What Do House Centipedes Do? Uncovering Their Secrets

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House centipedes might startle you with their peculiar appearance and rapid movements. With their long, flattened bodies and numerous legs, they’re often seen scurrying across floors or walls. Despite their somewhat intimidating looks, it’s important to understand the role they play in your home’s ecosystem.

These multi-legged critters are actually nature’s pest control. House centipedes feed on common household nuisances, such as ants, spiders, and even small insects. While it may be difficult to appreciate their presence, they can help keep pest populations in check.

However, knowing their purpose doesn’t necessarily mean you want to share your living space with them. To deter house centipedes, take preventive measures such as reducing moisture in your home, sealing cracks, and keeping your living space clean.

Identity of House Centipedes

House centipedes are a unique species of arthropods that are commonly found in homes, especially during the hot and dry season. As a member of the genus Scutigera, these centipedes are native to North America and have a distinctive appearance, making them easy to identify. In this section, we will explore the key features and characteristics of house centipedes.

These arthropods have a yellowish-brown body with three dark stripes running along the top. Their most striking feature is their 15 pairs of extremely long, slender legs, each adorned with dark and white bands. In contrast, other centipedes like those in the Scolopendra genus have shorter legs and a more robust appearance.

House centipedes are not only different from other centipedes in terms of appearance but also behavior. While they might appear intimidating, they are not harmful to humans. In fact, they help keep your home free of pests as they prey on other small arthropods like spiders and silverfish.

To summarize the key features of house centipedes, here are some bullet points:

  • Yellowish-brown body with three dark stripes
  • 15 pairs of long, slender legs with dark and white bands
  • Belong to the Scutigera genus and are native to North America
  • Prey on other small arthropods, making them useful for pest control within homes

Remember, when you encounter a house centipede, it’s important not to panic. These fascinating creatures are more of a friend than a foe in your home. Embrace their presence as a sign of a healthy environment and appreciate their role in keeping other uninvited arthropod guests at bay.

Habitat and Survival Conditions

House centipedes thrive in dark, moist environments where they can find prey and hide from predators. They prefer places with high humidity, making basements, bathrooms, and other damp areas of your home ideal habitats for them. In addition to indoor spaces, they can also be found in wood piles, leaf litter, and other cool, damp hiding spots outdoors.

Their preference for these conditions is due to their need for moisture. House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) require a certain level of humidity to survive, as they can easily become dehydrated. In order to maintain their moisture levels, you can often find them hiding under objects, in cracks, and crevices within their preferred habitats.

In general, the presence of house centipedes indicates that there is an ample supply of prey in their environment, such as insects and spiders. This suggests that your home may have other arthropods cohabiting the same spaces, potentially signaling a more significant issue that needs to be addressed.

Here are a few common features of house centipede habitats:

  • High humidity
  • Cool temperatures
  • Dark or shaded areas
  • Plenty of hiding spots, like cracks and crevices

While these conditions are beneficial for house centipedes, they can also attract other pests. To discourage house centipedes from making themselves at home, consider reducing the moisture and humidity in your living spaces, sealing up gaps and cracks to remove potential hiding spots, and addressing any other pest problems that might be providing them with a steady food source.

In conclusion, house centipedes are typically found in dark, damp spaces with high humidity. They require these conditions for survival, and the presence of these creatures can be indicative of other pests in the same environment. Addressing the factors that lead to these conditions can help prevent house centipedes from making themselves at home in your living spaces.

Diet of House Centipedes

House centipedes are predators that play a significant role in controlling the population of various pests in your home. Their diet mainly consists of:

  • Spiders
  • Ants
  • Flies
  • Termites
  • Insects such as silverfish and cockroaches
  • Larvae of various bugs

For example, house centipedes effectively feed on silverfish, firebrats, carpet beetle larvae, and cockroaches, reducing their numbers in your home.

When hunting, these centipedes use their long legs, which are barbed, to hold onto their prey. Their speed and agility make them efficient hunters, capturing and consuming various small arthropods, helping maintain a balance in your home ecosystem.

It is important to note that an increase in house centipedes might be an indication of a larger problem regarding their food source, such as an infestation of insects or other bugs.

In summary, house centipedes are beneficial predators that feed on common pests, controlling their populations and keeping your home environment in balance. So, don’t be too alarmed when you spot these creepy crawlies around your place!

Reproduction of House Centipedes

House centipedes go through a fascinating lifecycle from egg to adulthood. In this section, we’ll explore this process and how it affects their reproduction.

House centipedes may lay up to 35 eggs in areas with high moisture content. These locations are essential, as the eggs require the right conditions to hatch.

Eggs will eventually transform into small larvae. These larvae will then go through several molting stages, growing slightly more substantial with each stage.

As the larvae develop, they gradually transition into adult house centipedes. It’s worth noting that adult centipedes can live for a year or more, depending on the species.

Protection and Defense Mechanisms

House centipedes, although small creatures, have their own ways of protecting themselves. One of their most significant defense mechanisms is their speed. With their numerous legs, house centipedes can quickly escape threats or capture prey.

Their ability to jump out of harm’s way also helps them avoid predators and navigate obstacles. These agile creatures use their legs not only for running but also for grasping surfaces and climbing.

Another effective defense that house centipedes possess is their forcipules. Forcipules are a pair of modified front legs that act as venomous fangs to inject venom into their prey. While their venom is powerful enough to paralyze small insects, it’s typically not dangerous to humans. Nevertheless, their venom can inflict a painful bite if you happen to handle or accidentally come into contact with a centipede.

To sum it up:

  • House centipedes can quickly escape threats with their speed.
  • They are able to jump to avoid predators and obstacles.
  • Their forcipules deliver venom to subdue prey or deter potential attackers.

Remember to be cautious when encountering a house centipede. While they typically pose no significant threat to humans, their bite can be painful. Additionally, their presence could indicate a larger pest problem in your home. So, it’s a good idea to take necessary precautions to prevent house centipedes from becoming unwanted guests.

What House Centipedes Mean for Humans

House centipedes can be a bit concerning when you spot them in your home. Although they might look dangerous with their many legs, they are actually harmless to humans and can even be considered beneficial in some cases.

These creepy crawlers feed on common household pests such as silverfish and cockroaches. By doing this, they help keep your home free from other unwanted creatures. However, many homeowners still see them as a nuisance due to their unsettling appearance.

One thing to keep in mind is that while house centipedes can be beneficial, their presence could indicate a larger infestation problem. If you are seeing them frequently, it might be a sign that there are plenty of other pests for them to feed on. In this case, it’s essential to address the root cause – the other pests.

House centipedes are mainly nocturnal, so you might come across them scurrying around your bathroom or basement at night. Remember, they are not dangerous to you or your family, but they might be a sign that other pests are lurking in your home.

To wrap things up:

  • House centipedes are harmless to humans and can be helpful in controlling other pests.
  • They feed on common household pests like silverfish and cockroaches.
  • If you see them frequently, it could indicate a larger infestation issue.
  • Always address the root cause (other pests) rather than focusing on the house centipedes themselves.

In conclusion, it’s essential to maintain a healthy balance in your home. House centipedes can help manage pests, but if they start to become a nuisance or indicate a larger infestation, it’s time to take action and ensure your living environment is comfortable and pest-free.

Management and Control of House Centipedes

Controlling house centipedes can be done through several methods. These methods include:

  • Pest control: Engage a pest control service for professional help in exterminating centipedes.
  • Dehumidifier: Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture in your home, as centipedes thrive in damp environments.
  • Sticky traps: Place sticky traps along walls and corners to capture centipedes.

Preventing house centipedes from entering your home is equally important. Here are some preventive measures:

  • Seal cracks: Check and seal cracks on walls, doors, and windows to block entry points.
  • Remove clutter: Declutter your home, especially damp and dark areas, to eliminate hiding places for centipedes.

While pest control service and dehumidifiers may be a bit costly, they are quite effective. Sticky traps, on the other hand, are a more budget-friendly option. Be sure to choose a method that suits your needs and budget.

Remember that house centipedes can be a nuisance but rarely pose any threat to humans. If you still face issues after implementing these control methods, consider engaging a professional exterminator for a thorough inspection and treatment.

Interesting Facts About House Centipedes

Did you know house centipedes are nocturnal creatures? That’s right, they prefer to lurk around in the dark, waiting for their prey. Speaking of prey, they are quite effective predators of other household pests, like insects and spiders.

These little creatures have astonishing features, like their body color and leg structure. They possess a yellowish-brown body with dark stripes and are known for their 15 pairs of long legs. Their back legs are especially lengthy, which gives them an intimidating appearance.

When it comes to speed, house centipedes can be surprisingly fast. This rapid movement helps them catch their prey, making them an efficient hunter in your home.

What about their diet? Well, these centipedes like to snack on several species of insects and arachnids – including some that are not very pleasant for us! Some common prey for them include:

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

In summary, house centipedes are fascinating creatures with distinctive features and an appetite for some of our least-favorite household pests. Your home may just benefit from having a few of these speedy, yellowish predators lurking in the shadows.

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 and Black Scorpion from Thailand

 

Subject: what’s the name of this kind of bug
Location: Southern Thailand
November 14, 2012 8:36 am
i hope u can recognize this bug from thailand….i want to know the english name and scientific name, so if my students will ask, i know how to answer and to explain to them….hope u can give me an info about this bug’s life cycle. Please do my favor…thank you so much for this website.
More power.
Signature: anything

Centipede:  Thereuopoda species

Dear anything,
This is a House Centipede in the order Scutigeromorpha.  It looks different from the North American House Centipedes we frequently identify.  It also appears to be missing three pairs of legs at the rear end of the body.  House Centipedes are nocturnal hunters that will feed on cockroaches and other undesirable household intruders and we advise our readers to tolerate them in the home.  You can read more about House Centipedes on BugGuide and in our extensive archive.

Dear Daniel Marlos,
Thanks for the info about this bug and it help a lot…I’m really working forward to your reply last night because that was my lesson for today. And one more thing, i attached here the picture of black scorpion…can i ask again your help…? Please, i know its a black scorpion but don’t know the exact english term and scientific name of it….kindly please look at the picture…..just saw it last night….I’m not really fund in insects or bugs, but i found it interesting knowing their lives and everything…you know :-)…thank you so much..more power to the website…
Sincerely,
Melchie

Hi Melchie,
You are welcome.  We can’t say much about the identity of this Scorpion.  It is our understanding that Scorpions with bigger pinchers generally are not as poisonous as those with smaller pinchers.

Scorpion:  Heterometrus species

 

Letter 2 – House Centipede

 

house centipede??
I assume this is a house centipede as from the front page of the website.
Sorry about the quality, only had the camera on my phone. cheers
Michael A Davis

Hi Michael,
Yes, this is a House Centipede.

Letter 3 – House Centipede

 

??
We found this interesting critter in the bathtub. Looks like a combination of a centipede and a cricket. Not sure what it is though. It’s about 2" in length.
Mike

Hi Mike,
The harmless House Centipede is one of our commonest query subjects, and we always keep a photo of one on our homepage. Yours will remain until we get another great image.

Letter 4 – House Centipede becomes Cat Food

 

transparent, brown striped, antenna, & 2″ long
Thu, Apr 9, 2009 at 7:38 PM
I wish I could have more information to share… I am so hoping you can help me! My CAT (thank goodness) caught my attention chasing this large bug on my finished basement carpet. I live in Syracuse NY and have NEVER seen such an insect! I thought it was a centipede, but it doesn’t have that many legs. I am very eager to hear back. THANK YOU so much for reading this.
Tina 🙂
sincerely, Tina
Onondaga County, Syracuse, NY

House Centipede becomes Cat Food
House Centipede becomes Cat Food

Hi Tina,
It seems as though your cat has chewed off a few of this harmless, predatory House Centipede’s legs. Though Centipede means 100 legs, the House Centipede only has 30. These shy nocturnal hunters are often found in basements and damp areas of the home.

WHEW! harmless sounds good to me! I guess I don’t have to move after all!
I have to say, I was intrigued with your site for HOURS last night! Your nasty reader award is by by far the best thing I have ever stumbled across! You need to make more web pages aware of such an award! Actually, if you find a way to market that concept, you can make MILLIONS! Some reason, this day and age, the lonely, psychotic people in the world have gained power and have a louder voice over the normal people in the world! Bravo to you to have such an award! If more people took that approach, maybe respect and morals might come back into being “the in thing”
This site has SO much information! Not only did you stop my skin from crawling and calm my nerves from putting my house up for sale due to the creepy bug that my cat discovered….. (actually, to be honest, my cat did indeed find it…. however, the legs missing might have been from me making sure it wasn’t’ going to crawl up my arm once I picked it up…. ….)
Thank you for taking time to have such a fantastic site! I wish you much success in all your endeavors!!!!
Bugs rock, but I like looking at them from afar….
Tina

Letter 5 – House Centipede captured and released

 

Subject: What is it?
Location: San Diego, CA
April 28, 2017 8:47 am
Hello,
I found this little guy in my bath tub. released it outside. What kind of a bug is it?
Found April 28, 2017, San Diego, CA
Enjoy your day,
:0)
Signature: Enjoy your day, :0)

House Centipede

This is a predatory House Centipede, and because you captured and released it, allowing it to enjoy its day, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award.  Too often, House Centipedes found indoors wind up tagged as Unnecessary Carnage.  Thanks for your kindness to the lower beasts and to your good wishes regarding our day.

Letter 6 – House Centipede Carnage

 

Interested to know what the heck this is.
June 29, 2010
The past couple of months something has been biting me and my family members. I haven’t ever seen it though. I was thinking it might have been a spider of some kind but i think this is the culprit. I saw him dart across my floor and i gave chase. i tried to save the little guy but my girlfriend freaked out and killed it. I still managed to get some pics of it. I would really like to know what this is, Thank you!
p.s. its a little less than an inch long and maybe 2 to 3 millimeters wide.
Chuck
Southern Virginia, great dismal swamp area

House Centipede

Hi Chuck,
Thank you for writing in to inquire about this unfortunate harmless House Centipede, a frequent victim of Unnecessary Carnage.  Few examples of Unnecessary Carnage sadden us more that that of the beneficial predatory House Centipede.  Though it is too late to benefit the individual in your tragic photograph, perhaps future House Centipedes will be spared through education.  House Centipedes are generally nocturnal hunters that will prey upon cockroaches and other undesirable household intruders.  House Centipedes should be considered as household visitors despite their startling appearance.

Letter 7 – House Centipede Carnage

 

Subject: What kind of bug is this
Location: Nebraska
June 4, 2016 5:24 pm
Found this in my apartment. Do you know what this is?
Signature: Missydo

House Centipede Carnage
House Centipede Carnage

Dear Missydo,
This poor creature was so severely traumatized when it was dispatched that it is almost unrecognizable, but the large number of long legs indicates it is NOT an insect.  We suspect this must be a House Centipede, and they are much more beautiful alive than they are dead.
  House Centipedes are not dangerous to humans and they are nocturnal predators that will help rid the home of Cockroaches and other unwanted creatures.  We will be postdating this submission to go live during our holiday away from the office next week.  We will also be tagging this submission as Unnecessary Carnage, and we hope the next time you encounter a House Centipede, you will be Missydon’t.

It was in my laundry and when I took the laundry out of the washer it fell out. Didn’t even know it was in there.

Letter 8 – House Centipede Carnage

 

Subject: What kind of bug is this
Location: North Carolina
January 21, 2017 9:41 pm
Found this bug in my bedroom in North Carolina
Signature: Reggie

House Centipede Carnage

Dear Reggie,
This is a beneficial House Centipede, and though they are considered harmless, they can be quite frightening looking to folks that are predisposed to fear insects and other lower beasts.  We probably get more House Centipede carnage images submitted to our site than any other creature, though if Cicada Killers were found year round, they might take the lead in that unenviable position.

Letter 9 – House Centipede Carnage on Crimean Peninsula

 

Subject: please help me name that creature 🙂
Location: Crimean Peninsula
May 16, 2014 1:30 am
Dear WTB Team,
Could you please help me to identify what is on that picture? I took that soot in 2004 during my summer holidays at Crimean Peninsula (Ukraine). I don`t remember exactly what city I was in, but it was close to the south west of Crimea coast. Unfortunately, this bug was killed by one of my room mates and I couldn`t take a picture of living animal, but you can imagine that we were sleeping and suddenly scream of one of girl ended our sleep. What I was tald after they killed that animal is that it was running very fast.
Thanks in advance,
Signature: Dawid

House Centipede Carnage
House Centipede Carnage

Dear Dawid,
This is a harmless, predatory, nocturnal House Centipede, and we acknowledge that they do run quickly and they are frightening looking.  In an effort to educate the public, we are tagging your submission as Unnecessary Carnage because we believe that once people know that House Centipedes eat creatures like Cockroaches and Bed Bugs, there might be more tolerance about predatory species that are frightening in appearance.

Letter 10 – House Centipede Comment

 

Thank You
August 22, 2009
Your website is the greatest! I am pretty phobic about bugs, but am trying to overcome it (and avoid Needless Carnage). I awoke earlier tonight to the sight of a extremely large specimen of house centipede on the ceiling directly over my bed. I had seen this guy once before in my bedroom, and really didn’t want to have to deal with disposing of him–yuck. Thanks to your website, I’ve learned that he is actually beneficial, so I’m going to stop freaking out and just leave him be for the time being (unless he ends up in bed with me!). I also wanted to share this entomology link on house centipedes with you: http://ento.psu.edu/extension/factsheets/house-centipedes. I particularly enjoyed the quote from a 1902 source, which is both amusing and still accurate today!
Casey

Authors

  • 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
Tags: Centipedes

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16 Comments. Leave new

  • i am trying really hard not to let them freak me out. i love bugs thay are so cool, but the legs man ,,, the legs

    Reply
  • I wanted to let you know that the house centipede that so tragically lost his life (picture aboved) do so not in vain. Today he has saved the life of another. I learned from your site and set the (ahem) little guy free!

    Reply
    • Thanks for letting us know that our Unnecessary Carnage page is actually beneficial and not merely sensationalistic reporting.

      Reply
  • As Jay Jay wrote, it is the legs. While I try not to kill the bugs in my house, I do freak out and run from them in hopes that they do the same. I have seen these guys at an office I used to work at so big, I thought it was a mouse. I would always find them in the sink in the office kitchen. I hate the sound and feel of crushing bugs (that sounds so bad I know) so fortunately for bugs in my house I don’t kill them but try to set them free. Especially since I got hooked on this website, I have been liberating lots of little bugs. Even taking pictures of them.

    Reply
  • Centipede – Thereuopoda sp.
    Scorpion – Heterometrus sp.

    Reply
  • Centipede – Thereuopoda sp.
    Scorpion – Heterometrus sp.

    Reply
  • Thanks for reply, WTB Team! I am really sorry for what happened. Let me share your respond with my friends to let them know that we shouldn`t kill that animal. Tough, but still – a lesson learned.

    Best wishes,
    Dawid

    Reply
    • If your letter helps to save future House Centipedes, we have fulfilled our mission to educate the public about the importance of the lower beasts.

      Reply
  • Thanks for reply, WTB Team! I am really sorry for what happened. Let me share your respond with my friends to let them know that we shouldn`t kill that animal. Tough, but still – a lesson learned.

    Best wishes,
    Dawid

    Reply
  • Madrid in Chicago
    July 5, 2014 10:38 pm

    There is another House Centipede that will NOT be victim to Unnecessary Carnage thanks to this page…. Any danger to my cat? Not sure who would win if they go at it.

    Reply
  • We used to catch and release these.

    But one bit my wife tonight. She was in extreme pain, then her foot swelled up and now she’s in the hospital. From now on, any of these found in my house will die.

    Reply
  • We used to catch and release these.

    But one bit my wife tonight. She was in extreme pain, then her foot swelled up and now she’s in the hospital. From now on, any of these found in my house will die.

    Reply
  • cctapexhousepainters1529@gmail.com
    May 29, 2020 3:11 am

    This is an amazing website! We at CCT Apex Housepainters encounters a lot of house bugs as part of our job so painting your house eliminates this problem. If you need a house painting job in Apex NC . Please call us.

    Reply

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