How Many Legs Does a House Centipede Have? Discover the Surprising Answer!

House centipedes are fascinating creatures that often make their way into our homes. These arthropods have elongated bodies with one pair of legs per segment, making them easily recognizable. So, how many legs does a house centipede have?

A house centipede typically has 15 pairs of legs. These legs are long, slender, and encircled by dark and white bands. Interestingly, the number of legs a centipede has can change throughout its life stages, as it gains more pairs through a series of molts.

While house centipedes may appear unnerving, they are mostly harmless and can help control other pests in your home. Their numerous legs, matched with their speed and agility, make them efficient predators of insects and other small arthropods.

House Centipedes: Basics and General Characteristics

What are House Centipedes?

House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda and order Scutigeromorpha. They are a common species often found inside homes.

Appearance and Markings

These unique insects have a yellowish-brown body with:

  • Three dark stripes running along the top
  • 15 pairs of white-banded long legs, increasing in length towards the back

Their body size can reach up to 1½ inches long. The legs are barbed, aiding in capturing prey.

Classification and Morphology

House centipedes belong to the phylum Arthropoda, class Chilopoda, order Scutigeromorpha, and species Scutigera coleoptrata. Key morphological features include:

  • Body: Flattened and segmented
  • Eyes: Faceted and well-developed
  • Legs: One pair per segment, totaling 15 pairs of slender legs

Here’s a comparison table between house centipedes and other centipedes:

Feature House Centipedes Other Centipedes
Body Color Yellowish-brown Varying
Leg Count 15 pairs 10 to 50+ pairs
Eye Development Faceted and well-developed Typically less developed
Body Size Up to 1½ inches long Varying

In summary, house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) are common arthropods with 15 pairs of long, white-banded legs, and a distinct yellowish-brown body with three dark stripes. Their unique appearance and classification make them an intriguing species among centipedes.

Lifecycle and Reproduction of House Centipedes

Reproduction Process

House centipedes reproduce by laying eggs in their preferred habitats, such as damp and protected spaces in homes or outdoors. The male centipede deposits a spermatophore on the ground or on a web, which the female later picks up and uses for fertilization1.

Growth and Development

  • Eggs: Female house centipedes lay about 60 eggs at a time2.
  • Larvae: House centipede larvae hatch from the eggs and have fewer legs than adults3.
  • Molt: As the larvae grow and develop, they go through several molts, gaining more legs during each stage4.
  • Life stages: House centipedes have a slower growth rate compared to spiders or other insects5.

A comparison table of house centipede life stages:

Life Stage Description Legs
Eggs Laid by females in damp, protected areas None
Larvae Hatch from eggs with fewer legs than adults Varies
Molt Growth stage; additional legs are gained Varies
Maturity Fully grown adult house centipede 15 pairs

These insects have fascinating growth and development characteristics. With each molt, they become closer to their final adult form, ultimately sporting 15 pairs of long, slender legs6. Observing the life stages of house centipedes truly reflects the unique traits of these arthropods.

Habitats and Distribution of House Centipedes

Natural Habitats

House centipedes inhabit damp and dark environments:

  • Outdoors: They can be found in leaf litter and unexcavated areas.
  • Indoors: They prefer basements, bathrooms, and crawl spaces.

These arthropods need humidity to survive, so they are commonly found in damp urban environments1.

Urban Environments

In urban settings, house centipedes can be found in various moist areas:

  • Bathrooms
  • Basements
  • Crawl spaces
  • Crevices and cracks

To control their presence and prevent infestations, it’s essential to reduce household dampness and seal openings.

Geographical Distribution

House centipedes’ habitat ranges from the southern United States to Pennsylvania2. They are native to the Mediterranean region but have spread worldwide.

Here is a comparison of their habitat preferences:

Location Natural Habitat Urban Environment
US and Worldwide Damp areas Bathrooms, basements, and crawl spaces

Dietary Habits and Prey

Carnivorous Behavior

House centipedes are carnivorous, preying on other insects and spiders. They are known for their speed, able to quickly capture their prey. Some key features of their predatory behavior include:

  • Barbed legs to help hold prey
  • Fast and stealthy hunting style
  • Nocturnal activity

Common Prey Items

House centipedes have a diverse diet, targeting various insects and arthropods. Some examples of their prey include:

  • Ants
  • Cockroaches
  • Silverfish
  • Termites
  • Millipedes

Comparing different prey items:

Prey Item Vulnerability to House Centipedes Impact on House Centipede Diet
Ants Medium Moderate contributor
Cockroaches High Major contributor
Silverfish High Major contributor
Termites Medium Moderate contributor
Millipedes Low Minor contributor

House centipedes’ carnivorous diet benefits homeowners, as they help control populations of unwanted pests. However, it is important to note that they would not solely rely on these insects as their only food source.

House Centipede Bites and Dangers

When do Bites Occur?

House centipede bites are rare. They usually occur when the centipede is mishandled or feels threatened. These creatures are more interested in finding prey, like insects and spiders, than biting humans.

Are Bites Harmful to Humans?

House centipede bites are not considered dangerous for humans. The pain from a bite can be compared to a bee sting. Some people may experience redness, swelling, and itchiness around the bite area.

Comparing Venom: House Centipedes vs. Other Arthropods

House centipedes inject venom to paralyze their prey, but it is not very potent. When compared to other arthropods, their venom is less concerning. For example:

  • House Centipedes:
    • Mild pain, similar to a bee sting.
    • Minimal swelling and redness.
    • Low risk to humans.
  • Bee Stings:
    • Moderate pain and swelling.
    • Potential for severe allergic reaction.
    • Can be life-threatening in some cases.
  • Spiders:
    • Venom potency varies depending on the species.
    • Some bites may require medical attention.
Arthropod Venom Potency Pain Level Risk to Humans
House Centipede Low Mild Low
Bee Moderate Moderate Moderate
Spider (varies species) Variable Varies Varies

In conclusion, house centipede bites are uncommon and not a significant concern for humans. Their venom is less dangerous when compared to other arthropods, and the bites are generally mild and manageable.

Infestation and Pest Control

Identifying Infestations

House centipedes are yellowish-brown creatures with up to 15 pairs of long legs. They prefer damp, dark areas and can be found in basements, bathrooms, and other moist environments. Signs of infestations include:

  • Seeing live or dead centipedes
  • Finding centipede droppings or molted exoskeletons

Natural and Chemical Control Methods

When dealing with house centipedes, consider the following control methods:

Natural:

  • Seal entry points (windows, doors, and cracks)
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture
  • Introduce natural predators like spiders

Chemical:

  • Apply appropriate pesticides in affected areas
  • Use insecticidal sprays on potential centipede hiding spots

Pros and Cons of Natural vs Chemical Methods:

Natural Methods Chemical Methods
Pros * Environmentally friendly * Fast-acting
* Long-term prevention * Effective at killing
Cons * Can be time-consuming * Harmful to other species
* May not work quickly * Potential health risks

Preventing Future Infestations

To keep house centipedes at bay:

  • Maintain a clean, clutter-free home
  • Fix plumbing leaks and reduce excess moisture
  • Use dehumidifiers in damp areas
  • Apply sticky traps near potential hiding spots

By implementing these control methods, you can manage and prevent house centipede infestations in your home.

Footnotes

  1. (https://www.extension.iastate.edu/house-centipedes) 2

  2. (https://www.hortnews.extension.iastate.edu/house-centipede) 2

  3. (https://portal.ct.gov/storage/House-Centipede-Scutigera.pdf)

  4. (https://extension.psu.edu/house-centipedes)

  5. (https://arthropod.uark.edu/house-centipede/)

  6. (https://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/house-centipede)

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 will run no more

 

bug
Location: North West Pa
March 19, 2011 8:08 pm
this was running across my sisters floor. what is it?
Signature: Tessa

What befell this House Centipede?

Hi Tessa,
It appears this harmless and beneficial House Centipede will never run again.  House Centipedes are beneficial nocturnal predators that will help keep your home clear of unwanted pests like Cockroaches and Bed Bugs.

Letter 2 – House Centipede smashed after being mistaken for mutant

 

Subject:  Fukushima deep sea mutated creature in Orangevale California
Geographic location of the bug:  Orangevale California
Date: 11/27/2017
Time: 06:15 AM EDT
I just need to know if this is a mutated sea creature or something from another dimension coming to steal my soul it looks like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens
How you want your letter signed:  Don’t want to die buy some weird bug I don’t know what it is

House Centipede Carnage

While the humor in your request is amusing, you lived to write about your encounter with this harmless House Centipede and it did not.  Images of House Centipedes that have fallen victim to Unnecessary Carnage are quite common on our site because they seem so frightening to many folks.  House Centipedes are impressive creatures that are very agile on their 15 pairs of legs.  They are nocturnal hunters that will help keep the home free of Cockroaches and other unwanted critters.

Letter 3 – House Centipede rescued because of WTB?

 

Found your site; saved a bug!
July 27, 2009
Dear WTB,
Today I had the wonderful experience of settling down comfortably at my computer…and promptly having a house centipede fall on me from my ceiling.
I’ve never seen one of these little guys, and as fond as I am of bugs (I tend to release them on my patio if they seem intimidating, or if my cat tries to eat them and I spot them before he can), I had a bit of a panic trying to figure out what it was. I only counted 10 legs (poor little guy seemed to have lost a few, according to descriptions of it having 15) and it didn’t seem too recognizable compared to anything else I’d seen.
Your website helped me figure out what it was, and what good it does in my household. I released it a bit aways from where I like to relax so it wouldn’t bother me, and it could hopefully go around eating pests I don’t like in my house. I’m so glad that I didn’t squish it out of initial fear; it didn’t do me any harm, no more than a little shock, and it turns out that it’s like a little buddy keeping things that bite away. But ,browsing through your site and finding it, did me a world of good. It’s always comforting to know what you have isn’t unusual or harmful, and whether or not you should be releasing it far away or just letting it mosey along on its own business.
I’ve been browsing your site and I love all the good you’re doing by spreading knowledge about insects and encouraging people not to kill them on sight. Hopefully I’ll find an interesting bug to take a picture of for one of your posts!
Many thanks for helping me identify my new housemate,
~Jenny~

Letter 4 – House Centipede Spared

 

House Centepede Scare…
Hello There,
I just wanted to thank you for providing me with the info I needed last night! I live in Western Massachusetts and with the weather starting to turn, we are seeing signs of life everywhere. Last night in our darkened living room my girlfriend did the whole scream and run away thing. And this time it wasn’t even me. I had caught the movement across the floor too. I asked her to please get me a drinking glass. (My preferred catch and release tool.) She did, and I turned on the light to find a 1″ house centipede sitting patiently in the middle of my living room. She got me the glass and I managed to move quick enough (It was probably blinded by the bright lights) to catch it. Now the fun began. Trying to convince my girlfriend that it should live in the basement. I had read many times on your site that these friends are beneficial. But she wanted none of it. It was “Creepy” and she didn’t want it in the house. End of story. I didn’t even tell her that it could double in size… Well, I kept it around for a few minutes observing it running around a Tupperware bowl I put it in, but finally it was time to play outside. I released him in the yard with a quiet invitation to come right back in, but to try to stay out of the living room! We’ll see if it takes me up on the offer. Keep up the great work on the site. Without your help and information I probably would have been screaming right along with her! (They are pretty creepy looking after all!)
Thanks,
Christopher

Letter 5 – House Centipede Terrifies Again!

 

Long creepy bug
Hi, this may sound like a very weird story. I know you get emails like this all the time and it turns out being this same thing but i have a question about the house centipede. Ok so heres my story. I walked into the bathroom one night to do my business (my bathroom has linolium and carpet because it is also my laundry room if that matters). Well i walk in to go to the bathroom and i turn on the light when just is a get to the toilet i see this bug scurry across the floor. It was well i guess a light yellow or clearish color and i believe it had two very thin brown "racing stripes" down his back. Well he scurried across the floor and ran around a bag of papers sitting there. Well i was so scared that after i went to the bathroom, i stood on the toilet to wash my hands. But you may be thinking to yourself, yeah its just another house centipede but i looked at the photos and the one i saw the legs weren’ t as long as the one photo but it did have feelers in the front but there wasn’t just a couple legs like the photo, no, there was ALOT. I am so deathly afraid to go back in the bathroom so i would be really thankfully if you can just let me know that its not poisonous or anything bad, i mean my dad’s work boots are now locked in the bathroom with this creature!
Thanks a Bunch,
Bathroom Critter

Dear Critter,
Though they are startling, House Centipedes are harmless. When they are running, they appear to have many more legs than they actually possess.

Letter 6 – House Centipede Terrorizes family

 

Subject: Identify my bug please; terrifying my children and guests
Location: New Bedford, Massachusetts
September 3, 2016 8:57 pm
Dear Bugman,
I first encountered this bug when I was 6 years old happily coloring on my floor and this monstrous thing ran across my coloring book and I never touched it again. Now I live in an apartment and they’ve shown up frequently these past couple days. One gave me a heart attack in my bedroom, another ran across the kitchen counter sending my child running and screaming, and a recent one I was able to get a picture of was about 30 minutes ago in my bathroom. It is September; almost fall here in Massachusetts and about 70 degrees outside. The weather has been cooling down with a lot of rain and humidity this weekend. These bugs run super fast. They usually hang out in the dark; I’m assuming as whenever a light flickers in they run for cover elsewhere never to be seen again. They have a Buber of legs and vary from very tiny to about 4 inches long. Some are a light brown while others have a striped pattern. I’m getting shivers describing this; these are my worst bug fear. Please please PLEASE help me identify these guys; I would really appreciate. Thank you,
Signature: Terrified Mother and Cade

House Centipede
House Centipede

Dear Terrified Mother and Cade,
This is a House Centipede, and we generally refer to them as harmless, though we concede that a large individual might bite a human, but those incidents seem to be very rare.  House Centipedes are nocturnal predators that will feast upon Cockroaches and other undesirable insects and arthropods.  They are quite startling when they run quickly across the room.  We hope you realize that they will run and hide from you, and they are not interested in attacking you, and the chances of getting bitten are greatly reduced if you don’t try to catch and hold them, which we doubt you will ever attempt.

Letter 7 – House Centipede, we presume

 

weird bug in my office
Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 9:49 AM
We just found a bug crawling across the floor that is unlike anything I have ever seen. It was about 1″ long; had at least 8 legs; 2 black antennae on its HIND end; medium yellow, kind of translucent color with tiny black speckles. It’s body was covered in filaments, like a caterpillar only not as dense and only covering it’s back. It crawled on all legs off the ground, didn’t scoot like a caterpillar, and was more spindly and moved fast, like a spider, only longer. It kind of looks like a shrimp when it walks. I would take a picture and send it, but my student worker squished it, and then it disappeared. So I drew it instead. Don’t laugh! This is not a hoax. I really want to know what in the world this bug was!!! Can you help me?
Creeped Out
Northeastern Kansas

House Centipede rendering
House Centipede rendering

Dear Creeped Out,
We believe you encountered a House Centipede.  House Centipedes are harmless predators that will kill and eat much less desirable office inhabitants like cockroaches.  Your letter is quite descriptive, and your drawing gave us a chuckle, so we decided it needed to be shared with our readership.

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.

3 thoughts on “How Many Legs Does a House Centipede Have? Discover the Surprising Answer!”

  1. You might try telling your child that he’s a good bug who is running around protecting your food by eating the bad bugs that want to eat your food, and he won’t hurt you unless you try to grab him. Sometimes knowing something is a good bug can reduce the fear of it.

    Reply
  2. Aaawh… I killed one of these while I was on vacation. Now I know better. May bring a few home next time we are at the lake. Thanks for letting me know.

    Reply

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