What’s With All the Centipedes? Ask a Pest Control Specialist

By Chris Williams on February 11, 2016.

My neighbor recently asked me to come look at a “Crazy looking thing with lots of legs!” that his tenant brought to him.  He said she had been seeing quite a few of these strange multi-legged creatures recently.  Most of the sighting had taken place in the bathroom, kitchen, and sometimes resting in corners.  She clobbered one with a shoe and brought the remains in a paper towel to my neighbor.  Once I had a look, it fit my suspicions. Although many legs were missing and the body was crushed, the 2.5-inch specimen was readily identified as the House centipede, Scutigera coloeoptrata.  This common predator is found throughout North America, originally spreading north from Mexico.  House centipedes are related to other common species of centipedes but have much longer legs and less worrisome bites.  Some species of centipedes found in the tropics are very large and have toxic venom for disabling small animals, unlike the House centipede who consumes small arthropods.  Located at the front of the body, are the maxillipeds or toxicognaths.  These hardened, pointed appendages are strong and contain ducts that lead to venom glands.  These fanglike structures are used to kill prey.  Once the prey dies, mouthparts located below the maxillipeds devour the meal. Centipedes serve as predators in their environment.  House centipedes live under logs, in caves, tunnels, hollow trees, leaf litter, and other moist cryptic environments (basements and wall voids).  In colder climates, the House centipede lives primarily in structures, but may be found out side during warmer seasons. In homes, they live in damp areas like basements and wall voids.  They are able to pass through very small openings and cracks in search of prey.   House centipedes look creepy, up to 3 inches long with 15 pairs of legs, and long antennae in front.   The last pair of legs may be twice the length of the entire body for adult females making house centipedes appear even larger than they are.   The bodies are grayish-yellow with three stripes along the back; the legs are also banded with white stripes. House centipedes are the only centipedes with compound eyes, and light sensitive celli, used in combination with sensitive antennae and hairs for hunting.  As they can sense vibrations, movement, and changes in light, House centipedes startle easily and scurry out of sight. Hunting mostly at night, they run quickly holding their body up with their long legs.  As they run they may suddenly stop, remain perfectly still, then just as fast, dart into a hiding place.  Most commonly sighted in basements, they are commonly found throughout homes searching for prey.  House centipedes are able to reproduce within a structure, and may become quite numerous if adequate food sources are available.  Large numbers of house centipedes may indicate other pest populations.  The life cycle of house centipedes is somewhat complex.  Once the egg hatches the larvae have 4 pairs of legs, 5 more larval stages occur each with more legs than the last. Then there are 4 adolescent stages, each with 15 pairs of legs.  House centipedes may live for several years.  Although house centipedes are venomous, there are very few cases involving injury to man.  Most bites are no more painful than a bee sting, but the area should be cleaned to prevent secondary infection.  House centipede bites are extremely rare.  Control of house centipedes, if needed is not complicated.  Due to their many legs and mode of locomotion, house centipedes readily contact common pesticide formulations such as dusts, microencapsulated sprays, and wettable   powders.  They are also extremely sensitive to flushing agents containing pyrethrins.  Pest Control Professionals from Colonial Pest Control may also recommend treatment to control prey species within the house, control of moisture within a structure, and sealing gaps and cracks that lead to wall voids or other locations that may harbor house centipedes.  Much can be done to reduce centipede habitats outside a structure.   Old woodpiles, leaf litter, boards, trash piles, rock piles, and other damp harborage sites can be removed.  Sealing exterior gaps and controlling moisture around the foundation will reduce populations of insects and other arthropods.  Routine exterior treatments made by Pest Control Professionals will reduce the number of pest species entering or nesting in or on the home.  If you suspect you have a House centipede problem, or any other pest related issue call the Pros at Colonial Pest Control Inc.  1-800-525-8084 Speak to a real person 24/7!


Tim Chace



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