Centipede Species: Uncovering the Fascinating Diversity

Centipedes are fascinating creatures that come in various sizes, colors, and leg counts. They are often found in damp and dark environments, such as under rocks, logs, or in soil. You might encounter different types of centipedes depending on your location and habitat.

One commonly found type is the house centipede, which has a hairier appearance and can live and reproduce indoors. You might spot them in high-humidity areas like basements, laundry rooms, or bathrooms. Don’t worry, these arthropods are generally harmless and can even help control other pests.

Another centipede you could encounter outdoors is the species often found in gardens. These are usually brownish with varying leg lengths, assisting them in navigating the soil and plant life. Centipedes, in general, are predators that assist in controlling other insect populations and maintaining balance in ecosystems.

Understanding Centipedes

Class Chilopoda

Centipedes belong to the class Chilopoda, which is a group of arthropods. These creatures can be found in various environments worldwide. As members of the arthropod family, they share some common characteristics with other arthropods like spiders and insects.

Physical Characteristics

Centipedes are known for their long, segmented bodies and numerous legs. Each body segment has a single pair of legs. Though their name implies they have 100 legs, the actual number can vary between 10 to 100 or more, depending on the species. For example, the house centipede typically has 15 pairs of legs and measures around one to one and a half inches long.

Some unique physical features of centipedes include:

  • Long and slender antennae on their head for sensing their surroundings
  • Segmented bodies, with each segment housing one pair of legs
  • Varying leg length and count, depending on the species
FeatureCentipedes
Body typeSegmented
AntennaePresent
Legs per segmentOne pair
Leg count10 – 100+

Centipede Behavior

Centipedes are predators that primarily feed on small insects and spiders. They are fast runners, which allows them to effectively hunt their prey. To catch their prey, centipedes utilize venomous jaws. Their need for a humid environment can lead to them being found in places like under pots with frequent watering, as mentioned in this Washington State University article.

In summary, centipede behavior includes:

  • Predatory nature, targeting small insects and spiders
  • Fast running to catch prey
  • Preferring humid environments

Common Types of Centipedes

House Centipede

The House Centipede is a common species often found in human dwellings. With its 15 pairs of long, slender legs, it’s hard to miss. You might come across it in damp areas like basements, bathrooms, or closets. Don’t worry, they are harmless to humans and even act as natural pest control by feeding on other household insects.

House Centipede features:

  • 15 pairs of legs
  • 1 to 1.5 inches in length
  • Yellowish-brown with dark stripes
  • Fast runners

Giant Desert Centipede

Giant Desert Centipedes are known for their size and vibrant appearance. These creatures inhabit arid regions and can reach an impressive 6 to 8 inches in length. Be cautious, as they have a painful bite! Nevertheless, they play a significant role in controlling insect populations in their desert habitats.

Giant Desert Centipede characteristics:

  • 6 to 8 inches in length
  • Reddish-orange body with black bands
  • 21 to 23 pairs of legs
  • Venomous, but not life-threatening to humans

Stone Centipede

If you enjoy gardening, you might have encountered a Stone Centipede. With their shorter, flattened bodies, these centipedes blend into the soil and rocky terrain. They contribute to soil health and biodiversity by preying on various pests and decomposing organic matter.

Stone Centipede features:

  • 15 pairs of legs
  • 1 to 2 inches in length
  • Brown or black, often with lighter markings
  • Flattened body for burrowing
FeatureHouse CentipedeGiant Desert CentipedeStone Centipede
Length1 – 1.5 inches6 – 8 inches1 – 2 inches
Leg pairs1521 – 2315
ColorYellowish-brownReddish-orangeBrown or black
Human interactionHarmless, pest controlVenomous, painful biteHarmless, garden dweller

Now that you know more about these three centipede species, you will be able to identify them better in your surroundings. These creatures are an essential part of maintaining a balanced ecosystem. So, whether you find them in your home or garden, remember their beneficial roles in controlling pest populations.

Centipede Habitats

North American Habitats

In North America, you can find centipedes thriving in various habitats, from forests to deserts. They usually prefer damp, dark, and secluded areas, such as under rocks or logs. For example, in your garden, they might inhabit leaf litter or compost piles. Centipedes in North America can adapt to different soil types, which allows them to live in a wide range of environments.

European Habitats

Centipedes in Europe also prefer moist and dark areas, just like their North American counterparts. They tend to inhabit forests with rich soil, where organic materials provide ideal conditions for them. You might also find them in your European garden, hiding under stones or in naturally decomposing debris such as fallen leaves.

African Habitats

In Africa, centipedes can be found in deserts and forests, making use of various micro-habitats to survive. They are resourceful creatures, often living in burrows or other sheltered spots, and searching for food during the night when the temperature is cooler. Like in North America and Europe, centipedes in Africa tend to reside in damp and dark environments, often seeking refuge in soil or leaf litter.

Some key characteristics of centipedes’ preferred habitats include:

  • Moist and dark conditions
  • Secluded areas like under rocks, logs, or stones
  • Various soil types, from rich organic soils to desert conditions
  • Micro-habitats that provide shelter and protection

Centipede Lifecycle and Reproduction

Centipedes go through several stages during their life. They start as eggs, hatch into young centipedes, and eventually grow and mature into adults. These fascinating creatures reproduce by transferring a spermatophore from the male to the female.

When it comes to mating, centipedes exhibit unique behaviors. Male centipedes often deposit a spermatophore in the environment. Female centipedes track this down, usually by following the scent of the spermatophore.

Once the female locates the spermatophore, she picks it up and absorbs the sperm. She then lays her eggs, most often in a damp, dark location where young centipedes can have a better chance of survival.

As the young centipedes develop, they undergo a series of molts. During each molt, they will shed their exoskeleton and gradually grow new body segments and legs. It’s important to know that the number of legs they have depends on their species and stage in their lifecycle.

Over time, these young centipedes will mature and begin searching for their own mates. And thus, the fascinating lifecycle and reproduction process of centipedes continues.

In your journey to learn about centipedes, remember:

  • Centipedes reproduce using a spermatophore
  • The female locates and picks up the spermatophore to fertilize her eggs
  • Eggs are laid in damp, dark environments for better survival
  • Young centipedes molt and grow more segments and legs before reaching adulthood

Centipede Diet and Predation

Prey Selection

Centipedes are known for their carnivorous and predatory nature. Their diet primarily consists of various small animals, but they mostly feed on insects and earthworms. As a centipede, you would use your venomous jaws to capture and consume your prey with ease.

Some examples of prey for centipedes include:

  • Insects, like flies and ants
  • Earthworms
  • Spiders

Common Predators

Although centipedes are skilled hunters, they also face predators of their own. Some common predators that may pose a threat to centipedes include:

  • Birds, such as magpies and crows
  • Frogs and toads
  • Larger insects, like beetles
  • Small mammals, including shrews and mice

By understanding the centipede’s diet and natural predators, you can better appreciate their role in the ecosystem and the balance they help maintain. Make sure to remember these facts while learning more about centipedes and their fascinating predatory behavior.

Identifying Centipede Bites

Centipedes are predatory venomous arthropods with segmented bodies and one pair of legs per segment. When they bite, they use their venomous claws called forcipules. If you’re bitten by a centipede, here’s what you should know.

Firstly, centipede bites are usually not severe. In most cases, you’ll only experience mild pain and swelling. However, some people may have an allergic reaction or develop an infection. Here’s what you might notice:

  • A small puncture wound
  • Redness and swelling around the area
  • Mild to moderate pain

Now, let’s compare centipede bites to other common insect bites:

Centipede BitesBee StingsMosquito BitesSpider Bites
Small punctureSharp painItchy red bumpRed, swollen
RednessSwellingRaised areaPainful
PainfulRedness  

If you think you’ve been bitten by a centipede, you can take some simple steps to manage the symptoms:

  • Clean the area with soap and water.
  • Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers for discomfort.

In conclusion, while centipede bites are not common and usually not severe, it’s essential to recognize the symptoms and know how to address them. By taking these steps, you can manage the pain and swelling and potentially avoid more severe reactions.

Dealing with Centipedes in the Home

Preventive Measures

To keep centipedes from entering your home, consider the following steps:

  • Remove their hiding spots by keeping your basement, closets, and other damp, dark areas clean and clutter-free.
  • Seal cracks and crevices in your home’s foundation and walls to prevent entry.
  • Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture levels in damp areas like basements and bathrooms.
  • Regularly dispose of leaf mulch and wood piles close to your home, as they attract centipedes.

By taking these preventive measures, you can create an unwelcoming environment for centipedes and reduce the chance of an infestation.

Pest Control Methods

If you already have centipedes in your home, try these pest control methods:

  • Use sticky traps in areas where centipedes are frequently seen, like basements, bathrooms, and closets.
  • Apply a natural pesticide, such as diatomaceous earth, around entry points to eliminate centipedes.
  • Vacuum regularly to remove their food sources, like insects and spiders.

Catching centipedes with these methods can help control their population in your home.

Remember to keep your home clean and well-maintained, especially in damp areas where centipedes tend to hide, to prevent their return. By following these steps, you will effectively manage and prevent centipedes from making your home theirs.

Interesting Facts about Centipedes

Did you know that centipedes are fast hunters? They use their speed to catch their prey, relying on venomous jaws to immobilize insects and other small animals. In contrast with their slow-moving cousins, millipedes, centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, contributing to their agility.

Some species can be strikingly colored, such as the orange Scolopendra gigantea. This strikingly orange centipede is also known as the giant centipede. Native to the South American rainforests, the Scolopendra gigantea is one of the largest centipedes in the world, growing up to 12 inches in length.

To help with identification, here are some interesting centipede characteristics:

  • One pair of legs per body segment
  • Fast-moving hunters
  • Venomous jaws for capturing prey
  • Some species have colorful bodies, such as orange

When comparing centipedes and millipedes, keep these differences in mind:

FeatureCentipedesMillipedes
LegsOne pair per segmentTwo pairs per segment
MovementFastSlow
DietCarnivorousHerbivorous

As with all creatures, it’s important to avoid exaggerating or making false claims. Now that you’ve learned some brief and fascinating information about centipedes, you can better appreciate their unique qualities and important role in the ecosystem.

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.

    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

42 thoughts on “Centipede Species: Uncovering the Fascinating Diversity”

  1. Its amazing because i was watching a video on my bed .and i caught something colorful crawling from under it and there it was a multicolored centipede ! .i didnt know whether i should be shocked or scared because i dont know much about these insects .i dont even know its identification name ! all i know is its a centipede.so i put it in a small box and let it go faaaar away from my house ,because i am petrified of insects .

    Reply
  2. I saw a few similar back in the 60’s around La Sierra, CA but they were all more than 6″ long. One I found was out by Wood Crest near March AFB. I have seen at least one out near Giant rock that was well over 6″. All these were seen when I was a young guy.
    Since then while serving in the jungles of SE Asia I saw some REALLY BIG ones that were mostly black. Having a camera back then was not the most important piece of gear I was toting.

    I hope more of you will have the chance to see some of these amazing and scary critters!

    Rusty Rossey

    Reply
  3. I saw a few similar back in the 60’s around La Sierra, CA but they were all more than 6″ long. One I found was out by Wood Crest near March AFB. I have seen at least one out near Giant rock that was well over 6″. All these were seen when I was a young guy.
    Since then while serving in the jungles of SE Asia I saw some REALLY BIG ones that were mostly black. Having a camera back then was not the most important piece of gear I was toting.

    I hope more of you will have the chance to see some of these amazing and scary critters!

    Rusty Rossey

    Reply
  4. We found one in our bathroom here in Las Vegas. He’s only about 1 1/2 inches long but definitely freeked out my kids!

    Reply
    • Oh wow. I just killed a multicolored green. Centipede. Sorry but it crawled out of my apt onto the patio where i was. So creepy. I panicked. I hope there isnt more here. Sorry i know they r rare.

      Reply
  5. Very interesting! Wonder if it’s a larvae of some sort, or an oddball micro-invertebrate. Just looking at the photo, the first thing that comes to mind are some of the colorful marine polychaete worms if the photographer hadn’t specified the circumstances πŸ™‚ .

    Reply
  6. As Cesar has said, this is a pincushion millipede of the Polyxenida. Pincushion millipedes have a reputation for being rare, but they can be abundant in at least some localities. Species-wise, Polyxenus lagurus and P. fasciculatus both appear to be widespread in North America, but I haven’t found how to tell which is in your photo.

    Reply
  7. I was hiking the Jump Creek canyon south of Marsing, Idaho this last Tuesday (4/23/15) and encountered one of these after rolling a rather large rock. I tried to get a picture of it but withdrew into the grass. It was approximately two inches in length and a very bright blue/green. I’m a native Idahoan and haven’t seen one of these before. Is this unusual for Idaho? Thanks.

    Reply
  8. G’day we have those centipedes in Tasmania, Australia found one today in a load of wood. Be careful not to get stung/bitten they are poisonous and the pain can last from a few hours to several days. But rarely fatal to humans.

    Reply
  9. Be thankful that you did kill that centipede from Hawaii they are not only dangerous for animals they are dangerous for people. When I visited Hawaii in 2010 some centipedes crawled in our wet clothes and the locals informed us to never touch them or we would be in the hospital for days in horrible pain. They are extremely dangerous.

    Reply
  10. I was just playing with my new puppy in the livingroom and it moved the towel it was laying on and it crawled from under it and she sat on it before I could stop her if it bite her will she be ok WE ALSO live in Rogersville, Alabama

    Reply
  11. I live I Wildomar Ca. I just captured on of these guys! I found him hanging out on a wall in my closet. Not the greatest thing to find late at night! We tried to get him but he ended up hiding in some sheets we had folded in there. Put everything in a trash bag and went looking for him in the am. I don’t know if it was my imagination or what, but I swear the thing hissed at me when I started shaking the sheet he was hiding in. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one of these. And I’d be happy if it were the last….

    Reply
  12. I live in South East Georgia about 70 miles west of Tybee Island. About 2:30am one came crawling up from the back of the couch and im sorry to say that i killed the crap out of it. I was bitten/stung/pinched about a two years ago while sleeping and yet again it was in the early morning hours. Im here to tell you, IT HURTS! I brushed and swatted at that time and only caught a glimps and searched endlessly for hours with no result and couldn’t sleep comfortably for several nights for the fear of its return. Trust me, i know it sounds pretty crazy to be a 35 year old grown man and get that freaked out by a bug or insect but when the bite/sting/pinch when they’re not being bothered and came into my house and into my bed to do so thats where i draw the line on extermination. Im a lover of all God’s creations but they need to stay out of my safe zone. The one tonight was blue/green with what seems to be some sort of antennas on its head and something that looks very similar on its rear which im sure is a protection decoy to confuse predators on whats the head and whats the tail. Either way… they should head in another direction because they make me act like a scared little girl when they all of a sudden creep up on me. Thanks for all the great info on your site and sorry for the extermination but it was a necessary and humain kill.

    Reply
  13. My mother got bite by this long insect in year 2010 around….she said that it is realy really really hurt…she’s already experience got bite by a snake 20 years ago…we are from malaysia…it is normal to see red long centipete around my village especially during rainy season…but this kind of centipete is weird

    Reply
  14. I live in southern Arizona and have found dozens of these Blue and multicolored centipedes. Beautiful color & very eye pleasing. They’re probably my favorite next to the Banded Heros!
    I’m also curious to know their identity. Been calling them Aquapedes for now.

    Reply
  15. I live in southern Arizona and have found dozens of these Blue and multicolored centipedes. Beautiful color & very eye pleasing. They’re probably my favorite next to the Banded Heros!
    I’m also curious to know their identity. Been calling them Aquapedes for now.

    Reply
  16. We just found a dead one of these on a nature trail in Northern Virginia today! It was wrapped around a log, 3/4 outside of it. I took a picture bc we’d never seen anything like it, but when I tapped it with a stick it fell apart very grotesquely. Would be happy to share photo.

    Location: Nokesville public park path!! Not a Hawaiian transplant!?

    Reply
  17. We just found a dead one of these on a nature trail in Northern Virginia today! It was wrapped around a log, 3/4 outside of it. I took a picture bc we’d never seen anything like it, but when I tapped it with a stick it fell apart very grotesquely. Would be happy to share photo.

    Location: Nokesville public park path!! Not a Hawaiian transplant!?

    Reply
  18. I just found a dead one in my kids’ playroom. The legs are a bright blue/green. About 1.5″ long. I wouldn’t want to see a bigger one! We are in Mesa, AZ.

    Reply
  19. I found 2 in less than a year. I live in Las Vegas! They must be migrating!!!! Noooooo because I hate them so much. My biggest fear

    Reply
  20. I live in Southern AZ, and find several in my yard every year. I protect them because centipedes are a good good bug! Maybe some find them scary but you can’t judge a book by its cover. :D. I enjoy watching them.

    Reply
  21. Just found the first one in our house. We have found three others outdoors. The others have all come out from under rocks. We love next to Flat iron mountain in the Superstitions easy of Phoenix.

    Reply

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