Do House Centipedes Eat Ants? Unveiling the Mystery

House centipedes are common arthropods found in homes and other buildings. These creatures may appear intimidating due to their long legs and quick movements, but they are actually harmless to humans. One of the main reasons centipedes are found indoors is their appetite for small arthropods, which leads us to the question: do house centipedes eat ants?

It’s important to understand the diet and hunting behaviors of house centipedes to better grasp their impact on an ecosystem. They are predatory creatures that use venomous jaws to catch and eat insects and other small animals, making them beneficial in controlling pest populations.

As it turns out, house centipedes indeed feed on ants as part of their varied diet. This can be useful in managing ant infestations within a household, as centipedes serve as a natural form of pest control. However, keep in mind that the presence of many centipedes may indicate a deeper pest issue that needs to be addressed.

House Centipedes and Their Diet

Unique Features of House Centipedes

House centipedes, or Scutigera coleoptrata, are:

  • Yellowish-brown
  • Distinctive in shape
  • Possess up to 15 pairs of extremely long legs
  • Leg pairs increase in length from front to back of the body

As predators, their most notable features are:

  • Well-developed, faceted eyes
  • Barbed legs for holding prey
  • Modified front legs that act as jaws

Insects as Primary Food Source

House centipedes feed primarily on insects, such as:

  • Ants
  • Spiders
  • Silverfish
  • Cockroaches

They are considered beneficial predators for controlling household pests.

How House Centipedes Prey

With their unique adaptations, house centipedes are able to:

  1. Quickly locate prey using their well-developed eyes
  2. Use their barbed legs to hold onto the prey
  3. Employ their modified front legs as jaws to deliver venom

Do House Centipedes Eat Ants

Ants as Prey

House centipedes are known to be predatory venomous arthropods that feed on a variety of small insects. Their diet includes:

  • Spiders
  • Bedbugs
  • Cockroaches
  • Ants

House centipedes have 15 pairs of long, barbed legs that aid in capturing and holding onto their prey. This feature, along with their venomous fangs, enables them to easily catch and consume ants.

Impact on Ant Population

House centipedes play a role in controlling the populations of many small arthropods, including ants. However, it’s important to understand that their impact on the ant population might be limited. Reasons for this include:

  • Centipedes are usually solitary creatures
  • Ants reproduce in large numbers

While house centipedes may not single-handedly control an entire ant population, their presence can help reduce the number of ants and other pests in a particular area. The table below offers a comparison between house centipedes and ants:

House Centipede Ant
Predatory venomous arthropod Social insect
Contribute to controlling pest numbers Can be pests themselves (some species)
Solitary creatures Live in large colonies
Possess venomous fangs and barbed legs Possess mandibles, some species have stings

In summary, house centipedes do eat ants as part of their regular diet, and their predatory behavior can help control the number of ants in a given area. However, their impact on the overall ant population is limited due to the reproductive capacity of ants and the solitary nature of centipedes.

Dealing with House Centipedes

Pest Control Methods

House centipedes are known to eat various pests, such as silverfish, firebrats, and even ants 1. To control house centipede populations, consider using the following methods:

  • Dehumidifiers: House centipedes thrive in moist environments. Using a dehumidifier can reduce moisture and make your home less attractive to them.
  • Sticky traps: Place these traps around your home to capture centipedes and monitor their presence.
  • Pesticides: If necessary, use targeted pesticides to manage centipede infestations selectively.

Natural Predators

Introducing natural predators to your home can help keep house centipede populations in check. Some examples include:

  • Millipedes: While not direct predators, millipedes compete with house centipedes for the same food sources, such as ants and other arthropods.
  • Wasps: Some species of parasitic wasps feed on centipedes, helping to reduce their numbers.

Preventing Infestation

Take the following steps to minimize the chances of a house centipede infestation:

  • Moisture control: Fix any leaks, use a dehumidifier, and maintain proper ventilation to reduce moisture levels in your home.
  • Seal entry points: Close any gaps or cracks in walls, doors, and windows to prevent centipedes from entering your home.
  • Regular cleaning: Keep your home clean and clutter-free to eliminate potential hiding spots and food sources for centipedes.
Pros Cons
Natural predators are eco-friendly Predators may bring their own issues
Requires minimal intervention May not fully eradicate centipedes
Minimizes the use of chemicals Predators might not be selective

Please remember, while house centipedes may be seen as creepy, they play a role in controlling other potentially harmful pests. Weigh the pros and cons before deciding on a control method.

Living with House Centipedes

Potential Dangers

House centipedes, with their long, slender legs, can look quite terrifying. However, they are generally harmless to humans. While they can bite, it is very rare and their bite is usually no worse than a mild bee sting1.

Beneficial Aspects

These arthropods can actually be helpful around the house. They prey on insects such as spiders, silverfish, and moths. This means they help control the population of these pests.

Minimizing Encounters

To minimize encounters with house centipedes, it is crucial to manage the humidity and dampness in your home. They prefer to live in:

  • Damp areas (e.g., bathrooms)
  • Dark places (e.g., closets)
  • Unexcavated areas2

It’s a good idea to keep your living space dry and well-lit, which will discourage centipedes from settling in.

Bullet points for features & characteristics

  • Long, slender legs with white and dark bands
  • Brown to grayish-yellow body
  • Three dark stripes on top of the body3

Comparison table

Availability House Centipedes Ants
Targeted insects Moths, spiders, silverfish Most insects and household pests
Preferred habitat Damp and dark places, e.g. basements, closets, bathrooms Warm, dry places with access to food sources
Direct harm to humans Rare biting, comparable to mild bee sting Some ant species can bite or sting, may cause allergies

Habitat and Distribution

Prevalent Areas

House centipedes are typically found in damp and dark environments, making them common inhabitants in areas such as:

  • Moist areas: These arthropods need a source of moisture to survive and are often found in damp environments.
  • Basements: Due to their preference for dark spaces, house centipedes are frequently found in basements.
  • Bathrooms: House centipedes are attracted to the moist conditions offered by bathrooms.
  • Leaf litter: They can also be found outdoors in leaf litter, where they hunt for small insects like earwigs, slugs, and termites.

Despite their preference for damp conditions, they occasionally enter dryer environments to feed on other small arthropods, such as cockroaches and spiders.

Impact of Climate

House centipedes are native to the Mediterranean region and have adapted to a variety of climates. As nocturnal creatures, they are active during the night and are attracted to the following climate conditions:

  • Mild temperatures: Their appetite for insects allows them to thrive in climates similar to their Mediterranean origin.
  • High humidity: House centipedes require a moist environment and prefer areas with high humidity.
  • Presence of prey: They need a steady supply of insects to survive and can be found in regions with an abundance of their preferred prey, such as ants, earwigs, and termites.

Climate can also impact the types of prey available, which may affect the house centipede’s diet. For example, in dryer climates, they might feed more heavily on ants, whereas in moist areas, they could focus on hunting other creepy crawlies.

Footnotes

  1. House centipedes feed on various pests 2

  2. For example, spaces under the house can also attract centipedes if left unsealed.

  3. These features are easily identifiable and can help you recognize house centipedes in your home.

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

 

Subject: Omg
Location: Belleville , Illinois
May 20, 2015 6:14 am
I’m just curious about what this is? Should I be worried about a bite from one? I’m finding them at work thank god… Never seen them in my house.
Signature: Omg

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Omg,
This is a House Centipede, a predator that is frequently found inside the home.  We maintain that they are harmless, and though they contain venom, and though it is possible that a large specimen might be able to bite a human, especially one with thin or tender skin, we agree with the literature that they are not considered to be a dangerous species.  It is our opinion that House Centipedes are beneficial predators that will help rid the home of Cockroaches and other undesirable intruders.  As an aside, just yesterday while watching CNN we learned that the initials OMG have been used for years by the FBI to refer to Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.

Thanks for getting back with me. I never kill them and put them outside when I find them. Glad I do.

Because of your behavior, we will tag this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.

Letter 2 – House Centipede

 

Can you tell me what this is?
Location: Eastern Pennsylvania
November 24, 2011 8:50 pm
I get these in my apartment occasionally. I was just wondering what they are.
Thank you.
Signature: any

House Centipede

Dear any,
This is a beneficial, predatory House Centipede, a nocturnal hunter that will help keep your apartment free of cockroaches and other undesirable intruders.  The House Centipede is one of our most frequent identification requests as well as a frequent victim of Unnecessary Carnage.

Letter 3 – House Centipede

 

What is this?
Location: Inside a house in Atlanta, GA
December 4, 2011 11:44 am
My wife totally freaked out when she saw this crawling up the wall Sunday Dec 3 in Atlanta, GA. She asked me to catch it and then release it outside. It moved at a great speed, but I was able to get it into a box. But before I got it outside it must have jumped out of the box. Definitely NOT an insect, spider, milli or centipede,
Signature: David JR

House Centipede

Dear David,
We want to begin by apologizing for the delay in our response, but we are using some free time during the holidays to catch up on unanswered mail and posting the best letters we find.  We also want to commend your wife for suggesting that you catch and release this creature, and commend you for humoring her request and preserving harmony in the home, and we want to acknowledge this commendation by tagging you both as Bug Humanitarians.  Though your letter indicates that this is definitely NOT a centipede, you are incorrect.  This is a House Centipede, a shy nocturnal hunter that will help to keep undesirable creatures like Cockroaches from infesting your home.  It does not look like most Centipedes because of its longer legs, but it is a true Centipede.  We have maintained for years that this is a harmless species, and though it is possible that it might bite a person if it is carelessly handled, the greatest harm it seems to do on a regular basis is to startle folks with its rapid movements.  Though you were unsuccessful in removing this House Centipede from the home, you can rest assured that it will continue to prey on undesirable creatures while hopefully passing unnoticed by hiding during the day.

I never did slow down and say thank you for taking the time to send me a reply.  I was able to send a picture to my biology instructor and he also said it was a centipede.  I guess I had just never saw one before, that is why I was so sure it wasn’t one . . .   So after he said that was what it was, I googled “centipede” and sure enough, the pictures and descriptions of centipedes on the websites I found matched exactly.
Anyhow, again thank you for taking the time to answer my inquiry.
David JR
Atlanta, GA

Letter 4 – House Centipede

 

Subject: House Centipede
Location: Sacramento, CA USA
September 7, 2013 11:58 pm
We took this picture of a house centipede and it is magnificent! Just wanted to share, as I already figured out what it is. Thanks to Jen K who took the picture with her fancy phone! In case the act of saving it degraded the image, here’s a link to the original on the web: https://sphotos-a-sea.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-prn1/1186843_10151602376722478_679037264_n.jpg
PS, As they say, huge fan, first time contributor.
Signature: Patti E

House Centipede
House Centipede

Hi Patti,
Thanks for the compliment.  The resolution of this House Centipede photo is plenty big enough for the internet.

Letter 5 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Many legs
Location: Southern California
April 10, 2014 12:07 pm
Taken yesterday in Southern California. So many legs, but not a spider. What the heck is this?
Signature: Kathy

House Centipede
House Centipede

Hi Kathy,
Though it does have many legs, there are also quite a few missing legs on this harmless, predatory House Centipede, that will help keep your house free of Cockroaches and other unwanted, nocturnal wanderers.

Letter 6 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Strange bug I’ve never seen before
Location: Southern Ca. San Fernando Valley
July 28, 2014 11:15 am
Hi I found this bug in our front lawn. It looks really creepy almost like a mix between a spider and cricket. I’m hoping you can help me out in figuring what kind if bug this is.
Signature: Creeped out

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Creeped out,
Most images of House Centipedes we reserve come from indoor sightings as they seem to benefit from cohabitation with humans.  A large House Centipede might bite if handled carelessly, but they are not considered dangerous.  They are beneficial as they will help to rid the area of Cockroaches and other noctural visitors that are not desirable.

Letter 7 – House Centipede

 

Subject: What’s is this thing
Location: Southern Minnesota
September 29, 2014 7:34 pm
I have found 3 or 4 of these rather large things in my house the past few days . Any idea what they are and how to get rid of them ?
Signature: Laurynneah debois

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Laurynneah,
In our opinion, House Centipedes are beneficial predators that will eat anything that won’t eat them.  They will help keep Cockroaches and other undesirable Household Intruders from infesting your home.  We do not provide extermination advice.

Letter 8 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Is this a House Centipede?
Location: Northern middle Tennessee
June 4, 2015 4:36 pm
I found this critter in my kitchen today. Scared the you-know-what out of me. Let’s just say, the sucker had to die. But not before I got some good pictures of it so I could look it up to identify. It looks just like the House Centipede except the markings down it’s back is different and it is mostly black instead of brown. All the pictures I have come across show stripes going down the back of the centipede while this one looks like it has stripes going across. Is it just another variation of the House Centipede?
Signature: Dayna

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Dayna,
This is indeed a beneficial House Centipede and we are sorry to hear that “the sucker had to die.”  Your submission will be posting live to our site in the near future, while we are out of the office.

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.

17 thoughts on “Do House Centipedes Eat Ants? Unveiling the Mystery”

  1. I take these outside and find the easiest way to do that is to gently nudge them with a broom until they are in the bristles then quickly take outside. Small ones can be put into a curved vase (they can’t get out) and brought outside but the large ones are hard to get into any container that they can’t get out of quickly (and without injuring their legs). I found a huge one the other day and got it out easily with the broom.

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  2. I found one of these in my house in Indiana years ago and it scared a squeal out of me. I went to the library (this was pre-Internet), and looked it up. Good bug! Vowed I would pat it on it’s little head next time and say, “Good job!”

    Reply

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