Do House Centipedes Bite? Debunking Myths & Facts

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House centipedes are fascinating creatures often found in homes and other indoor spaces. Although their appearance can be quite alarming, especially for those who are not fond of insects and other creepy crawlies, it is essential to determine if they pose any threat to us.

These arthropods are typically brownish-gray in color, possessing 15 pairs of long legs that often grab our attention. An interesting fact about house centipedes is that they can live for over a year and have the ability to reproduce indoors. However, don’t worry; they tend to be found in small numbers, so infestations are rare.

Regarding the question of whether or not house centipedes bite, the answer is yes, but with a caveat. Their fangs can deliver a bite similar to a wasp sting, which can be painful but is rarely dangerous. In fact, house centipedes play an essential role in controlling other pests, as they prey on insects and other arachnids. As long as you’re not allergic to their venom, you can coexist with these useful creatures without much trouble.

Do House Centipedes Bite?

Venomous Bites

House centipedes do possess venomous bites, but they usually reserve these for their prey. They are predatory arthropods and use their venomous bites to subdue or kill other small insects like silverfish, firebrats, and cockroaches.

Pain and Symptoms

Although very rare, house centipedes can bite humans in self-defense. In most cases, a house centipede bite is not serious and causes symptoms similar to a bee sting. This can include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness

Allergic Reactions to Bites

Some individuals might experience allergic reactions to a house centipede bite. If you are bitten and notice any of the following symptoms, it might indicate an allergic reaction, and you should seek medical attention:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Swelling of the face or throat

Keep in mind that house centipede bites are uncommon and only occur when the centipede feels threatened. They are generally not considered a danger to humans and mostly help keep other pest populations in check.

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 – House Centipede

 

26 legged insect
Location: Blue Ridge, Virginia
October 16, 2011 10:13 pm
Hello, I have seen this bug around my house for a few months now and have no idea what it is! I live in Charlottesville, Virginia and have seen this bug since the mid summer. Oddly, while in Italy during the summer I am sure I saw one of these insects. Please help.
Signature: Gabriel

House Centipede

I have realized after looking through your Top Ten list that this is a House Centipede. Though I now know they are harmless, I can’t help but find them creepy after the one that ran at me when it noticed me. I hope you like the pictures!
Gabriel

House Centipede

Hi Gabriel,
Your very detailed photos are a wonderful addition to our website.  We are very happy to learn that you were able to self identify this House Centipede.  There is some indication that they might bite a person if provoked, but their venom is not highly toxic and will cause little more than irritation in most people, however, with severe allergic reactions on the rise from everything, including peanuts and pain relievers, we cannot predict what might happen if a particularly sensitive person happens to get bitten.  For the record, Centipedes are not insects.  Insects have but six legs.

Letter 2 – House Centipede

 

What kind of bug is this?
I have been seeing alot of bugs of this kind in my house. They come out at night time and crawl on walls around the same time at night. I want to get rid of them. Can you give me some info about them and also how to get rid of these critters? Thank you.
Phil

Hi PHil,
We do not recommend ridding your home of House Centipedes. They are harmless predators that will eat more destructive and harmful arthropods in your home.

Letter 3 – House Centipede

 

House Centipede
Location: Portland, OR
August 21, 2011 1:52 am
Heya,
I know this is a house centipede, but I am curious if I should avoid picking them up? I realize they are ”harmless” in the sense that their venom is very mild, but is it recommended to use a cup rather than hands to gently place them outside? Love the site, btw.
Signature: J

House Centipede

Hi J,
Thank you for submitting your question.  Our favorite way to remove potentially stinging or biting insects from the home is printed in Daniel’s book, The Curious World of Bugs.  Trap the creature in an inverted martini glass and then slip a postcard between the opening of the glass and the home surface.  The creature can then be safely relocated.  For years we have been claiming that House Centipedes are perfectly harmless, but we concede that they might bite if handled.  More detrimental to the House Centipede would be losing some legs due to careless handling.  The martini glass method ensures that both the House Centipede and the Bug Humanitarian (yes you were tagged because of your question) will remain safe. 

Letter 4 – House Centipede

 

High-Def Photo of House Centipede
June 2, 2010
Hello! I love your website, and am also an amateur photographer. A lovely house centipede was resting in my basement office and was patient enough with me to let me test out the macro features on my camera. I hope to get a chance to photograph some more interesting bugs sometime soon!
(also, I’m sorry if I sent multiple emails. I was having issues with the form.)
Katy
Toledo, OH

House Centipede

Hi Katy,
YOur House Centipede photo is quite nice.  We look forward to getting additional images from you in the future.

Letter 5 – House Centipede

 

I. D. this crazy looking bug, please.
July 13, 2010
Dear bugman: I think I’ve seen this bug before back in a summer night of 1992 in Japan. To my surprise, I saw this one at my dad’s house in Roseburg, Oregon. It was not easy to catch!!! With 30 legs it was very quick and could turn and move like Micheal Jordan!
Thank you, Dr. Lee Willis DDS
Southern OREGON

House Centipede

Dear Dr. Willis,
This common House Centipede is frequently found in the home where it startles residents.  House Centipedes are harmless nocturnal predators that will help keep the home clear of cockroaches and other undesirable creatures.

Letter 6 – House Centipede

 

What is this?
Location: Middle Tennessee
January 13, 2011 3:03 pm
I have never seen a bug like this before, would love some insight as to what the heck it is! I saw this crawling around in a public restroom.
Signature: Courtney

House Centipede

Hi Courtney,
Despite being found in a public restroom, this common and harmless predator is known as a House Centipede.

Letter 7 – House Centipede

 

scary creepy bug!!
Location: salem mass, us
April 27, 2011 9:59 pm
Hi bugman. While enjoying a movie this critter glided across the floor moving so fast!! Please help identify what he is so we can sleep at night!!
Signature: thank you!!

House Centipede

Because they are nocturnal hunters, House Centipedes often startle folks while they are relaxing and watching television.  We occasionally receive a contrary comment when we post that House Centipedes are harmless, so instead, we will indicate that though a large House Centipede might bite if it is carelessly handled, their venom is mild and in the unlikely event that a person is bitten, the effects would be quite mild.  We seriously doubt that people would have much of a chance of handling a House Centipede, because as your email indicates, they are quite fast.  House Cats frequently catch and torment House Centipedes.

Authors

  • 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.

    View all posts
  • 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.

    View all posts
Tags: Centipedes

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13 Comments. Leave new

  • Wow this is a great pic! I was finding these all over my apartment and now that I know they’re harmless, I’ll try not to scream like a little girl when I see them anymore. The latest one I named PET-PET the SLAYER of SILVERFISH!…and I called him a crickapede since i had NO idea what he was. Sadly he died in the bathtub where he fell when I was cleaning, but from now on if i’m lucky enough to get another one I’ll have no fear of them and rescue them if possible! Thanks so much!

    Ryn

    Reply
  • Will this centipede bite and leave a blister that looks like a burn?

    Reply
  • They are a fright at first sight. My first (and only- but not for lack of using maximum peripheral vision at all times since) was last year in my laundry room.

    Reply
  • centipedes can bite, never heard of a house cetipede doing so. They do have venom, and one could be allergic to the venom, but it’s not harmful otherwise.

    Reply
  • MercuryCrest
    July 15, 2010 8:47 am

    I can ignore these for only so long. The other night, one fairly flew across my face whilst I was attempting sleep. Needless to say, that one had to be flailed, screamed at, and, finally, exterminated. Other than that, these guys are really beneficial.

    (Nor did I get any sleep thereafter.)

    Reply
  • I’ve been bitten by an 8 inch giant centipede…I can tell you, the bite is pretty overrated. I did take two antihistamines after the bite (just in case I was allergic) and the bites were a little painful, a little swollen and after a couple of days they oozed some watery liquid…and itched infuriatingly…but that was it, no terrifying horrible agonizing pain as some people describe it!!! (I still have a scar from the bites though, and I was bitten over a year ago)

    Reply
  • This is more of a question, than a comment. Are House Centipedes poisonious to cats and dogs? My email address is flipperlip1971@yahoo.com

    Reply
    • House Centipedes have venom, but it is not considered, to the best of our knowldege, to be dangerous. Cats enjoy playing with House Centipedes, though this generally ends with the Centipede dying.

      Reply
  • paggreen@yahoo.com
    January 27, 2012 9:38 am

    Wanted to add that house centipedes travel in pairs. Over the years in every encounter, when I have found one, I found its mate within a yard’s distance.

    Reply
  • steve lilly
    May 14, 2013 6:46 pm

    How do I get rid of house centipedes ? We have ALOT of them!

    Reply
  • These house centipedes do bite. I was transporting old books in boxes in my car and one of these managed to climb up my car seat an drop onto my shoulder by my neck and bit me. It felt like a bee sting. I smacked it dead. I had left a purple spot where it bit me and it later left it itchy and finally went away.

    Reply

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