Where Do Centipedes Come From: Tracing Their Origins

We know you’re dealing with centipedes invading your space, potentially putting health and property at risk. If you need help identifying and eliminating the infestation at the source, connect with our recommended local professional near you.

Centipedes are fascinating creatures that have piqued the curiosity of many. You may wonder where these many-legged critters come from and what type of habitats they prefer. Let’s dive into the origins and natural environment of centipedes, so you can better understand these intriguing arthropods.

Centipedes belong to the class Chilopoda and can be found across the globe, inhabiting diverse landscapes ranging from tropical rainforests to arid deserts. They prefer damp, dark environments and are typically found under stones, leaf mulch, logs, or even in your home in basements and closets. The high humidity in these spaces allows centipedes to thrive, as they actively hunt for food, mainly consuming small insects and other arthropods.

Knowing where centipedes come from can help demystify these often misunderstood creatures. By understanding the different environments they favor, you can better appreciate their role in ecosystems. Plus, if you ever encounter one at home, you’ll know that they’re simply seeking a dark and damp hiding place to hunt their prey.

Understanding Centipedes

Centipedes are a type of arthropod belonging to the class Chilopoda within the larger group of Myriapoda, which also includes millipedes. These fascinating creatures are easily identified by their elongated bodies, numerous legs, and swift movements. So, let’s dive into understanding centipedes a little better.

There are many diverse centipede species found all around the world. Some common features of centipedes include:

  • One pair of legs per body segment
  • Venomous jaws for hunting prey
  • Fast-moving to catch insects and small animals

Typically, you’ll find centipedes in damp, dark areas like under stones, leaf mulch, or logs. They are also known to venture into homes, where they can be found in basements, closets, and crawl spaces. In these locations, centipedes act as predators for other insects and small arthropods.

A comparison between various centipede species:

SpeciesLengthNumber of Legs
House Centipede (Scutigera)1-1.5 inches30 legs
Stone Centipede (Lithobius)1-2 inches30-60 legs
Giant Centipede (Scolopendra)6-12 inches42-46 legs
Soil Centipede (Geophilus)0.4-2.4 inches50-60 legs

To better understand and appreciate centipedes, remember that they are a vital part of our ecosystem, playing a role in controlling insect populations. So, take a moment to reflect on their benefits, and hopefully, you will develop a newfound respect for these remarkable arthropods.

Physical Characteristics

Color and Markings

Centipedes have a flattened body with multiple segments. Their color can be dark brown, with some species having yellow markings. Each body segment has a single pair of legs, which can vary in number depending on the species.

For example, the most common species of centipede found in Oklahoma is two to six inches long and has anywhere from 10 to 100 or more legs. Their legs are usually tucked under their body and can be difficult to see. In addition to these legs, centipedes have antennae and strong mandibles.

One key feature of centipedes is their claws, which help them grip surfaces and move quickly. Their flattened bodies enable them to hide in small spaces and navigate stealthily while hunting prey. Centipedes are active and rapid predators, feeding on small insects and other arthropods.

To give you a clearer understanding of centipedes’ physical characteristics, here’s a list of key features:

  • Flattened body with multiple segments
  • Dark brown color, sometimes with yellow markings
  • Single pair of legs on each body segment
  • Antennae and strong mandibles
  • Claws for movement and gripping surfaces

Remember, centipedes can be found in damp, dark areas such as basements, closets, or under stones and logs. Be cautious when handling them, as some can deliver a painful bite with their mandibles.

Origins and Habitats

Centipedes, originating from the Latin words “centi” meaning hundred and “pes” meaning foot, are found in various habitats all over the world. There are over 100 species of centipedes, each with unique characteristics. They typically live where they can find food and thrive in moist environments.

You can usually find centipedes outdoors in damp and dark areas. Common places they occur are:

  • Soil
  • Under stones
  • Under logs
  • Leaf mulch
  • Wood piles

These areas provide the necessary moisture that centipedes need for survival. Additionally, they offer refuge for their prey, such as earthworms and small insects. Centipedes are predators, and this abundance of food sources makes these habitats optimal for their existence.

In conclusion, centipedes are versatile creatures that come from a wide array of species. Their habitats are diverse but generally revolve around moist and dark environments to support their unique needs. By understanding their origins and habitats better, you can have a deeper appreciation for these fascinating and diverse arthropods.

Typical Lifestyle and Behaviors

Centipedes are fascinating creatures known for their unique appearance and interesting habits. They are typically found in damp, dark places such as under stones, leaf mulch, or logs. Inside homes, you might find them in basements, closets or crawl spaces where other insects are present. These spaces serve as a good location for their food source.

Being nocturnal predators, centipedes prefer to stay hidden during the day in dark cracks and crevices, venturing out at night to find their prey. Their diet mainly consists of small arthropods and insects, which they catch with their venomous jaws.

During their life, centipedes experience a process called molting, where they shed their old exoskeleton to allow for growth. Molting occurs in several stages, and a centipede will usually gain more legs with each molt.

One interesting aspect of centipedes is their speed. Unlike slow-moving millipedes, centipedes are fast runners, which enables them to efficiently catch their prey. This attribute makes them efficient predators in their natural habitat.

In summary, understanding centipedes’ typical lifestyle and behaviors is essential to appreciate these fascinating creatures. They thrive in damp, dark environments and rely on their speed and nocturnal habits to capture prey and avoid predators.

Common Species in Houses

One of the most common centipedes found in households is the House Centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata). This species is yellowish-brown and has distinctively long legs, with up to 15 pairs per centipede. They commonly reside in damp environments such as basements and bathrooms.

House centipedes are beneficial insects that help control other household pests. Some of their favorite prey include:

  • Cockroaches
  • Silverfish
  • Crickets
  • Bed bugs

These centipedes are native to Mexico but have spread throughout the U.S. They require humidity to survive and are often found in moist areas of your home. If you have an infestation, call a local pest control professional.

Here’s a comparison between house centipedes and common household pests:

FeatureHouse CentipedesRoachesSilverfishBed Bugs
Legs15 pairs666
HabitatDamp areasDamp, dark areasDark, humid areasMattresses, furniture
DietInsects, spidersOmnivorousSugar, starchHuman blood

House centipedes can be considered both a pest and an ally in controlling other unwanted insects. To reduce sightings of centipedes in your home, you can:

  • Reduce humidity by using a dehumidifier
  • Seal cracks and crevices where they might hide
  • Keep your home clean and free of clutter

Remember, house centipedes are generally harmless and can help you manage other pest insects. So if you come across one, you might want to let it continue its pest control duties.

Venom and Bites

Centipedes are known for their venomous bites, which can cause severe pain and other symptoms. However, not all centipede bites are dangerous to humans, as some centipedes are too small to cause significant harm. Here, we’ll explore centipede venom and its effects.

Centipede Venom Composition

The venom of centipedes is a complex mixture of toxins. While the exact composition of their venom is not fully understood, it is known to have diverse pharmacological properties and can lead to significant pain 1. In recent years, research on centipede venom has deepened, revealing that it contains bioactive peptides and proteins 2.

Bite Effects

When centipedes bite, they inject their venom into their prey or a possible threat. For humans, these bites can be quite painful, but they are generally not life-threatening 3. The pain and symptoms from a centipede bite can vary depending on the size and species of the centipede.

Preventing Bites

To avoid centipede bites, be cautious in areas where they are commonly found – such as basements, storage areas, laundry rooms, garages, and bathrooms. These creatures are usually more active at night when they come out to hunt for food 4.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Centipedes are fascinating creatures with unique reproductive behaviors. Their life cycle begins when a female centipede lays eggs in the soil during spring and summer. She can lay several dozen eggs, sometimes even guarding or caring for them until they hatch.

After hatching, centipedes go through a series of life stages called instars, each involving a molt. Newborns start with fewer legs, with the number increasing as they molt and grow. Here are some features of centipedes:

  • Predatory arthropods
  • Varying leg count based on species and stage
  • Flattened body segments, with one pair of legs per segment
  • Brownish, yellowish, or reddish-green colors

During each instar, the centipede’s exoskeleton hardens and darkens. Their leg count and size increase as they mature in each stage. Eventually, they enter the adult stage. Centipedes are capable of living a relatively long life, with some species surviving up to five or six years.

Keep in mind that centipedes might look intimidating, but they generally feed on small insects and pests in your garden, providing some natural pest control. So, when you encounter one, remember that they play a vital role in nature’s balance.

Winter Survival

Centipedes are fascinating creatures that manage to survive even during the cold winter months. In this section, we’ll explore how they do it.

During winter, centipedes take shelter in damp and dark environments. They hide beneath objects like rocks, leaves, or logs, where they can stay protected from the cold temperatures. As these small creatures prefer moist habitats, they avoid dry and freezing conditions that could be detrimental to their survival.

Some centipedes are also known to exhibit a behavior called diapause, where they slow down their metabolic processes and essentially “hibernate” during adverse conditions. This helps them conserve energy and make it through the winter months with minimal resources. An example of a centipede that uses this strategy is the common house centipede.

In conclusion, centipedes manage to survive the winter season by finding suitable environments for refuge, conserving energy, and altering their metabolic processes. This resilience allows them to thrive in various conditions and continue their essential role in nature as decomposers and predators.

Infestations in Homes

Centipedes usually find their way into homes in search of food and shelter. They may enter your home through small openings, such as gaps and cracks in your home’s foundation, holes in walls, or poorly sealed doors and windows. To prevent centipedes from coming in, it’s important to properly seal these areas and address any potential entry points.

While centipedes can be a nuisance, they’re not harmful to humans or property. However, a large number of centipedes in your home can indicate a more significant problem with other pests, as centipedes are predators of insects.

If you notice centipedes in your home, consider the following possible causes and solutions:

  • Cracks and gaps: Check for any visible openings in your home’s foundation, walls, or around windows and doors. Seal these gaps to prevent centipedes and other pests from entering your home. Caulk is a useful material to close cracks and gaps.
  • Doors and windows: Ensure your doors and windows are properly sealed and have no gaps where pests can enter. Replace any damaged weatherstripping and install door sweeps if necessary.
  • Pest control: Identify and address any underlying pest issues that might be attracting centipedes to your home. For example, if you have a problem with insects, consider enlisting the help of a professional pest control service to deal with the root cause.
  • Moisture control: Centipedes thrive in damp environments. To make your home less attractive to them, make sure to address issues like water leaks or high humidity levels that may be contributing to a damp environment.

By addressing these factors and taking preventative measures, you can reduce the likelihood of a centipede infestation in your home. Remember to take prompt action if you notice an increase in centipede activity, as it could be indicative of more pressing issues that require attention.

Pest Control Measures

When facing a centipede infestation, there are several methods to control them effectively. Let’s discuss a few approaches to keep your home centipede-free.

Sticky Traps: You can use sticky traps to capture and kill wandering centipedes. Place these traps in dark corners, under furniture, or near entry points where centipedes are likely to enter.

Pesticides: Applying pesticides specifically designed for centipedes can help reduce their populations. Make sure to follow the label instructions carefully and apply the pesticide in damp, dark areas where centipedes are commonly found, such as basements, crawl spaces, or under logs.

Fans: Centipedes prefer moist environments. Using fans to increase airflow and reduce humidity in your home can make it less attractive to centipedes.

Potted Plants: Keep potted plants at a minimum, especially in your living spaces. Overwatered plants can create moist environments that attract centipedes.

Firewood: Store firewood away from your home to discourage centipede nesting. Keep it off the ground and covered to reduce dampness.

Remember, these pest control measures can help you manage centipede populations in your home. Maintaining a clean and dry environment is crucial to prevent centipedes from establishing themselves and becoming a nuisance.

Footnotes

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK542312/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9325314/

  3. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/centipedes/

  4. https://hgic.clemson.edu/factsheet/centipedes/

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 – Centipede from South Africa

Subject: Please Help Identify
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
November 24, 2015 8:12 am
Hi There,
A colleague found this ‘bug’ dead in a outdoor store room. We have never seen anything like it and it sent everyone running for the hills. Any idea what it is?
Thanks
Signature: Claudia Handschuh

Centipede
Centipede

Hi Claudia,
We love your submitted image.  For the moment, we can tell you that this is a Centipede in the order Scolopendromorpha, and we will attempt to determine a species later in the day.

Wow thanks for the reply! I will let everyone know. I had guesses that it was a cross between a centipede and a scorpion, a little dramatic 🙂

Letter 2 – Centipede from Pakistan: Order Scolopendromorpha

Subject: Huge centipede
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
April 25, 2014 1:07 pm
What type of centipede is this? I imagine there are several varieties, depending on geographic location. Thought I would send a photo across.
Location: slightly away from main city. I live in a semi-wild area, so the insects are often larger and more interesting. For example, have found beetles the size of my thumb (I have large hands), in the past, and seen the odd firefly, something one never sees in the city.
I agree, extermination is not the best idea, for the most part. But I confess I find centipedes a little freaky. Am given to understand that the bite is quite nasty. I also have a cat and would rather he not mess about with an insect that could hurt him.
Signature: aspracha

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

Hi aspracha,
Despite being found in some decidedly untropical locations like Oklahoma, Centipedes in the order Scolopendromorpha, like your individual, are commonly called Tropical Centipedes according to BugGuide.  Yours is a little one, and some individuals found in jungle locations are considerably larger.  BugGuide also states:  “They can bite and also pinch with their last pair of legs. Bites may cause intense pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness, and necrosis, and require medical assistance, although there are no really dangerous, deadly centipedes, and no confirmed human fatalities.”  Here is one of the more amusing letters from our archives.

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

We hope one of our more knowledgeable readers can supply a species name.  Much as we are trying to understand your fears and your knowledge of the painfulness and side effects of the bite, we feel we need to tag your letter as unnecessary carnage.  Centipedes play a very important role in the food chain and we hate seeing them exterminated because an encounter between a human and a tropical centipede can result in some unpleasantness.

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

Letter 3 – Centipede from Baja California

Scolopendridae
No questions. Just a great picture of a centipede found on the southern tip of Baja, Mexico. 1 mile from the Sea of Cortez, 7″ Came up the sink drain with drains out into an arroyo.
Kathy

Hi Kathy,
Thank you for the multiple attempts you made sending this image our way until we received a file that did not crash our program. The image is awesome and the hand drawn ruler is a nice touch.

Letter 4 – Centipede from Maldives

Millipede from Maldives
Location: Maldives (Lhaviyani Atoll)
November 15, 2010 1:37 pm
Hello bugman,
This millipede was on the wall of my room on Maldivian island last summer.
We moved it out of the room (the reddish color frightened us).
It was about three inches long.
Can you help me?
Thanks
Signature: Saverio

Dear Saverio,
This is a Centipede and not a Millipede.  Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment and millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment.  Of the four orders of Centipedes represented on BugGuide, this looks the most like the Soil Centipedes, but we do not believe this is a Soil Centipede because the antennae look different and BugGuide indicates:  “Slender eyeless centipedes that have 31 to 177 pairs of legs and antennae with 14 segments. The number of pairs of legs is always odd.
”  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide some additional information on your Centipede’s identity, otherwise you will have to be content with a general identification to the class Chilopoda.

Letter 5 – Centipede from South Africa

Subject:  Whats this bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: 10/25/2017
Time: 09:41 AM EDT
Hi Bugman
Just wondered if you could help us identify our bug. This is the second one we’ve found in our pool. Its about 2 inches long, with quite nasty pincers.  Thanks so much
How you want your letter signed:  Darren

Centipede

Hi Darren,
This is a Centipede.  Centipedes are predators that are venomous, but though their bite can be painful, there is usually nothing more than local swelling and tenderness.  Some species grow as large as eight or more inches, and their bite is reported to be considerably more painful, but rarely results in a health crisis.

Letter 6 – Centipede: Scolopendra alternans

Here’s a beauty..
Took hours of taxonomical research, but I’m so impressed by this guy it was worth it..just wanted to share this beautiful creature..
Dana

Hi Dana,
We wish you would have shared the results of your research with us, or at least provided us a location.

Oops. I sent you a pic just now and forgot to tell you that it is a Scolopendra alternans, 9 inches long. Crawled out of my bag in Key Largo. Sure! Just didn’t want to send all that if you didn’t use it. This is a Scolopendra alternans. It’s a beautiful specimen, being a full 9 inches long. He crawled out of my carryall bag after I’d played a band gig at an older wooden building in the Florida Keys. Some species of Scolopendra are hard to I.D. due to the many color variations (brown or gray based) but I finally narrowed this one to S. Alternans from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science website. (Leach, 1815): “The distribution of S. Alternans in the contiguous U.S. is limited specifically to Monroe, Collier, and Dade counties in the state of Florida.” I live in Monroe county, and after much research found 2 other I.D. requests for this animal online–both from Key Largo. After taking a few photos, I set him free in the woods across the street. Hope you enjoy his unique beauty as much as I did!
D. Armenta

Letter 7 – Centipede from Colombia

Subject:  Centapead
Geographic location of the bug:  Cali Colombia
Date: 10/20/2021
Time: 10:31 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Is this centapead poison
How you want your letter signed:  Mark

Centipede

Dear Mark,
This is a Bark Centipede in the order Scolopendromorpha.  Centipedes are predators that subdue their prey with venomous fangs, and though all Centipedes are venomous, most are not dangerous to humans.  Large Bark Centipedes that reach well in excess of six inches might deliver a rather painful and nasty bite.  According to BugGuide:  “
They can bite and also pinch with their last pair of legs. Bites may cause intense pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness, and necrosis, and require medical assistance, although there are no really dangerous, deadly centipedes, and no confirmed human fatalities.”

Letter 8 – Centipede Exuvia

Subject: Centipede.
Location: Grand Rapids MI
March 20, 2016 11:10 am
Is this a centipede carcass?
Signature: Cathy S

Centipede Exuvia
Centipede Exuvia

Dear Cathy,
This is not an image of a carcass.  It is a Centipede Exuvia, the cast off exoskeleton that remains when an arthropod molts.

Thank you for your prompt response, Daniel.  I found the centipede exoskeleton at the library where I work.  I understand that centipedes prey on other insects, so having a few around might be an advantage, although their appearance might freak out a few of our patrons.
Peace
Cathy

Letter 9 – Centipede from Uruguay

Subject: Centipede identification
Location: On a beach in Uraquay
February 12, 2015 1:37 am
Hi, My friend who is now (February) in Uraguay has posted a picture of this centipede . Can you identify it? Might it be poisonous? Thanks.
Signature: Paddy (UK)

Centipede
Centipede

Dear Paddy,
This beautiful Tropical Centipede from Uruguay is in the order Scolopendromorpha, and some individuals can get quite large.  They are capable of delivering a venomous bite, and there is general information on the dangers of a bite from a member of this order on BugGuide.
  We haven’t the skills necessary to provide you with a species name, but your individual does resemble the Florida Blue Centipede, Hemiscolopendra marginata, that is pictured on BugGuide.

Dear Daniel
Thank you SO much for that prompt and informative response. Donation via your website on its way! As an ex military jungle warfare instructor, creepy crawlies are of great interest to me. Keep up the good work!
Paddy

Hi again Paddy,
Thanks for your kind words and your generosity.

Letter 10 – Centipede from Australia

Subject: Caterpillar
Location: Araluen NSW 2622
September 30, 2016 2:52 am
Please can you help me identify this centipede
Signature: Glen

Giant Centipede: Scolopendra laeta
Centipede: Scolopendra laeta

Dear Glen,
The longitudinal striping on your Centipede is quite distinctive, and the closest match we could locate is
Scolopendra laeta which we found on FlickR, and the individual depicted also has blue legs.  We then found additional images on Arachoboards, and it seems the species has variable coloration, but the longitudinal striping seems a constant.

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 – Centipede from South Africa

Subject: Please Help Identify
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
November 24, 2015 8:12 am
Hi There,
A colleague found this ‘bug’ dead in a outdoor store room. We have never seen anything like it and it sent everyone running for the hills. Any idea what it is?
Thanks
Signature: Claudia Handschuh

Centipede
Centipede

Hi Claudia,
We love your submitted image.  For the moment, we can tell you that this is a Centipede in the order Scolopendromorpha, and we will attempt to determine a species later in the day.

Wow thanks for the reply! I will let everyone know. I had guesses that it was a cross between a centipede and a scorpion, a little dramatic 🙂

Letter 2 – Centipede from Pakistan: Order Scolopendromorpha

Subject: Huge centipede
Location: Islamabad, Pakistan
April 25, 2014 1:07 pm
What type of centipede is this? I imagine there are several varieties, depending on geographic location. Thought I would send a photo across.
Location: slightly away from main city. I live in a semi-wild area, so the insects are often larger and more interesting. For example, have found beetles the size of my thumb (I have large hands), in the past, and seen the odd firefly, something one never sees in the city.
I agree, extermination is not the best idea, for the most part. But I confess I find centipedes a little freaky. Am given to understand that the bite is quite nasty. I also have a cat and would rather he not mess about with an insect that could hurt him.
Signature: aspracha

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

Hi aspracha,
Despite being found in some decidedly untropical locations like Oklahoma, Centipedes in the order Scolopendromorpha, like your individual, are commonly called Tropical Centipedes according to BugGuide.  Yours is a little one, and some individuals found in jungle locations are considerably larger.  BugGuide also states:  “They can bite and also pinch with their last pair of legs. Bites may cause intense pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness, and necrosis, and require medical assistance, although there are no really dangerous, deadly centipedes, and no confirmed human fatalities.”  Here is one of the more amusing letters from our archives.

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

We hope one of our more knowledgeable readers can supply a species name.  Much as we are trying to understand your fears and your knowledge of the painfulness and side effects of the bite, we feel we need to tag your letter as unnecessary carnage.  Centipedes play a very important role in the food chain and we hate seeing them exterminated because an encounter between a human and a tropical centipede can result in some unpleasantness.

Tropical Centipede
Tropical Centipede

Letter 3 – Centipede from Baja California

Scolopendridae
No questions. Just a great picture of a centipede found on the southern tip of Baja, Mexico. 1 mile from the Sea of Cortez, 7″ Came up the sink drain with drains out into an arroyo.
Kathy

Hi Kathy,
Thank you for the multiple attempts you made sending this image our way until we received a file that did not crash our program. The image is awesome and the hand drawn ruler is a nice touch.

Letter 4 – Centipede from Maldives

Millipede from Maldives
Location: Maldives (Lhaviyani Atoll)
November 15, 2010 1:37 pm
Hello bugman,
This millipede was on the wall of my room on Maldivian island last summer.
We moved it out of the room (the reddish color frightened us).
It was about three inches long.
Can you help me?
Thanks
Signature: Saverio

Dear Saverio,
This is a Centipede and not a Millipede.  Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment and millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment.  Of the four orders of Centipedes represented on BugGuide, this looks the most like the Soil Centipedes, but we do not believe this is a Soil Centipede because the antennae look different and BugGuide indicates:  “Slender eyeless centipedes that have 31 to 177 pairs of legs and antennae with 14 segments. The number of pairs of legs is always odd.
”  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide some additional information on your Centipede’s identity, otherwise you will have to be content with a general identification to the class Chilopoda.

Letter 5 – Centipede from South Africa

Subject:  Whats this bug
Geographic location of the bug:  Johannesburg, South Africa
Date: 10/25/2017
Time: 09:41 AM EDT
Hi Bugman
Just wondered if you could help us identify our bug. This is the second one we’ve found in our pool. Its about 2 inches long, with quite nasty pincers.  Thanks so much
How you want your letter signed:  Darren

Centipede

Hi Darren,
This is a Centipede.  Centipedes are predators that are venomous, but though their bite can be painful, there is usually nothing more than local swelling and tenderness.  Some species grow as large as eight or more inches, and their bite is reported to be considerably more painful, but rarely results in a health crisis.

Letter 6 – Centipede: Scolopendra alternans

Here’s a beauty..
Took hours of taxonomical research, but I’m so impressed by this guy it was worth it..just wanted to share this beautiful creature..
Dana

Hi Dana,
We wish you would have shared the results of your research with us, or at least provided us a location.

Oops. I sent you a pic just now and forgot to tell you that it is a Scolopendra alternans, 9 inches long. Crawled out of my bag in Key Largo. Sure! Just didn’t want to send all that if you didn’t use it. This is a Scolopendra alternans. It’s a beautiful specimen, being a full 9 inches long. He crawled out of my carryall bag after I’d played a band gig at an older wooden building in the Florida Keys. Some species of Scolopendra are hard to I.D. due to the many color variations (brown or gray based) but I finally narrowed this one to S. Alternans from the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science website. (Leach, 1815): “The distribution of S. Alternans in the contiguous U.S. is limited specifically to Monroe, Collier, and Dade counties in the state of Florida.” I live in Monroe county, and after much research found 2 other I.D. requests for this animal online–both from Key Largo. After taking a few photos, I set him free in the woods across the street. Hope you enjoy his unique beauty as much as I did!
D. Armenta

Letter 7 – Centipede from Colombia

Subject:  Centapead
Geographic location of the bug:  Cali Colombia
Date: 10/20/2021
Time: 10:31 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Is this centapead poison
How you want your letter signed:  Mark

Centipede

Dear Mark,
This is a Bark Centipede in the order Scolopendromorpha.  Centipedes are predators that subdue their prey with venomous fangs, and though all Centipedes are venomous, most are not dangerous to humans.  Large Bark Centipedes that reach well in excess of six inches might deliver a rather painful and nasty bite.  According to BugGuide:  “
They can bite and also pinch with their last pair of legs. Bites may cause intense pain, swelling, discoloration, numbness, and necrosis, and require medical assistance, although there are no really dangerous, deadly centipedes, and no confirmed human fatalities.”

Letter 8 – Centipede Exuvia

Subject: Centipede.
Location: Grand Rapids MI
March 20, 2016 11:10 am
Is this a centipede carcass?
Signature: Cathy S

Centipede Exuvia
Centipede Exuvia

Dear Cathy,
This is not an image of a carcass.  It is a Centipede Exuvia, the cast off exoskeleton that remains when an arthropod molts.

Thank you for your prompt response, Daniel.  I found the centipede exoskeleton at the library where I work.  I understand that centipedes prey on other insects, so having a few around might be an advantage, although their appearance might freak out a few of our patrons.
Peace
Cathy

Letter 9 – Centipede from Uruguay

Subject: Centipede identification
Location: On a beach in Uraquay
February 12, 2015 1:37 am
Hi, My friend who is now (February) in Uraguay has posted a picture of this centipede . Can you identify it? Might it be poisonous? Thanks.
Signature: Paddy (UK)

Centipede
Centipede

Dear Paddy,
This beautiful Tropical Centipede from Uruguay is in the order Scolopendromorpha, and some individuals can get quite large.  They are capable of delivering a venomous bite, and there is general information on the dangers of a bite from a member of this order on BugGuide.
  We haven’t the skills necessary to provide you with a species name, but your individual does resemble the Florida Blue Centipede, Hemiscolopendra marginata, that is pictured on BugGuide.

Dear Daniel
Thank you SO much for that prompt and informative response. Donation via your website on its way! As an ex military jungle warfare instructor, creepy crawlies are of great interest to me. Keep up the good work!
Paddy

Hi again Paddy,
Thanks for your kind words and your generosity.

Letter 10 – Centipede from Australia

Subject: Caterpillar
Location: Araluen NSW 2622
September 30, 2016 2:52 am
Please can you help me identify this centipede
Signature: Glen

Giant Centipede: Scolopendra laeta
Centipede: Scolopendra laeta

Dear Glen,
The longitudinal striping on your Centipede is quite distinctive, and the closest match we could locate is
Scolopendra laeta which we found on FlickR, and the individual depicted also has blue legs.  We then found additional images on Arachoboards, and it seems the species has variable coloration, but the longitudinal striping seems a constant.

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.

33 thoughts on “Where Do Centipedes Come From: Tracing Their Origins”

  1. While I have no idea what that it I would sure like to know. A slightly longer one was in my living room this morning in Sacramento, CA. We killed it because I thought the red color might mean it was poisonous and my stupid kitten thought it was a toy…If it’s from the Maldives, what’s it doing in my house?

    Reply
  2. Hello,
    My husband just found what appears to be a soil centipede crawling on our bedroom floor in (Zanzibar, Tanzania), he tried to cover it with a cap until he could scoop it up, but as he covered it, part of it was squished and it started to glow a bright green. Is that normal? I haven’t read anywhere about it glowing… Thank you!

    Reply
  3. Hello,
    My husband just found what appears to be a soil centipede crawling on our bedroom floor in (Zanzibar, Tanzania), he tried to cover it with a cap until he could scoop it up, but as he covered it, part of it was squished and it started to glow a bright green. Is that normal? I haven’t read anywhere about it glowing… Thank you!

    Reply
  4. Is that the biggest centipede in Islamabad area? I saw one that was much bigger, but have never been able to find anything about it online. I’ve been trying to search for it for a while now.

    Reply
  5. It’s a Scolopendra morsitan, Its common name is Tanzanian blue ringleg or red-headed centipede. I thought that there wasn’t any Scolopendra specie in Pakistan. I guess I was wrong.

    Reply
  6. We have had these giant centipedes coming into our home. We have had about 7 to date.
    Are they poisonous and do they live indoors. I am terrified that one of these will crawl on me at night! My husband has had one on his face at night already. How can we stop these coming into our home. Our home is double storey and they have only been found upstairs. We live on a green belt in Kei Mouth.

    I would appreciate ALL HELP….

    Reply
  7. We have had these giant centipedes coming into our home. We have had about 7 to date.
    Are they poisonous and do they live indoors. I am terrified that one of these will crawl on me at night! My husband has had one on his face at night already. How can we stop these coming into our home. Our home is double storey and they have only been found upstairs. We live on a green belt in Kei Mouth.

    I would appreciate ALL HELP….

    Reply
    • Giant Centipedes are venomous, and the bite is reported to be painful, but not deadly unless there is a severe allergic reaction. We do not provide advice on bug-proofing homes. That is a job for a contractor.

      Reply
  8. Thank You. We are in the process of putting netting wire on all windows and rubberising bottoms of all doors.

    I do remember that I have been very busy in my garden lately turning the ground over and putting in compost etc. This could have upset these creatures together with all the rain we have had in our area lately.

    So glad to have found your site for future!!

    Regards
    Natalie

    Reply
  9. Thank You. We are in the process of putting netting wire on all windows and rubberising bottoms of all doors.

    I do remember that I have been very busy in my garden lately turning the ground over and putting in compost etc. This could have upset these creatures together with all the rain we have had in our area lately.

    So glad to have found your site for future!!

    Regards
    Natalie

    Reply
    • Thanks for the confirmation. We have deleted the word “giant” from the posting, though somewhere, sometime, we believe we found Giant Centipede used to describe the genus Scolopendra.

      Reply
  10. We’ve also had many of them in our house. I live in Pretoria, and the other night my grandmother called me to the kitchen, quite terrified, this exact same species of centipede almost went into her shoe. I’ve heard their bites can be excruciating.

    Reply
  11. i have found a centipede from a rock on the intertidal region of Karachi i have identified it Scolopendra morsitans Linnaeus, 1758.this was identified from Coastal area of karachi(Brolemann, 1904).Am i right?

    .

    Reply
  12. Hi I am residing in bushbuckridge mpumalanga, Northern area. I found this beautiful creepy crawly in my father’s garage and my 10 year old daughter wants to know more about it, biological name, rate of poison and how to identify the species.

    Reply
  13. Hi, I have this problem where there are these small grey/black looking centipedes are invading my home. They are everywhere! They don’t bite or do anything towards me or my family, but they are just everywhere!

    Reply
    • We believe you are being troubled by Millipedes. You might find some helpful information in this Iowa State University article Masses of Meandering Millipedes where it states: “Millipedes are harmless. They can not bite or sting and they do not feed on structures, furnishings or landscape plants. They do feed on damp and decaying plant material and are ecologically beneficial as “recyclers” of organic matter. They live outdoors in damp areas such as under leaves, needles, plant debris, mulch and similar habitats. The bad news is millipedes often embark on mass migrations, especially on humid, warm nights in the fall and spring, during which time they wander into garages, basements and other parts of the house. All millipedes found inside have strayed in by mistake from breeding sites in the vicinity. Millipedes can not reproduce indoors.”

      Reply
  14. Hi Bugman, for the second time tonight, i am saying that this species is certainly in the genus Rhysida although i am not sure of species.

    Reply
  15. I woke up because I felt something crawling on my facebwhile sleeping in my hotel in the Maldives. When I pulled it out of my beard it started glowing green. It looks exactly like the centipede pictured in the first post

    Reply

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