Centipedes | Posted: September 6, 2022

What You Need to Know about Centipedes

Centipedes are a common pest to find on your property and are known for being major eye sores. With multiple sets of spindly legs and long abdomens, they’re not a welcome sight. They’re typically found in basements, crawl spaces, and other dark, dank habitats. When discovered or disturbed, they’ll usually quickly scurry off. However, despite their frightening appearance, centipedes are rarely ever dangerous.

As a professional pest control company, we field lots of questions about these creepy pests. Here are some of our answers to centipede FAQs.

Quick facts on centipedes:

For a high-level overview of what you need to know about centipedes, take a look at our list of fast facts:

  • There are over 3,000 varieties of centipedes discovered
  • The largest centipedes, scolopendra gigantea, can be up to a foot long
  • Centipedes can bite and are poisonous
  • The most common centipede you’ll see in your home is the house centipede
  • Centipede legs are counted in pairs

For more information on centipedes, including how dangerous they are and how to get rid of them, keep reading.

What are centipedes?

There are roughly 3,000 discovered species of centipedes. These invertebrates are arthropods, meaning they have an exoskeleton that will molt over time, segmented bodies, and pairs of jointed appendages.

In the United States, the most common species of centipedes you’ll find are house centipedes. These pests are scientifically known as Scutigera coleoptrata centipedes of the class Chilopoda.

How can I identify centipedes and what do they look like?

There are many species of centipedes, but typically, most homeowners encounter house centipedes. These centipedes have flat, segmented bodies and numerous pairs of long legs. Their inch-long bodies are light brown with three vertical stripes. However, due to their spindly legs, centipedes can often appear much bigger than they actually are. Some of their legs can be more than double the size of their actual body. Centipedes also have jointed antennae that can be confused with a front pair of legs.

How many legs do centipedes have?

That’s not an easy question to answer. There are thousands of varieties of centipedes across the globe, and each one has distinct characteristics, including number of legs. Some species of centipedes can actually have more than 350 legs.

That said, common house centipedes have 30 legs, but sometimes, it can be easy to mistake their long antennae for another set of legs.

What are the differences between centipedes and millipedes?

Centipedes and millipedes are both myriapods, but they do have one key difference between the two. While centipedes have one pair of legs per each body segment, millipedes have two pairs of legs per segment. The total number of legs will vary depending on what kind of species and subspecies you’ve encountered.

Centipedes and millipedes also have vastly different behaviors. Centipedes are venomous and eat other small insects, whereas millipedes feast on decaying plants. When threatened, centipedes may fight back or flee, but millipedes rapidly curl up into small balls and release an unpleasant scent to deter predators.

Centipedes can also be confused with silverfish, though there are some differences you can consider to distinguish which kind of pest infestation you’re experiencing.

Are centipedes poisonous?

Yes, centipedes are poisonous. Centipedes are carnivorous, mostly preying on smaller insects like carpet beetles, silverfish, and cockroaches. In order to consume them, they’ll bite down and secrete venom through their jaws to paralyze them.

Will centipedes bite?

It’s not common, but when threatened, centipedes may bite. Centipede bites usually feel like bee stings and the pain doesn’t last long. These painful bites should clear up on their own and can be treated with over-the-counter medications.*

So, are centipedes dangerous?

Centipedes are not typically considered dangerous, at least, not the ones you’ll find around the house in the southeastern United States. If you disturb or startle a centipede, they’re more likely to run away and hide in crevices than attack. If you are bit by a common house centipede, it will sting and may leave a rash, but these bites are not life-threatening. Like with other types of insect bites, a more severe or allergic reaction is possible but not common.*

How can I get rid of centipedes?

Even though centipedes aren’t dangerous, they can be alarming to find. There are certain preventive measures you can take to address a centipede infestation.

  1. Control moisture levels in your home. House centipedes are drawn to damp environments, especially in basements and crawl spaces. You can use a store-bought dehumidifier to regulate moisture levels. You should also avoid leaving stagnant sources of water, like semi-full bowls or cups.
  2. Keep the outside of your house debris-free. Soil centipedes may hide under rocks, logs, and even leaf litter.
  3. Eliminate other pests centipedes prey on. Since centipedes are carnivorous, it’s unlikely they’ll want to take up residence in your home unless you have other pests present. In fact, if you see centipedes in your home, that may be an early sign of other pest issues.

*This is not to be considered medical advice. If you are concerned about a centipede bite or centipede sting, please contact a medical professional.

Centipede treatments done right.

Our team at Dodson Pest Control has the knowledge to treat your centipede problem correctly the first time. We have professional-grade insecticides that will target centipedes themselves and the other pests they prey on. Our pest management team relies on science-backed treatments and strategies to get rid of centipedes for good.

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