Centipede Facts, Identification and Control
Scientific Order: Scutigeromorpha
Scientific name: Scutigera coleoptrata
- Size: Up to 1 ½ inches long, flat, thin, with 15 pairs of long and slender legs. The centipede’s antennae and legs give the pest the appearance of being up to 3 or 4 inches long. Adult females’ final pair of legs are up to twice as long as the centipede’s body.
- Color: Brown, grey, or dark “dirty” yellow, semi-translucent looking. The centipede’s back bears three dark longitudinal stripes. Its legs are clearly banded light white or yellow and dark brown or black.
Signs of Infestation
The easiest way to tell you have house centipedes to find them beneath an object they were using as shelter. House centipedes hide in dark and humid locations during the day and come out at night. When deprived of their cover, house centipedes will run toward the nearest dark cover.
House centipedes frequently infest areas where they can access moisture because they will die in dry places. They’re commonly encountered in bathrooms and boiler rooms, especially at night. Finding a house centipede may also be a sign that there’s a nearby plumbing leak.
Treatment and Prevention
House centipedes feed on other pests, so keeping them from infesting your building means treating for other pests. Look for places where spiders, beetles, roaches, or other small centipede prey could get into your building and cut off their access points.
House centipedes require a lot of moisture and humidity to survive. In fact, usually living in buildings for extended periods should dry out and kills centipedes. Look for plumbing leaks, patch up drafts, install proper ventilation and drainage, and consider investing in a dehumidifier.
Diet and Behavior
House centipedes are opportunistic predators, hunting and feeding on a wide of variety of insects including spiders, smaller arthropods like silverfish, sowbugs, millipedes, roaches, fly larvae, beetles, and more. House centipede diet depends on what kind of prey they encounter.
Centipedes are nocturnal predators because they wait until late at night to forage for prey. If they live in an environment that is always dark, like a basement, attic, or crawl space, however, they may hunt during any time of day.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Unlike most centipedes, house centipedes reproduce indoors. They prefer to lay eggs in particularly humid environments. Reproduction occurs in early-to-mid spring. Males spin a silk pad containing their sperm. Female centipedes use this silk pad to fertilize eggs.
Fertilized eggs take around two weeks to hatch. House centipede larva resemble their mature counterparts, except they are smaller and have 4 pairs of legs instead of 15. House centipedes take up to two years to reach reproductive maturity.
- Despite possessing compound eyes and more detailed vision that most centipedes, the house centipede relies primarily on its long antennae to give it the situational awareness it needs to hunt.
- House centipedes have clearly segmented bodies. Each of the centipede’s distinct body segments bears a single pair of legs. Fully-grown house centipedes possess 15 pairs of legs.
- House centipedes’ two front legs are actually fang-like piercing implements, which they use to paralyze their prey while hunting. Centipedes rarely “sting” humans with these leg-implements. At worst, a house centipede sting is comparable to a bee sting in terms of pain.
- Cornell University Dept. of Entomology Insect Diagnostic Laboratory “Millipedes, Sowbugs and Pillbugs, and Centipedes” fact sheet
- Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Department of Entomology “House Centipedes” fact sheet
- Northeastern Integrated Pest Management Program “IPM Steps to Reduce House Centipedes” page