pestsYesDepends on the pesticideNo (specific to individual insects)
Active at nightYesNoYes

Overall, house centipedes can offer a viable and environmentally friendly alternative for pest control by preying on unwanted insects.

However, their presence should also be a reminder to check for potential infestations that may require further action.

House Centipede

Life Cycle of House Centipedes

Egg and Larvae

House centipedes lay their eggs in damp and unexcavated areas, as they require high humidity for their development.

Larvae hatch from these eggs and undergo several molting stages, during which they obtain more segments and legs.

  • Egg-laying sites: moist and unexcavated areas
  • Eggs: hatch into larvae

The larval stage is essential for identifying potential house centipede infestations since their presence indicates a larger underlying issue, such as an abundance of small insects that the centipedes feed on.

Adult Centipedes

As adults, house centipedes predominantly feed on other household pests, such as silverfish, firebrats, carpet beetle larvae, cockroaches, and spiders 1.

While they help control infestations of these small insects, their venomous bite can cause mild discomfort, redness, and itchiness.

Comparing House Centipedes to Other Household Pests:

 House CentipedesWorms
AppearanceLong-legged arthropods2Soft-bodied invertebrates
HabitatDamp and humid areas3Moisture-rich environments
DietSmall insects4Organic matter
Significance to humansVenomous bites5Mostly Harmless 

To manage house centipede populations, consider using dehumidifiers to reduce moisture and humidity.

Regularly inspect and treat unexcavated areas to discourage egg-laying behavior.

Conclusion

In conclusion, house centipedes may look scary due to their elongated bodies and multiple legs, these household creatures are recognizable yet misunderstood.

Despite their unsettling looks, comprehending their behavior and potential risks is vital. House centipedes prey on smaller insects like spiders and cockroaches, though their presence could indicate a broader infestation.

Interestingly, these creatures are an excellent source of natural pest control as they eliminate harmful or bothersome insects.

Yes, they are beneficial but their bites can be painful. Thankfully, centipede bites are generally not life-threatening in the United States, even for adults and children.

Understanding these insects can help to stay safe from them and avoid injuries.

Footnotes

  1. Penn State Extension

  2. Horticulture and Home Pest News

  3. MDC Teacher Portal

  4. Texas A&M University

  5. Oklahoma State University

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about house centipedes. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – House Centipede

What the heck is this?
I live in Denver, Colorado. I’ve seen a couple of these in the basement. Fast and about 1 inch long.
Casey

Hi Casey,
One of our commonest query subjects is the House Centipede.

Letter 2 – House Centipede

Picture of House Centipede
Captured this great shot of a house centipede in our home in Portland, Oregon. I identified it using your website, and I thought you might want to see this great picture. Thanks,
Monica

Hi Monica,
Thanks for sending us your photo. We will post it on the homepage until we get another wonderful photo of a House Centipede since we always keep an example of this wonderful predator there.

Letter 3 – House Centiped in Operating Room and remedy for Reptile Mites

Hello WTB,
I ran across your wounderful website today while trying to save the life of a missunderstood house centiped that had been called a silverfish by a staff member today. The critter ran past us and avoided a near squishing foot by ducking under our surgery table.

I had seen this guy or his relatives in our basement from time to time and though they can move very quickly and startle me they have never seemed to have any intentions of harming anyone.

I managed to capture our visiter in a urine cup…it’s all I had and it was sterile =x and decided I would try to identify him so that he would not be sentenced to death simply for being scary.

Well your website saved his life and proved he was not a silverfish, but a house centipede that would take care of any spiders or other insects he could find. I released him in our basement and the other staff memebers agreed he was scary but better than having spiders around.

His new name is Fluffy.
After work I revisited your site, I’ve been a long time fan of bugs and can still be seen with my head in a bush if I see something interesting. As I browsed around I saw a post from someone named Kevin on 11-30-05 on your mite page.

His snake’s cage has been invaded by some mites. While I do like bugs and insects, I realy hate ectoparasites. My columbian red tail boa, Link, had a similar problem this spring.

While our office does not see reptiles we researched the topic and came up with a plan to free my snake of his friends. I changed his cage completely, discarded all items that could harbor mites, branches, sticks and the like.

Link himself was treated with Frontline Spray (fipronil), this is an off lable use, and Merial the company that makes the product has not tested it for use on reptiles. Kevin should check with a local reptile vet before treating his snake.

We sprayed a paper towel with frontline and gently wiped Link down then returned him to his cage. In cats and dogs you have to wait 24 hours before giving them a bath after applying frontline.

I did not want to deprive my snake that long so I returned his swimming pool after about 6 hours. The mites have not been seen or heard from again. I hope this helps Kevin’s poor snake.


Jessica Leonard, CVT

Letter 4 – House Centipede Rescue

Possible plot for a horror movie? I think not.
July 24, 2009
It was like a horror movie gone wrong. Margaret, our volunteer receptionist, came into my office to give me a postage stamp she’d saved for my Mum. At 80, Margaret has a few mobility problems and she’s really not walking too well at the moment.

As she turned slowly to go back out to reception, she yelled, “What’s that? Oh my god, kill it, kill it!”
I turned and saw she was looking at the floor. I jumped up, expecting to see some monster ready to attack. At the same time, my survival instinct kicked in and I prepared myself to push Margaret out of the way and escape if I had to – compassion only goes so far, you know.


And then I saw it – the monster. In Margaret’s eyes it was so fat it looked pregnant. It was hideous, as far as she was concerned, and it had to die or it would kill us.


No, I told her, I wasn’t going to kill it. I had an empty plastic cup on my desk so I used that to scoop it up, though I did have to chase it to get it.
“Don’t let it come near me!” screamed Margaret.


With my head held high, hero fashion, I took my captive out to the scrubby area near the old warehouse along the street and set it free to live another day, thinking that if it wanted to, it would find its way into the warehouse soon enough.


Such are the everyday dramas at the Oswego NY Branch of the American Red Cross.
Susan, house centipede rescuer

Dear Susan,
Thanks so much for sending us your gripping account of an Unnecessary Carnage intervention.

Letter 5 – House Centipede

Hi. First, I want to thank you for your wonderfully informative site. I was trying to identify the very creepy-looking critter in my bathtub and was able to find out that it was a house centipede and that I need not be afraid. 🙂

Anyway, I had gotten a pretty good picture of it and thought I’d pass it along in case you could make use of it.
Thanks again.
Tina

Hi Tina,
I’m glad we could be helpful. I will post your photo immediately. Since we get so many letters about House Centipedes, it is always nice to have a new image for the homepage.

Letter 6 – House Centipede

What sort of Bug/insect is this
Hello,
Was wondering if you help me with identifying this bug/insect that we found in our home. I have attached three photos to help out never have seen anything like this before it looks like a cross between a centipede and a silverfish! Your help is much appreciated.

Regards
Ty and Larelle

Hi Ty and Larelle,
This is a House Centipede, one of the most common identification queries we get. For that reason, there is always a photo of a House Centipede on our homepage. Yours will replace the current image.

House Centipedes are harmless predators that will kill and eat many other household intruders.

Letter 7 – House Centipede

Can you identify this bug?
Hi Bugman!
I was wondering if you can tell me what kind of bug this is. I found it (them) in the basement behind the insulation. It is about 2 inches long and I live in Ohio. Also, what do you recommend to get rid of them (I have kids and animals to keep in mind)?

Thank you,
Greg Miller

Hi Greg,
This is a House Centipede, easily the most popular query subject submitted to our site, except perhaps general spider questions. For that reason, there is always a photo of a House Centipede on our homepage so querants can easily locate the object of their curious desire.

We do not give extermination advice in general, and more specificly, we would never recommend killing a beneficial predator like a harmless House Centipede.

Letter 8 – House Centipede

Vying for the Newest Best House Centipede Photo Award
I have always wondered what this was, and I have found your website to be quite helpful. I think this photo may be the best yet!
Cindy

Hi Cindy,
There isn’t really a prize, just the recognition. Additionally, we keep House Centipede images on our homepage at all times, so yours might remain for months. It really is a prize shot.

Letter 9 – House Centipede

House Centipede (2 close up photos)
I didn’t stumble upon your site until I figured out what this thing was. Regardless, I thought the close-ups would be a nice addition to your collection. I find them on my floor or in my bathroom. I’m on the bottom floor of a townhouse so it makes sense. Enjoy.
Sean

Hi Sean,
We do like to change the House Centipede image we run on our homepage regularly, and your photos are very nice. We like to keep an image of this harmless and highly beneficial species on our homepage to warn people not to kill them unnecessarily.

Letter 10 – House Centipede

bug to identify
Bugman,
Our cats and I killed two of these bugs last year in August. I found this smaller version in our central Iowa home today. Can you tell me what kind of bug this is? Thanks for your time and expertise,
Curious Homeowner

Hi Curious,
Many people are curious about House Centipedes, and they are probably our most frequent query subject. Your photo is quite beautiful.

Letter 11 – House Centipede

what in the world is this bug?
Hi Bugman,
I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in a basement appartment of a small but clean house. We see many of these creepy creatures scurrying around the place all the time.

I finally got a photo oppurtunity and snapped on while it was crawling on the wall. This one is by far the biggest one I’ve seen. It messures about 5cm, and it was having a very hard time climbing the wall… maybe because he/she was overweight.

Thanks
Dave

Hi Dave,
This is a harmless House Centipede.

Letter 12 – House Centipede

House Centipede
Found this today in our hallway…thought you might enjoy this!
Brian Dyjak
Base Multimedia Center
McGuire AFB, NJ

Thanks Brian,
We always like new images of House Centipedes to post on our homepage.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

4 thoughts on “Are House Centipedes Dangerous? Uncovering the Truth About These Creepy Crawlers”

  1. Hi, I’m from NJ and two days ago I found a huge bug like this in the shower. It got out of under the rubber mat I have in the bathtub when I run the water and step inside. I freaked out and sprayed with bug spray and it did not move any more, then I flushed it in the toilet.

    My problem is that happened 4 days ago and still thinking and getting shills when I remember or go in the bathroom, I look everywhere thinking is coming back or I’m going to find another one. I now move the mat every time after I shower and put a cover in the drain. although I don’t know if that is how it got there.

    Can someone tell me how to keep them out of my apt. I also had ant which I have been able to keep out keeping black pepper around all the kitchen. Please do you have any tips for this bugs to stay out of my apt? It happened to me when I was little bug with a lot of legs got in my hand and since that I have phobia to any bug with more than two or lots of legs, like spiders, or any kind of centipedes, specially with long legs.
    Thank You , I’m even afraid to close my eyes when I wash my face in the shower 🙁

    Reply
  2. I have never understood how people can confuse house centipedes with silverfish. However, it was due to that confusion that I was able to identify this critter that nearly gave me a heart attack when I first saw one in the kitchen. I was looking for information on silverfish when I came across a photo someone had posted and incorrectly labeled, which then led me to the correct identification.

    We recently had one prowling around in the bathroom. Biggest one I’ve ever seen. It has disappeared now. So have the silverfish. And the ants. We still have some spiders, but probably not for long, as I’m sure our friendly house centipede is still lurking somewhere….

    The question is, once the centipedes have dispatched all the other invaders, what do you do with the centipedes?

    Reply
  3. It really look creepy!!!
    I just flushed one 2inches about,my wife was screaming like someone strangling her I ran to her and damn it creepy.
    Does it bites and make you itchy? cause it looks like it does .

    Reply

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