Is it a House Centipede or a Silverfish? Key Differences You Should Know

Posted: November 10, 2022

Centipedes, Fabric Pests, Stored Product Pests

Few things are more unsettling to a homeowner than spotting a long, leggy pest scurrying across the floor. Two that can be particularly alarming due to their strange appearance are centipedes and silverfish. House centipedes and silverfish have many similarities, but there are key differences between the two pests that you should be aware of.

What House Centipedes and Silverfish Look Like

One of the main reasons centipedes and silverfish are frequently confused is due to similarities in their appearances. Despite their commonalities, with a bit of careful observation, you can easily tell the difference between a centipede and a silverfish if you know what to look for.


Size and Body Shape

Centipedes are significantly larger than silverfish. Centipede bodies can be up to 1½ inches long, but silverfish bodies are usually only ½ an inch long. Both pests can appear larger due to their long antennae that can be double the size of their actual bodies. Centipedes have segmented bodies that give them a striped appearance. Silverfish have flattened bodies that appear a bit wider than the centipedes’.


Centipedes are usually yellowish brown in color and their bodies are banded vertically with darker shades of brown. Silverfish are usually pale to dark grey and can be shiny with no visible bands or stripes.

Number of Legs

Silverfish only have three sets of legs, but centipedes have many more than that. While the number of pairs of legs will vary from species to species, the common house centipede has sixteen pairs of legs, one for each of their body segments. Centipede legs are also much longer than silverfish legs.


One of the best ways to tell the difference between centipedes and silverfish is their antennae. While both species have long antennae, they have different placements. Centipedes have a pair of antennae at their head, and so do silverfish. However, silverfish also have a set of three long limbs extending from their abdomen. These appendages are not jointed and can be double the length of the silverfish’s body. These unique antennae-like limbs are also a great way to tell the difference between silverfish and cockroaches, another insect that can get confused with these pests.

Differences in Centipede Behavior and Silverfish Behavior

These two household pests are known for favoring dark, damp environments. They also move extremely quickly, but aside from those two attributes, there are many differences between house centipedes and silverfish.

What Do They Eat?

Centipedes are carnivorous and eat other small insects. Centipedes will even eat cockroaches and certain varieties of spiders. Typically, if you notice a surge in centipede activity, it’s because of an outbreak of other pests in or around the home.

Silverfish, on the other hand, eat a diet rich in sugars and starches found in natural fibers. Silverfish can be a major nuisance due to their tendency to eat fabrics and paper.

Do Centipedes or Silverfish Bite?

One of the most common questions about centipedes and silverfish is if they are dangerous. Centipedes can bite, though it’s not particularly common. Centipede bites usually feel like a bee sting and can be quite painful. Silverfish, on the other hand, do not bite or sting.

Where Do They Live?

House centipedes and silverfish favor similar living conditions. They gravitate toward dark areas, like attics, closets, crawl spaces, and basements with high humidity levels.


How to Get Rid of Centipedes and Silverfish

DIY treatments like diatomaceous earth and boric acid may be tempting, but since they require direct contact with the pest, they aren’t as effective for centipedes and silverfish. If threatened, centipedes and silverfish will quickly scurry off to hide in even the smallest crevices, making them difficult to treat. If you are experiencing a centipede or silverfish infestation, you should consult with an exterminator to best address the issue.

Professional Pest Control

If you are experiencing a pest problem, the experts at Dodson Pest Control can provide you with a free inspection and treatment plan. House centipedes and silverfish are elusive species and can be difficult to treat. Our pest control experts know which areas to investigate and have access to professional pesticides that will target infestations at the source.

Contact us for a free inspection!

Free Inspection