Do Centipedes Eat Spiders? Discover Their Surprising Dining Habits

Centipedes are many-legged creatures known for their swift movements and predatory nature. These arthropods are often found lurking in different environments, from gardens to homes. A common question among homeowners dealing with both centipedes and spiders is, do centipedes eat spiders?

The answer is yes, centipedes do eat spiders. As predators, centipedes primarily feed on insects, spiders, and other small arthropods. Their diet consists of a wide variety of prey, which means spiders are among the meals they consume. This makes centipedes helpful in controlling the spider population in certain areas where these two creatures coexist.

Some people might see centipedes as beneficial creatures in their homes, as they help eliminate pests like spiders, roaches, and other small insects. On the other hand, centipedes can be unsettling and unpleasant for others due to their appearance and swift movements. The choice of either appreciating or getting rid of centipedes depends on personal preference and individual situations regarding pest control.

Centipedes and Their Diet

Natural Prey for Centipedes

Centipedes are known to be carnivorous creatures, preying on various small animals. Some examples of their natural prey are:

  • Insects: including ants, flies, and cockroaches
  • Arachnids: such as spiders
  • Myriapods: like millipedes
  • Mollusks: snails, for instance
  • Small vertebrates: like earthworms, lizards, and mice

Centipedes as Carnivores

As carnivores, centipedes utilize venomous jaws to catch and consume their prey. They are often seen hunting and feeding on insects and arachnids like spiders source. Here’s a brief comparison of centipedes to other creatures in terms of their dietary habits:

Organism Diet Feeding habits
Centipedes Carnivorous Active hunters
Spiders Carnivorous Predatory
Millipedes Herbivorous Detritivores
Earthworms Herbivorous Substrate feeders
Lizards Omnivorous Insectivores or herbivores

The predatory nature of centipedes can be beneficial in controlling pest populations, such as silverfish, ants, and cockroaches source. However, a high number of centipedes might indicate an underlying infestation that needs addressing.

In summary, centipedes are carnivorous arthropods, preying on insects, spiders, and other small creatures. Their diet consists of a variety of prey, spanning from invertebrates to small vertebrates. Additionally, they can act as natural pest control agents due to their active hunting behavior and consumption of pest species.

Centipedes Eating Spiders

Hunting Techniques

Centipedes are efficient predators that primarily hunt small insects and spiders. They are nocturnal hunters, meaning they actively seek their prey during the night. Some examples of their hunting techniques include:

  • Ambushing: Centipedes often hide in dark crevices and wait for their prey.
  • Chasing: Using their multiple legs, centipedes can quickly chase down their prey.

Similarities and Differences

Both centipedes and spiders are venomous predators. Centipedes use their forcipules, which are modified front legs, to deliver a paralyzing venom and subdue their prey. Spiders use fangs and inject venom through their mandibles.

Feature Centipedes Spiders
Legs 1 pair/segment 8 total
Body Segments 15-200 segments 2 segments
Predatory Yes Yes
Venom Delivery Forcipules Mandibles
Hunting Method Nocturnal Various

Key characteristics of centipedes:

  • Multiple body segments, each with a pair of legs
  • Long, slender bodies
  • Nocturnal predators
  • Use forcipules to deliver venom

Main characteristics of spiders:

  • Eight legs
  • Two distinct body segments
  • Highly varied hunting strategies
  • Use fangs to deliver venom

House Centipedes

Habitat and Behavior

House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) are found in various habitats such as basements, bathrooms, and leaf litter, thriving in damp and dark environments. They have:

  • Segmented bodies
  • 15 pairs of long, slender legs
  • Almost thread-like antennae
  • Brown to grayish-yellow color with dark stripes on top

These centipedes are fast runners, which help them catch their prey, such as moths, crickets, and pesky bugs. Although they possess venomous claws on their modified front legs, they are harmless to humans.

Role in Pest Control

House centipedes can be seen as beneficial to homeowners, as they feed on common household pests such as:

  • Silverfish
  • Cockroaches
  • Bedbugs
  • Earwigs

Despite their helpful role in controlling insect populations, many people find their presence alarming. To keep centipede populations in check without resorting to exterminators or chemicals, homeowners can:

  • Seal cracks and crevices in walls to prevent entry
  • Use dehumidifiers to reduce humidity in damp areas
  • Set up sticky traps to catch them
  • Use natural remedies like diatomaceous earth

When considering house centipedes in pest control, here’s a comparison table showing their pros and cons:

Pros Cons
Natural predators of household pests Unsettling appearance for some people
Harmless to humans Can multiply in favorable conditions
Can indicate other insect infestations May be found in unexpected places like bathrooms

In summary, house centipedes can be helpful allies in controlling common household pests. By understanding their habitat and behavior, homeowners can consider both natural and professional methods to manage their presence in the home.

Safety and Precautions

Centipede Bites and Venom

Centipedes are predatory venomous arthropods that use their fangs, called forcipules, to inject venom while hunting for prey 1. Generally, centipede bites cause mild to moderate pain. Symptoms can include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Possible infection

To reduce the risk of centipede bites:

  • Avoid handling centipedes
  • Wear protective gloves when gardening
  • Be cautious in damp, dark areas where centipedes are more likely to be found

Preventing Infestations

To avoid a centipede infestation, it is essential to reduce their food sources and remove hiding places. Some steps to follow include:

  • Eliminate their prey, like spiders and earwigs, by maintaining a clean and clutter-free environment
  • Remove leaf litter, woodpiles, and stones from outdoor areas that may provide habitat for centipedes and their prey items
  • Seal gaps in wall foundations, windows, and door frames to prevent entry
  • Use dehumidifiers to reduce moisture in basements to make the environment less appealing for centipedes

Here is a comparison table of two different methods used for controlling centipede populations:

Method Pros Cons
Pest Control Professional expertise, effective extermination Can be costly, may use chemicals
DIY Prevention Low cost, non-chemical options Less effective for severe infestations

In conclusion, centipedes may prey on spiders and maintaining safety and precautions against their bites and infestations is important for our overall well-being.

Footnotes

  1. Centipede Envenomation – StatPearls – NCBI Bookshelf

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Tropical Centipede in the West Indies

 

Subject: Tropical Centiped on St. Kitt’s
Location: St Kitt’s, West Indies
January 15, 2013 10:25 am
I go to veterinary school on the island of St. Kitt’s in the caribbean. We have quite a few of these beasties here; they supposedly have a pretty painful bite and often get into people’s houses: I’ve had two in the last two days actually. Usually I put them back outside, especially since people say that if you cannot kill them instantaneously they will fight back! I don’t like killing bugs for no reason though so like I said I typically put them outside. Locals here use a chemical called BOP which is actually banned in the USA… I don’t use it because it is so toxic you have to leave your home for a few hours after spraying and the residue is quite persistent. Anyway, the centipedes are quite notorious around here for biting people in the night after getting into their beds. A professor here knew a student who was bitten on his unmentionables! Local folklore says that if you find a mother centipede with eggs or baby centipedes, you or som eone you know is pregnant!
Signature: L Rose

Tropical Centipede

Dear L Rose,
Thank you for your amusing anecdotes.  We posted an email a while back from a young lady who found a Desert Tiger Centipede in her panties and we can only surmise that Tropical Centipedes like warm spots, hence their fondness for entering beds on St Kitts.  The folklore about finding a mother centipede is also amusing since almost everyone knows of at least one expectant mother at any given time.

Letter 2 – Tropical Centipede from Namibia: Scolopendra morsitans

 

Namibian arthropods
Location: Namibia (see above)
November 15, 2011 12:44 pm
Can you please name these.All pictures were taken in April 2011 in Namibia.
The cricket was taken in the Etendeke Mountain camp close to Palmwag. The other 2 images were taken at Durstenbruck farm north of Windhoek.
Signature: Roger Pinkney

Tropical Centipede

Hi Roger,
Though we don’t know what species this is, this Tropical Centipede is one of the most beautiful Centipedes we have ever seen.  We will try to determine the species.  Tropical Centipedes in the genus
Scolopendra are found in many places around the world.

Letter 3 – What is Poaching??? Tropical Centipedes and a pair of Millipedes from the Philippines

 

Centipedes from the Philippines Part 5

Tropical Centipede

Centipedes from the Philippines Part 5
Location:  Cebu, Philippines
September 15, 2010 2:29 am
Please help me ID these… Thank you!
Signature:  JY

Tropical Centipede

Dear JY,
Each of the fourteen photographs of individual Centipedes you sent to us in five different emails are Tropical Centipedes in the order Scolopendromorpha
We suspect that they are color variations of the same species or subspecies, and we are posting a representative sample from your photographs that demonstrate the diversity of coloration and markings.  We tried to search the internet and found a Scolopendromorph from the Philippines on the Arachnoboards forum, but the species is not identified.  Scolopendromorpha.com has a photograph of a specimen from the Philippines identified as Scolopendra subspinipes.  In our research, we did stumble upon a Philippine Tattoo Revival web page that indicates that headhunters from the Philippines had stylized Centipedes tattooed upon their bodies based on the number of human heads they had taken.  The site states:  “Kalinga men who killed two or more men had elaborate patterns applied to their arms and chests called biking, comprised of khaman (“head-axes”), ufug (“centipede scales”) and bodies of the centipede (gayaman), which were protective and spiritually charged symbols. The khaman design also covered portions of the torso, back, and thighs and centipede scales crossed the cheeks of the most successful warriors.

Tropical Centipede

Your final image, labeled A4, is not a Centipede, but a Millipede in the class Diplopoda.  Unlike predatory Centipedes, Millipedes feed on decaying plant material and they have two pairs of legs on each body segment while Centipedes have on pair of legs per segment.

Millipedes

Oh….. Hehe! I am really looking forward to i.d. these because my buyer from germany wants to buy some of them  but he will only buy them if i get it identified hehehe

Dear JY,
Now we are concerned that you may be a poacher.  Is it legal to collect exotic Tropical Centipedes in the Philippines?  Is it legal to export living Philippine Centipedes to Germany?  We were so incredibly touched by the image of the female Centipede cradling her brood that we fear that illegal collection may contribute to the demise of this noble creature in the wild on your island.

Letter 4 – Tropical Centipede from Hawaii

 

Indonesian Centipede
Hi Bugman!
My daughter Alexa and I live in Kona, Hawaii where we get a fair number of these giant centipedes. You’ve already got some great pictures on your site of these, (Indonesian centipede, right?) but none of them truly capture the size of these critters. We have been waiting months to try to get a good picture of one of these guys, but they never seem to cooperate. Finally, this big one came wandering into our garage. Alexa (age 6) carefully put her plastic sand bucket over him while I ran and got our camera and a tape measure. To our mutual surprise, when we took off the bucket the centipede did not move and allowed me to take his picture several times. If you really stretched him out, I think he’s pushing 7 inches from antenae to rear legs. I know these centipedes can give you one hell of a bite, (the pain is supposed to last a couple of days) but they are really non-aggressive. I’ve had one stroll accross my bare foot. Plus, don’t these things eat cockroaches? Anyway, keep up the great work!
Jeff Lanterman

Hi Jeff,
We really want to thank you and your bug wrangler Alexa for supplying us with these wonderful photos. Yes, Tropical Centipedes do eat cockroaches.

Letter 5 – Tropical Centipede from Zimbabwe

 

Subject: Centipede in Zimbabwe
Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
December 20, 2013 9:44 pm
I found this centipede in my garden. I’ve only been in the country 3 weeks. I’d really love to know what kind this is.
Signature: Anthony

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

Hi again Anthony,
This is a Tropical Centipede in the order Scolopendromorpha, but it might be difficult to determine a species identification.  Large individuals can deliver a painful bite, and the venom may produce a local reaction, so the should be handled with extreme caution.  The markings on this individual are not too dissimilar from the markings on this Namibian Centipede from our archives.

Letter 6 – The Creatures

 

(The Creatures
June2, 2002
) Hello Bug Person,
I saw your site and thought maybe you could help me and my roommate out. We have creatures. That’s what we call them, because they are unlike anything we’ve ever seen. In the last three places we’ve lived, we have seen the Creatures in our basement. They are similar to centipedes in that they are long, have many legs, and are creepy. But that’s where the similarities end. Centipedes are flattened with legs that look like this ^ with one joint, but these Creatures have 2 joints, like spider legs. They don’t have as many as a centipede but definitely more than 8. The legs are generally the same size too, not different lengths like a house centipede. they don’t have the front “fangs” like a centipede but a mandible similar to a spider’s – no antenae no little butt feelers. And they come in 3 different colors. I’ve seen very large ones (4-5 inches), black with white spots; others were just as big but dark brown; and just the other day, in our new duplex, we found a little one maybe 2-3 inches long and light brown. They are very fast and i even hit one with a book, cutting off its lower half, and the rest of it got away. Yeah, these things are evil. Nobody knows what these things are. We’ve had hunters, floridians, Arizonians, and other self-proclaimed bug experts, but we always get the same thing: a hideous blank stare and lonely nights in our basement. Can you tell me what the creatures are?

Alex,
Be afraid.  Be very afraid.  Scream Alex, scream for your life.  You have Tinglers living in your basement.  Barring the possibility that the horrific monster from the 50’s horror flick starring Vincent Price is in your basement, following you from house to house, I can think of several additional possibilities, though none seems to exactly fit your description.
Possibility #1 is the hellgrammite, the larval form of the dobson fly.  These four inch long creepy crawlies normally live in or near streams, but we have heard reports of them being found in basements.  Check out this website to see if the hellgrammite is your culprit. http://www.watersheds.org/blue/nature/gallery2/
pages/hellgramite.htm

Possibility #2 would be a sun spider or wind scorpion from the family Solpugidae.  They move quickly, and can be found in basements, though I haven’t heard of any American species quite as large as the creature you describe.  They are closely related to other arthropods called vinegaroons.
Possibility #3 would be a different type of centipede.  Scolopendra polymorpha is a six inch long species of centipede that resides within the continental U.S.   You can locate a photo of it and of the sun spider on this website.  http://www.angelfire.com/oh2/USInsects/
Arthropods.html

I shudder to think that we here at What’s That Bug have entered the ranks of hunters, floridians or Arizonians with blank stares, but without more concrete information, perhaps a photograph or a drawing, and some hint of your coordinates on the globe, we’ve run out of possible id’s.

Letter 7 – Tropical Centipede

 

"Welcome to Hawaii "guest
Aloha!
Two years ago, my family moved to Oahu. Shortly after arriving in our new home, we were surprised by a LARGE centipede. My daughters had never seen one before. I was upstairs when my 6 year old screamed that there was a "big bug" crawling on the floor. I told her it was probably a roach–since they are in OVER abundance here. She said, "NO! It has a LOT of LEGS!!" My first thought was a millipede. I came to investigate and was shocked! I have never seen one so big. I know they can be bigger, but this was big enough. We all climbed on the couch and I screamed for my husband to come catch it. He caught it after some effort. It seems they are very fast too. After taking some pictures, we kept it overnight and fed it 2 crickets and a roach. It was a voracious eater! It caught ALL THREE insects in its legs and just "conveyor belted" them to its jaws so it could chew off their heads. The next morning, all that was left was a wing and a leg. We then released it into a storm drain. Despite its size, I would rather have a 7 inch centipede outside eating roaches instead of a gooey memory on the bottom of my shoe. The centipede is in a fish bowl and that is my hand holding it. It was the only way we could get size perspective without getting bitten or it running off.
Dawn

Hi Dawn,
Thank you so much for writing in with your thrilling account of an encounter with a Tropical Centipede.

Letter 8 – Tropical Centipede from Borneo is Scolopendra subspinipes

 

Indonesian Borneo Centipede
Dear Whats that bug,
Thought you might like this one 🙂 The jaws were quite formidable on this centipede and it later managed to bite the Indonesian field staff member that is currently holding it. Despite sucking out most of the poison his thumb still swelled up quite a bit.
All the best,
Norman

Hi Norman,
Thanks for sending us your wonderful image as well as a well deserved warning about the bite of Tropical Centipedes.

Letter 9 – UFO, Drone or Real Bug?????

 

Subject: A flying, stick-like insect
Location: Arcata, CA; coastal, near redwoods
May 21, 2014 2:59 pm
Hello, this is my first time asking a question on this site and I do apologize if I am doing this wrong. I saw the strangest flying insect in Arcata, which is off the coast of Northern California, last week during my lunch break. It was a weird experience as I have never seen anything like it. I was at the community center park, specifically sitting on a grass field next to a small wooded area (deciduous), and this weird insect was flying around me for a few minutes. I was unfortunately not able to snap a picture of it before it left, so I will do my best at describing it in detail: It was about 2-2.5 inches in length and very thin. It was segmented and it’s torso looked very similar to that of a stick bug’s. The weird thing is that it’s body was bent like a U, so it’s head and bottom were higher than the middle part of it’s body. It seemed to have many (perhaps 20 or more) long, very thin legs that almost appeared as hairs falling from it’s t orso as it gracefully floated around. It’s head was a bit thicker than it’s body, and it had very thick, long antennae. I could not see it’s wings, as it was moving them rapidly, and it hovered around like a helicopter. It even got a few inches from my face twice, as if observing me. It was so alien and so freaky, I just had to let you guys know, and hopefully you can give me an idea as to what it was.
Thank you so much.
Signature: Nicole

Drone???
Drone???

Dear Nicole,
Please forgive the delay, but we really wanted to carefully craft our response to you.  This does not sound like any living creature that we know about, but it does sound like a hybrid of two adept predators we have represented in our archives: the Mosquito and the House Centipede.
  Mosquitoes are capable of hovering in place when deciding upon which part of the warm, human body part to puncture.  House Centipedes are fast runners that chase after prey.  We definitely would not want to have an encounter a House Centipede on our own scale.  We heard an interesting news story on NPR last week about the newest small Drones that look like insects, and that are so convincing that real insects have tried to mate with them.  Now, we here at WTB? could never imagine ourselves as the masterminds behind surveillance espionage, however, it we were to design a perfect Drone, we might consider morphing two unrelated species that have specific areas of near perfect mobility, in this case, air and ground.  A hybrid drone could fly to a location and then hit the ground running would be worth the research that went into it.  

Thanks for the reply. This is very interesting.
I appreciate the time you have put into investigating my experience with this unknown “bug”.

Letter 10 – Unknown Centipede

 

centipede?
Hello Bugman –
I found this cute little guy in some leaf litter in oak/madrone forest in Oakland, CA. Any idea what she/he is? thanks,
Your Fan,
Allison

Hi Allison,
We have found similar Centipedes in our Mt. Washington garden. They are not very long, about two inches, and very thin. They are also very agile and delicate looking. Sadly, we have never properly identified them. Now that you have sent in a photo, we will try to do additional research.

Letter 11 – Wireworm and Flatbacked Millipede

 

C

Authors

  • Daniel Marlos

    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.

18 thoughts on “Do Centipedes Eat Spiders? Discover Their Surprising Dining Habits”

    • Thank you for sending numerous Centipede identifications. We will update the titles on the postings to reflect your identifications.

      Reply
    • Is this orange/black centipede poisonous? We have come across 2 in one weekend and 1 of them INSIDE our house. We sleep on the floor on hot summer nights and I wouldn’t want to be in danger from a bite.

      Reply
  1. I saw a few of these beasty beauties during our trips throughout south east Asia specifically in Thailand so I was well impressed to see another of their ilk here st kitts today. We arrived here just a few days ago and while on our way back home from the local watering hole I saw an 8 inches who crossed our path , or should I say we crossed her path! What an interesting denizen of the night…she quickly scurried off into the darkness as I took a closer look. If you tread carefully and RESPECFULLY these wonderful animals will pose no threat. That said , I haven’t had the opportunity to come face to face on her terms although I suspect she’d probably want to just leave in one piece…her wish would be granted and I hope you would all do the same. That said…any recommendations regarding the effects of an incidental bite?

    Reply
    • The bite is reported to be painful, but not necessarily dangerous. Whenever there is a severe reaction, we would recommend seeking medical attention.

      Reply
  2. Hi I also had one tropical centipede walking as I entered our bedroom with my son in my arms. Reacted quickly to step on it a few times. We assume it entered under our front door. We live close to a river.

    Reply
  3. Hi Bugman, Once again, another Rhysida sp. You are probably thinking i just like the word “Rhysida” By now! XD

    Reply
  4. I photographed one in our garden in Windhoek (Namibia) in September 2019. From what I read here, definitely a Scolopendra morsitans.

    How can I post a photo?

    Reply

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