Do House Centipedes Eat Bed Bugs? Surprising Facts You Need To Know

House centipedes and bed bugs are two common household pests that many people have encountered. While both can be unsettling, understanding their behaviors and whether they interact with each other can provide insight into their presence in your home.

House centipedes are arthropods known for their long, slender legs and swift movements. They primarily feed on other small insects, such as silverfish, spider, and cockroaches, which can indicate a more significant issue with these pests in your living environment. On the other hand, bed bugs are parasitic insects that feed on the blood of humans and animals while they sleep, often causing itchy, red bites in the process.

The question arises: do house centipedes eat bed bugs, thus acting as a natural form of pest control? Even though both inhabit living spaces, it is essential to consider their respective habits and preferences to determine if such interactions occur.

House Centipedes and Bed Bugs

House Centipede Diet

House centipedes are arthropods known for their long, flattened, segmented bodies with one pair of legs per segment1. Their diet primarily consists of:

  • Small insects
  • Spiders
  • Flies
  • Other arthropods

House centipedes prefer to prey on insects that are slow-moving and easy to catch.

Bed Bug Overview

Bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) are flat, parasitic insects2. They feed on human and animal blood while their hosts sleep. Some key characteristics of bed bugs are:

  • Reddish-brown color
  • Wingless
  • Size: 1mm to 7mm

Bed bugs have a negative impact on human environments, causing discomfort and potential health issues due to their bites.

Comparison Table: House Centipedes vs. Bed Bugs

Feature House Centipedes Bed Bugs
Body Shape Long, flattened Flat, oval
Legs 15 pairs of long legs 6 legs
Diet Other arthropods Human and animal blood
Infestation in Buildings Rare Common
Bite Rare and not dangerous Causes discomfort

Although house centipedes are known to eat other insects and arthropods, there is insufficient evidence to confirm that they actively prey on or control bed bug populations. If dealing with a bed bug infestation, it is recommended to consult professional pest control services to address the issue effectively.

Natural Predators of Bed Bugs

Predators Inside the House

House centipedes are known to prey on bed bugs due to their insectivorous nature. These arthropods possess long, slender legs and a segmented body. Some benefits and drawbacks of having house centipedes as a natural predator are:

Pros:

  • Eat a variety of pests, including bed bugs
  • Non-toxic to humans and pets

Cons:

  • May become a nuisance if they multiply in a home
  • Some people find them creepy

Another predator that can be found indoors is the masked hunter, an assassin bug species. They consume bed bugs and other insects, but it is important to note that their bite is painful and can cause skin irritation.

Predators Outside the House

Outside the home, numerous predators feed on bed bugs:

  • Lizards: In particular, geckos are known to consume pests like bed bugs
  • Pharaoh ants and fire ants: These ants carry bed bugs back to their colonies as food
  • Thanatus flavidus: A type of spider that can consume bed bugs as part of its diet
  • Birds: Certain birds feed on arthropods, including bed bugs

However, relying on these predators for bed bug control may not be the most effective solution. Although these predators might help reduce infestations, a combination of preventive measures and professional pest control is recommended for a more successful outcome.

Preventing Infestations

Do House Centipedes Help or Hinder?

House centipedes are known to feed on various household pests, including silverfish, cockroaches, and spiders. They can also prey on bed bugs, although their effectiveness in controlling bed bug populations is unclear. Some advantages and disadvantages of having house centipedes include:

Pros:

  • Natural predator of household pests
  • Reduce the need for pesticides

Cons:

  • May not effectively control bed bug infestations
  • Unappealing to many homeowners
House Centipedes Other Pest Control Methods
Natural predators May require pesticides or professional exterminators
May not effectively control bed bugs More targeted solutions available, such as heat treatments

Handling Bed Bugs and Centipedes

To prevent and handle bed bug infestations, consider the following approaches:

  • Regular inspection: Check your home for signs of bed bugs, such as tiny black dots or reddish-brown insects.
  • Heat treatment: Bed bugs are sensitive to high temperatures. A professional exterminator can provide heat treatments to eliminate these pests.
  • Pesticides: Only use EPA-approved pesticides for bed bugs, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Dehumidifiers: Bed bugs and centipedes both struggle in low-humidity environments. A dehumidifier can make your home less hospitable to these pests.
  • Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkling diatomaceous earth, a non-toxic powder, in areas where bed bugs may hide can help eliminate them by damaging their exoskeletons.

In addition to the above strategies, reducing clutter and sealing potential entry points can help prevent infestations of bed bugs, house centipedes, and other pests.

Understanding House Centipedes

Physical Characteristics

House centipedes are arthropods with:

  • Long, flattened, segmented bodies
  • One pair of legs per segment
  • 15 pairs of very long, almost thread-like, slender legs
  • Brown to grayish-yellow color
  • Three dark stripes on top of the body

These creatures also have forcipules, which are modified front legs that act as jaws containing venomous glands.

Behavior

  • Nocturnal: House centipedes are primarily active during the night.
  • Molting: They go through several molts, transitioning from larva to nymph to adult.

House centipedes are predators that feed on various small arthropods, such as:

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

Habitat

Favorable habitats for centipedes often include:

  • Crevices and cracks: They tend to hide in small spaces.
  • Basements and bathrooms: These areas tend to have higher moisture levels.
  • Moist areas: Centipedes prefer locations with moisture to support their populations.
  • Dark spaces: They tend to avoid light and prefer dark environments.

House centipedes can be found in various regions across the U.S.

Feature House Centipede Behavior/Characteristics
Activity period Nocturnal (active during the night)
Feeding behavior Predatory on small arthropods
Habitat preference Crevices and cracks, moist and dark areas
Molting stages Progression from larva to nymph to adult
Physical appearance Long, slender legs, brown to yellow with dark stripes
Venomous appendages Forcipules (modified front legs)

Dealing with House Centipedes

Natural Control Methods

  • Introducing predators: Some creatures prey on centipedes, such as crickets and earwigs. Introducing these insects in your basement or garage can help control the centipede population, but be careful not to swap one problem for another.

  • Creating a less hospitable environment: Centipedes thrive in dark, damp spaces. To deter them, implement these changes:

    • Keep your basement and garage well-lit.
    • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture.
    • Remove clutter, especially near baseboards and in bathroom areas.
  • Natural repellents: Some essential oils like cedarwood and eucalyptus can repel centipedes. Apply the oils to affected areas, such as baseboards and entry points.

Professional Solutions

  • Pest control companies: Hiring professionals for regular inspections and treatment will ensure the best results in removing not just house centipedes but also other household pests like bed bugs and silverfish.

  • Chemical treatments: Professionals can recommend appropriate pesticides for targeted pests. However, note that chemical treatments may have side effects. Consider the impact on the environment, your family, and pets before using pesticides.

Method Pros Cons
Natural predators Chemical-free, eco-friendly May introduce new pests
Environmental changes Long-lasting, low-maintenance Requires effort
Natural repellents Non-toxic, safe for most households May need frequent reapplication
Professional services Comprehensive, expert solutions Can be expensive, potential for chemical side effects

In conclusion, dealing with house centipedes involves a combination of natural control methods and professional solutions. By employing both approaches, you can effectively manage and reduce the presence of these creepy crawlies in your home.

Footnotes

  1. https://hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/house-centipede

  2. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bedbugs/faqs.html

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: Creepy crawly in Chicago apartment
Location: Chicago, Illinois
March 8, 2016 11:12 am
I found this guy in the corner of my closet ceiling. I’ve seen several others like him throughout the 2 years I’ve lived in this apartment in Chicago. It’s currently end of winter/beginning of spring . It seems he has both front and back antenna with 10-20 pairs of legs. Just want to know what it is.
Signature: Katelyn

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Katelyn,
This is a beneficial, predatory House Centipede that will help keep your apartment free from Cockroaches and other unwanted pests.  According to BugGuide:  “The 15 pairs of legs are banded, becoming lighter toward their tips, with barbs that help hold onto prey.”

Letter 2 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Many-legged creature
Location: Santa Barbara, CA
March 29, 2016 12:09 pm
A friend posted this on Facebook.
Signature: Stephanie Rioux

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Stephanie,
The predatory, beneficial and harmless House Centipede is one of our most common identification requests.

Letter 3 – House Centipede

 

house centipede
I just sat to study in my recliner. I was studying anatomy and physiology-for vet tech training-and this thing came out of the book. I took pictures of it on the arm of the recliner and then in the trash can I used to take it outside in. I can’t and won’t kill bugs or spiders, so I take them outside to be free. Anyway I sent a few pictures to my sister and she helped me find out what it was. Thank you for your site..very, very helpful. Hope you’ll show my little 2" critter to rest. I was scared and had to find out what it was, so I’m glad there are sites like yours!!!!!
Valerie Boyum,
Marshall, MN

Hi Valerie,
It was just about time to post a new House Centipede image and we liked your letter.

Letter 4 – House Centipede

 

Subject: What the heck is this?
Location: Wisconsin
November 20, 2015 2:18 pm
I was walking to class at my university and found this bug running around in circles in the basement hallway. I don’t know how it got there, but it’s getting to be winter in Wisconsin so maybe it was there for warmth? I’ve never seen a bug like this before and I can’t find anything on the internet to help me identify it. It’s so weird looking I just have to know.
Signature: KVC

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear KVC,
This is a predatory House Centipede.  According to BugGuide:  “Mostly encountered indoors in damp areas such as bathrooms, cellars, and crawl spaces. It will venture beyond these areas and is often seen quickly scurrying across floors or climbing a wall.  Outdoors, they live under logs, rocks, and similar moist protected places.  Indoors they are likely to be found at all times of the year provided they have warmth and available prey. In the north they will only be found outside during Summer.”  We consider them to be beneficial because they will prey upon cockroaches and other household pests.

Letter 5 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Strange Insect
Location: Northeast Texas
May 18, 2016 7:27 am
I was startled by this little fellow climbing up the wall beside me. It is a very strange looking insect. It’s main body is about 1/2″ long. It has 28 legs and antannae on the front and rear.
Signature: Clint Cross

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Clint,
This is a beneficial House Centipede.

Letter 6 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Unusual bug
Location: Washington DC
November 15, 2016 4:45 pm
Never seen one like this before. Friend who lives in Washington DC emailed it to me to identify. Help. No idea
Signature: Stumped

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Stumped,
The House Centipede is commonly found indoors where it will help keep the place free of unwanted creatures like Cockroaches.

Letter 7 – House Centipede

 

Subject: what is this bug?
Location: Vancouver, WA
February 16, 2017 11:53 am
Found this bug in our classroom. what is it?
Signature: Mrs. Clark’s class

House Centipede

Dear Mrs. Clark
This predatory, beneficial House Centipede will help keep the house (or classroom) free from undesirable or potentially harmful spiders and insects.

Letter 8 – House Centipede

 

Subject: What’s this bug?!!!
Location: Virginia
February 26, 2017 3:39 pm
Asking for a frightened friend. Need to assure her, she can come down from the chair.
Signature: Jeffrey Maxim

House Centipede

Dear Jeffrey,
The House Centipede is one of our most frequent identification requests.  Though they are predators and they possess venom, we do not consider them to be a threat to humans.  We believe the advantages they provide by eliminating cockroaches and other unwanted, often nocturnal household pests should exempt them from Unnecessary Carnage.

Letter 9 – House Centipede

 

Subject: Bug in the tub.
Location: Pacific Palesades, CA
April 30, 2017 12:05 am
I have seen these bugs several time outside and indoors over the last three years. Some larger than this one which is about an inch and a half long in body length. The legs and feelers are longer. Is it a member of the centipede family? They can really move if they feel threatened. What do you think? This one is in the bath tub.
Signature: Wm. Imhoff

House Centipede

Dear Wm.,
The predatory House Centipede is a nocturnal hunter that has adapted to living in homes.  Since House Centipedes are most active at night, they often go unnoticed, but once trapped in a bathtub where they cannot escape because of steep slippery sides, they make their presence known.

Authors

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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