House Centipede: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide

House centipedes are fascinating yet often misunderstood creatures that tend to startle unsuspecting homeowners. With their many legs and quick movements, they may appear intimidating, but these arthropods are actually harmless to humans and can even be beneficial by preying on other household pests.

While their appearance can be alarming, gaining a better understanding of house centipedes can help ease fears and promote a more peaceful coexistence with these speedy, unique inhabitants. In this article, we will explore the characteristics, behavior, and natural role of these intriguing crawlers, shedding light on their place within our indoor ecosystems.

Identifying House Centipedes

Physical Characteristics

House centipedes are a distinct type of arthropod with unique features. Some key characteristics include:

  • Length: up to 1.5 inches
  • Color: brown to grayish-yellow
  • Stripes: three dark, longitudinal stripes on top
  • Legs: 15 pairs of very long, almost thread-like, slender legs
  • Antennae: a pair of long, slender antennae on the head
  • Eyes: compound eyes

These centipedes move rapidly and are often seen darting across floors (source).

Common Habitats

House centipedes can be found in various indoor and outdoor locations. Common indoor habitats include:

  • Basements
  • Damp closets
  • Bathrooms

Outdoor habitats are typically damp and dark spaces. Examples of such areas include:

  • Under stones
  • In leaf litter
  • Beneath bark

It’s important to note that frequent sightings of house centipedes may indicate a larger issue, as they feed on other small arthropods like silverfish, firebrats, and carpet beetle larvae (source).

Comparison Table: House Centipede vs. Other Centipedes

Feature House Centipede Other Centipedes
Length Up to 1.5 inches Varies
Legs 15 pairs of very long, slender legs Shorter, sturdier legs
Habitat Indoors (basements, closets, bathrooms) Primarily outdoors
Color & Stripes Brown to grayish-yellow; three dark stripes Usually solid in color
Prey Small arthropods (silverfish, firebrats) Wide variety of prey
Speed & Movement Rapid; darting motion Slower; more deliberate

House Centipede Behavior and Diet

Hunting Habits

House centipedes are predators that mainly feed on insects, including spiders, silverfish, and cockroaches. They are quite fast, which helps them catch their prey.
For example, while hunting, house centipedes use their long legs to trap their prey and inject venom to paralyze them.

Nocturnal Lifestyle

These creatures are mainly nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night, and prefer to live in areas with high humidity. Common indoor locations where they can be found include:

  • Basements
  • Storage areas
  • Laundry rooms
  • Garages
  • Bathrooms

Reproduction

When it comes to reproduction, house centipedes lay eggs in the humid and dark areas of your home. The eggs will then develop into larvae, which are similar to adult centipedes but have fewer legs. As they grow, they gain more legs through a process called molting.

Comparison Table:

Compound House Centipedes Other Centipedes
Appearance Brown to grayish-yellow with long, slender legs Various colors and thicker legs
Habitat Indoor areas with high humidity Outdoor and various environments
Reproduction Indoors, dark and damp areas Varies depending on species
Diet Insects like spiders, silverfish, and cockroaches Insects and other small animals

Overall, understanding the behavior and diet of house centipedes can be helpful for managing their presence in your home.

Are House Centipedes Dangerous?

Potential Harm to Humans

House centipedes, although they may look frightening, are generally considered to be harmless to humans. They have the ability to bite, but it is quite rare and usually happens only when they feel threatened. In most cases, their bites cause mild pain and swelling similar to a bee sting. People who are sensitive or allergic might experience more severe reactions.

Beneficial Roles

On the other hand, house centipedes are known to play beneficial roles in controlling household pests, as they feed on insects like silverfish, firebrats, carpet beetle larvae, cockroaches, and spiders1. This helps in maintaining a balance in the ecosystem inside your home. Additionally, their presence might indicate a more significant pest issue, which could be worth addressing.

Comparison: House Centipedes vs Common Pests

Characteristic House Centipedes Common Pests (Cockroaches, Spiders, etc.)
Harmful to humans No Yes, potentially
Bite or sting Rare More likely
Venom Mild Varies, can be dangerous
Role in the ecosystem Beneficial Potentially harmful

Key Features of House Centipedes:

  • Up to 1.5 inches long
  • 15 pairs of long, slender legs
  • Yellowish-brown with three dark stripes on top2
  • Prefer damp areas like basements, closets, and bathrooms3

In conclusion, house centipedes pose minimal danger to humans and can even be helpful in controlling other pests in your home. As long as you maintain a clean environment and address any existing pest issues, there should be no need to worry about their presence.

Protecting Your Home from House Centipedes

Sealing Entry Points

To prevent house centipedes from entering your home, seal cracks and gaps in doors, windows, and walls. One example of sealing entry points is using weather-stripping on doors and caulking around windows. House centipedes can’t enter if there are no openings for them to pass through.

Removing Pest Attractants

House centipedes feed on small arthropods, such as silverfish and cockroaches1. Reduce their presence by:

  • Regularly cleaning your home
  • Storing food in sealed containers
  • Disposing of trash properly

By eliminating their food sources, you make your home less attractive to these unwanted guests.

Maintaining a Dry Home Environment

Since house centipedes prefer moist environments, controlling moisture levels in your home is crucial. Focus on areas like basements2 and bathrooms, where humidity tends to be higher. Some ways to maintain a dry home environment include:

  • Using a dehumidifier3
  • Properly ventilating rooms
  • Fixing leaks and drying up standing water

Not only will this make your home less inviting to centipedes, but it also ensures a healthier living space for humans.

Method Pros Cons
Sealing Entry Points Keeps centipedes out Can be time-consuming
Removing Pest Attractants Reduces food sources for centipedes Requires frequent maintenance
Maintaining a Dry Home Environment Discourages centipedes, benefits human health Extra costs for dehumidifiers

In summary, protecting your home from house centipedes involves sealing entry points, removing pest attractants, and maintaining a dry home environment. By following these steps, your home will become less appealing to these pests, ultimately keeping it centipede-free.

Controlling House Centipede Infestations

Natural Predators

House centipedes are arthropods, and like any other household pests, they have natural enemies. Some predators that can help control their population include:

  • Spiders
  • Larger centipedes
  • Lizards

These predators can contribute to a natural balance and help reduce the number of house centipedes in your home.

Over-The-Counter Solutions

If you prefer DIY pest control methods, there are several options available to tackle a centipede infestation:

  • Sticky traps: Place these traps along baseboards and crevices where centipedes are likely to crawl. They will get stuck, and you can then dispose of the traps.
  • Dehumidifiers: Centipedes thrive in damp environments. Using a dehumidifier can make your home less inviting to them.
  • Vacuum: Regularly vacuum your home, especially around baseboards and tight spaces, to keep pests away.

Here’s a comparison table of these methods:

Method Pros Cons
Sticky traps Easy to use, inexpensive Not suitable for large-scale infestations
Dehumidifiers Provides overall benefits to your home Can be expensive, may not be effective on its own
Vacuum Regular household cleaning Does not guarantee complete elimination of centipedes

Professional Pest Control Services

Sometimes, a centipede infestation may require the help of professional exterminators. They can provide more powerful solutions and ensure all arthropods are eliminated. The pros and cons of using professional pest control services are:

  • Pros: Highly effective, experts in pest elimination
  • Cons: Can be expensive, may require multiple treatments

In conclusion, implementing natural predators, using over-the-counter solutions, and considering professional pest control services are three methods to control house centipede infestations effectively. Choose the method that best suits your specific situation to achieve a centipede-free home.

Interesting House Centipede Fun Facts

Physical Prowess

  • House centipedes are fast creatures, often seen darting across floors and stopping suddenly.
  • They have 15 pairs of legs, resulting in a unique appearance with long, slender, and banded legs.

Comparison of Common House Centipede Characteristics

Characteristic Example Description
Body Length Up to 1.5 inches Long, flattened bodies with one pair of legs per segment.
Color Brown to grayish-yellow Three dark stripes on top, dark and white bands on legs.
Leg Structure Barbed legs House centipede legs are barbed to help hold prey.

House centipedes not only display impressive speed but are also skilled predators. Their diet consists of common household pests such as moths.

Worldwide Distribution

  • House centipedes have a global presence, meaning they can be found in various parts of the world.
  • In the U.S. and North America, they are a widespread species.

Due to their adaptability, they can thrive in diverse environments ranging from basements to bathrooms. So, it is not uncommon to encounter them in your home!

Footnotes

  1. Penn State Extension – House Centipedes 2

  2. Missouri Department of Conservation – House Centipede 2

  3. Clemson University – Home & Garden Information Center – Centipedes 2

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 – Giant House Centipede from Hong Kong: Thereuopoda sp

 

Subject: Giant house centipede thing, a foot long.
Location: Hong kong
March 24, 2014 8:24 pm
This insect was found in the school playground this morning. I did some research and it looks like a house centipede, but it only has 14 legs, 7 pairs. Also it is massive. From antenna to antenna is about 26 cm, and the body is about 8 cm, as you can see in the pic. It is march, and it seems like the winter has just broken and spring weather has come out. It was dead, but it was still occasionally twitching. Is it dangerous? Are there going to be more?
Signature: Justin

Giant "House" Centipede
Giant “House” Centipede

Dear Justin,
In our opinion, this is a member of the order Scutigeromorpha, commonly called the House Centipedes, though we cannot say for certain if this is a species that typically inhabits homes.  By North American standards, it is huge, but we don’t know if this individual’s size is unusual in Hong Kong.  There is another member of the order from Hong Kong represented online with the same image on several websites, including FlickR, and it is being called a Cave Centipede.  We counted 14 pairs of legs on your photo, and the one pair of antennae are on the left side of your image.  The appendages on the right side of the image are the final pair of really long legs.  According to BugGuide:  “Adults possess 15 pairs of very long legs that become progressively longer caudally.”  We imagine that large House Centipedes might bite a person, and though common domestic species are not considered dangerous, we cannot say for certain that your individual is harmless.  We cannot predict if you will encounter more.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide additional information on the Hong Kong Scutigeromorphs.

Thank you for the information clarification about this insect, it really baffled everyone i asked.
Sorry about the amount of legs I said, that was a mistake.
Justin H

Actually, we would like to make another correction.  Centipedes are NOT insects.  They are classified with Insects in the phyllum Arthropoda.  Insects have three pairs of legs.

Giant "House" Centipede
Giant “House” Centipede

A related request, we surmise
Subject: Bug In my school can you help??
Location: Hong Kong
March 24, 2014 8:22 pm
Hey there was a centipede in my schools sience room 24cm long, and I don’t have a pitcher but I can try to get u one I think that is house centipede but I’m not sure what it is I have looked all over the web and that’s the only one that I could find so my friend said that u could help, I need to know what it is can u help.
Signature: Name

Dear Name,
Please look at this related posting.

Update:  April 7, 2014
We just received numerous comments from Greg Pelka who graciously identified many of our Centipedes.  He believes this is a
Thereuopoda species and we found a few very impressive images on the Magigugu website.

 

Letter 2 – Cave Centipede from Vietnam

 

Subject: Vietnamese cave bug
Location: central Vietnam
September 13, 2015 6:42 am
We saw these bugs in Hang Son Doong cave in Vietnam. The porters called them Scary Marys but I was wondering what the real name is (and what they are…spider? insect?
Can you please help me identify it?
It was approximately the length of an adult’s hand and moved very quickly. Most of the porters believed that they were venomous (they said poisonous) but one of the porters held it and allowed it to crawl on his back.
Signature: Paige

Cave Centipede
Cave Centipede

Dear Paige,
Though it was found in a cave, we believe this is a member of the order Scutigeromorpha, the members of which are commonly called House Centipedes.  We found several similar looking images online, including an image on Live Science from Malaysia, and image from Borneo on Loupiote.com that is identified as 
Thereuopoda longicornis and an image from Malaysia on Spiders-UK. 

Letter 3 – Bug of the Month March 2012: House Centipede

 

what is this!? lol
Location: Dallas, Texas
February 28, 2012 2:19 pm
i rarely see bugs in my apartment because i live in on the 3rd floor.. nothing ever makes its way up here haha. Til I was in my daughters bedroom last night and this thing makes it way up her wall. Totally freaked me out!
Signature: Malia

House Centipede

Dear Malia,
Though it looks quite fearsome, this common House Centipede is actually a shy nocturnal hunter.  It is a beneficial creature that will help keep the Cockroach population down.  We have selected your submission as the Bug of the Month for March.

Letter 4 – Another House Centipede Saved!!!!

 

thank you thank you thank you
I just wanted to express my sincere apreciation for your website!! My roommates and I have been under attack by giant, billion-legged monsters for months now, and we’ve been unable to win the war against these bugs as the damned things are too fast to catch. I went online to try and figure out what the things were so that we could come up with an appropriate way to extinguish them once and for all, and of course your website came up. And there on the home page was a picture of our monsters!! Apparently our man-eating bugs are just house centipedes, and we’ve been living in terror, chasing these bugs around in the night with flashlights and shoes, for no reason at all. While it doesn’t make me feel any cooler (I’m 5 feet 8 inches tall, and they are 4 inches tall…. and I still can’t catch or outwit them) I do feel better about our little monsters. As they eat roaches, spiders and whatnot, from now on the roommates and I will do our best not to squish them in horror, and I’m defininately not chasing them anymore! So thank you, please keep up this wonderful site, and we’ll be back to visit often!!
Kris in Portland, Maine

Letter 5 – Cave Centipede from Borneo

 

Subject: centipede
Location: Sabah Borneo
November 13, 2015 9:55 am
We saw this centipede in the Gomantong caves in Sabah, Borneo.
They are fast, they don’t like light! I have only one picture, sorry
thanks for help
Signature: fred from belgium

Cave Centipede
Cave Centipede

Hi Again Fred,
Many years ago we posted a similar looking Cave Centipede from Borneo, and there are also similar Centipedes from Vietnam in our archives.  Though they are not in homes, we do classify them with the House Centipedes.

Letter 6 – CPR on a House Centipede

 

A house centipede, saved from drowning!
Dear Bugman,
I bring you good news and interesting story. Most evenings, my 2 daughters share a bath prior to bedtime. This evening my wife yelled at me to come to the bathroom during the bath as there was a ‘bug’ in the bath. I immediately thought house centipede. This was confirmed when at the bottom of the tub the centipede lay. My wife was upset and my daughter scared as I took it from the tub and brought it in the kitchen. It was limp and not moving, bad sign. I put it on a paper-towel and blew dried it. It ‘twitched’. I let it be for a bit longer, at times fanning it a bit, hoping that perhaps a bit more life would return. It was belly up and I decided to stroke it. It attached to me, most certainly a reaction to my touch. I wasn’t optimistic yet and decided to take a few pictures. As I finished taking the shots, I stroked the top of it. It starts to walk, slowly away! I capture it again for a few seconds, wishing to give it a good place to hide. I put it close to my kitchen door and gave it a nudge. He ran to the corner! I took a few more pictures of it in his hiding place. Let me know if you want to see the photos. Due to things that I have read on your website, I took extra ordinary measures to help this little guy out.
Daniel

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for sending us your exciting rescue account and also for supplying the requested photo.

Letter 7 – Dead House Centipede

 

Rude Bug
Heyas!
I have seen several of these little creepy things. I live in Houston, TX right next to a bayou and have all kinds of bugs dropping by for tea. This one gave me a dirty look (and I think a middle finger). My brother says he thinks it is a silverfish but I think it might be a type of centipede. Either way, it was rather rude! Any idea what it is?
Thanks,
Sarah

Hi Sarah,
Poor, harmless, dead House Centipede never did anything to harm anyone.

Letter 8 – Dead House Centipede

 

What in the world is this thing?
Hello! I hope you’ll be able to help me out here. A friend of mine took a picture of this…insect in her basement, and from the description and the photograph (link included in this message) it looks to be some sort of caterpillar. Of course, that is a maybe. I’ve never seen anything like it before and neither has anyone else I’ve questioned.
Location: Minnesota (St. Paul area)
Thank you for your time and patience.
Sincerely,
Michelle y. Richardson

Hi Michelle,
Sorry for the delay. I am very amused that your friend named her poor dead House Centipede “Satan” which might explain why it is dead. They are harmless, though they often startle people when they run across a floor at night. They are very fast, but will kill and eat spiders and cockroaches and other undesireable household intruders.

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 “House Centipede: All You Need to Know in a Quick Guide”

  1. OK, tell me about the House Centipede. I have found 3 in my house over the last 3 months and they really creep me out. The last one I found was today in my 2 year old son’s room. My sister-in-law spotted it, smashed it, (sorry, I read about the CPR) and told me to get an exterminator because their bites are really dangerous. Are they? I wasn’t even sure it was a centipede until I saw the picture. Fill me in.

    Reply
  2. Hi tarasisk,
    We already have plenty of information on our website about House Centipedes. Just go to the centipede section and read away. The bite of a House Centipede would not be dangerous, and we have only received one report throughout the years that even made a claim regarding being bitten.

    Reply

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