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What you need to know about the house centipede

It is very likely you have run across them before and been frightened by this pest. They are slender insects with what appears to be hundreds of long, thin, legs bursting from all around their bodies. These insects move fast when spotted, searching for a safe place, and run up walls and under furniture, their legs undulating and moving fast.

Do they have a head? Do they bite? What are they? These questions come to us a lot, usually accompanied by pictures showing this seemingly fierce predatory insect. 

The insect in question is Scutigera coleoptrata, more commonly known as the house centipede. The first thing you need to do is relax. The only way the house centipede is dangerous is if you happen to be another insect such as a bed bugcockroachspidertermitesilverfish or other pest. In fact, what you have there is a tiny exterminator that can help get rid of other pests. 

House centipedes like the cool, damp, environment found in places such as PortlandSeattleSpokane, and other parts of the Northwest.

House centipedes look scary, but the facts about them are not scary. All is explained on this page below, so read on. However, if you need help to control house centipedes around your property, call us today at 800-937-8398.


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If you have a problem with house centipedes, contact Western Exterminator for help.

Lots and lots of legs

The first thing you notice is that the house centipede has a lot of legs. The very name “centipede” hints at that since “centi-” means “hundred.” Although it looks like it has a hundred legs, the fact is that the house centipede has 15 pairs of legs. It also has two very long antenna on its head and two long appendages on it’s rear-end. Most house centipedes are yellowish-gray and have stripes down the length of their body and across their legs, too. 

There are several reasons for all of those legs. First, it helps make house centipedes very fast. Since they are both predators and prey, this helps out a lot. They can travel 1.3 feet-per-second, which means they can usually get away from predators and easily catch up to their intended meal. Second, those appendages both fore and aft mean it’s hard to tell which end is the front, which can actually deter predators.

Legs for venom and legs for feeding

Two of the house centipede’s legs, located right near the head and near the mouth, have been modified to carry venom. Technically, this means that house centipede sting their prey rather than bite, but why quibble? Their venom is potent for smaller insects such as silverfish and termites. They are also capable of holding multiple preys in their legs and if they get any of their legs caught, they can just break them off and scurry away. 

House centipedes are active hunters, since they don’t build webs or traps. They seek out their prey and either use those legs to jump on the intended prey or wrap them around it in a technique that experts have come to call “lassoing.” Some observers have even noticed house centipedes using their legs to beat prey into submission. 

If you have noticed an increase in the number of house centipedes in your home it may be due to other pest issues. Contact us and discuss the problem and get a free pest inspection with a local Western Exterminator specialist.

House centipede behavior

House centipedes are nighttime hunters, mostly. As you can see from their head, they have two very well-developed eyes and, for an insect, have pretty decent vision. Despite this, it’s those long antenna that they use primarily for hunting. House centipede antenna are so sensitive they can pick up smells as well as vibrations and other tactile sensations. It’s like combining your fingers with a nose. 

They are also very smart hunters. House centipedes are more than willing to go after prey that could actually be dangerous to them, such as wasps. However, they have been seen in the wild and in laboratories sneaking up on those types of insects, stinging them, using their legs to get away and then waiting for the venom to take effect before moving in to feed.

Why are house centipedes in my house?

House centipedes, it is believed, started in the Mediterranean. They prefer warm, tropical, humid climates. They have proven to be, however, remarkably adaptable and capable of surviving in virtually any climate. However, if you live in an area of the world that gets harsh winters, you are more likely to find them in your home because that’s a nice warm place where it is likely to have access to a lot of food. 

Their eyes are very sensitive to light, so more than likely they will find a place to hide during the day. For homeowners, you are most likely to see house centipedes in your basements, bathrooms and other areas that get wet and humid. It is also entirely possible for your average house centipede to live its entire life on the bottom floor of a building, eating insects and living its life undisturbed.

Are house centipedes dangerous to people?

The good news is that house centipedes, while startling when they come running at super-speed out from under the kitchen counter, are not considered dangerous to humans. While it is possible that one might bite a person, more than likely it would take picking up a house centipede and handling one for that to happen. They would much rather reserve their venom for food and humans just are not something on the menu. 

If someone is bitten, more than likely it will just cause a reddish bump. People who are especially sensitive to bee stings and other insect bites and stings may need to see a doctor to make sure they don’t have an allergic reaction to the house centipede bite, but most people should feel no effects at all. 

If you do not want to deal with house centipedes or are concerned about other pests around your home, contact us for a property inspection and evaluation from a Western Exterminator pest control specialist.

How do house centipedes get inside?

Like most insects, they are very crafty when it comes to getting indoors. House centipedes will seek out a place that is warm and where they can hide and seek prey. They will get in under doors, through cracks and just about any opening. They are very small and narrow, so the space doesn’t have to be very big. 

So, make sure that sweeps on doors are without holes and go all the way to the pavement. Ensure screens are fixed and that cracks in foundations are sealed.

Too many centipedes!

Of course, house centipedes can become a nuisance, too, like many pests. If you live in cities such as Phoenix and are noticing a loft of house centipedes in your home, then you may also have an underlying problem with other pest insects – there’s a reason they want to be in your home and it’s probably to feed! If this is the case, we recommend contacting the pest experts at your local Western Exterminator office for professional help.

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