What has hundreds of pairs of legs, a long, segmented arthropodic body, and doesn’t belong inside of your home? If you guessed a millipede… you’re on the right track. But, for the correct answer, look towards their ferocious, venomous cousin: the centipede.

These long, segmented critters often induce fright when found under an overturned rock outdoors, let alone scurrying across your kitchen floor! But should you fear these common bugs in PA, and are they considered pests? 

In this article, we’ll outline all of your burning questions about these arthropods.

What Exactly is a Centipede? 

Centipedes are a predatory arthropod belonging to the Chilopoda class and Myriapoda phylum, also including millipedes and other segmented, multi-legged arthropods. With a name that directly translates to “100-footed,” centipedes vary greatly in length and leg count depending on the species. Centipedes range between a few millimeters for small species and 12-inches in length for the largest species, with one pair of legs per segment and between 14 to 177 pairs! 

Centipedes are also known for being aggressive, carnivorous hunters, featuring sensitive antennae and long, jaw-like venomous claws directly behind their heads known as forcipules. These highly adapted front legs and venom glands can inflict painful bites on unsuspecting children, adults, and pets. 

Several species of centipedes exist, with scientists approximating up to 8,000 variations worldwide–of which only 3,000 have been recorded. 

A few common species call North America home, and you’ve likely found a few roaming your property.

The four major North American centipedes include:

  •  The house centipede
  •  Bark centipede
  •  Cryptopid centipede
  •  Scolopendrid “soil” centipede

However, if you’ve recently encountered a centipede darting through your home, it was likely a member of the house centipede variety.

House centipedes can be identified by their 30 long legs, rapid movements, and yellow-gray appearance.   

What Do Centipedes Eat?

Centipedes are carnivorous, meaning they primarily eat other living things. But don’t worry, no house centipede will try to snack on you or anyone in your home. 

Some larger species of centipedes are ferocious hunters known to prey on insects and small vertebrates. However, house centipedes are relatively small and consume other invertebrates, such as:

  • Moths
  • Cockroaches
  • Bed bugs
  • Ants
  • Flies
  • Spiders

As such, house centipedes are not commonly viewed as significant threats, often consuming most of the other pests in your home. They are, however, often viewed as a nuisance. 

So What Are They Doing in My House? 

Centipedes are creatures of necessity, often following sources of food and shelter. Considering that centipedes primarily consume other indoor bugs, they’ll often travel to any dark, damp location with an abundance of food, even if that means stepping each of their hundred legs right across the threshold into your home. 

Most outdoor centipede species generally lay dormant during the day, residing primarily in: 

  • Rotting logs
  • Under rocks
  • Leaf piles
  • Other debris 

Come nightfall, though, these arthropods spring to life to hunt for prey. 

House centipedes are relatively similar, though they trade the leaf litter and wood piles for boxes in the cellar or damp floor drains. Unfortunately, House centipedes are also far less cold-resistant, often preferring the warmth and safety of your heated home to hunt and reproduce. 

While not harmful in a traditional sense, even the sight of a centipede in the comfort of your home is often unnerving enough to give us a ring. 

Are Centipedes Harmful to my House?  

After the initial shock of finding centipedes roaming around your home sets in, you might come up with another question: are these arthropods causing any property damage? 

While most household pests pose some threat to your structure or family, centipedes are quite the opposite. Centipedes are carnivorous, specifically insectivores.

This means that instead of chewing on your deck, household framing, cedar siding, or wood floors, centipedes eat the insects that do. For example, centipedes often consume harmful pest insects, such as wool-eating moths, bed bugs, ants, cockroaches, and flies, preventing them from causing further damage to your home and belongings. 

Centipedes are also primarily nocturnal, so you’ll likely only see one if you’re up and about in the evening. While not necessarily pests themselves, centipedes aren’t generally a welcome guest in your home, with most classifying them as nuisance pests for their startling appearance, quick movement, secretions, and venomous bite/sting. 

Are Centipedes Harmful to Humans? Do They Bite/Sting? 

As mentioned, centipedes are not immediately harmful to humans; however, they possess venomous bites that can inflict a painful sting or “bite.” Most larger centipedes can, in fact, puncture human skin, while the majority of house centipedes are too small and weak to do so. 

Centipedes produce a cocktail of venom that’s painful rather than dangerous. Pain is usually delivered on a scale, with larger centipedes featuring larger forcibles and more venom. While some bites may be incredibly painful, similar to a bee sting, the venom secreted during a centipede bite is generally not dangerous or harmful to humans. 

Side effects of a centipede sting are often localized to the puncture site, including pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness. However, these symptoms traditionally subside after a few hours, leaving no long-lasting side effects. 

So are centipedes harmful? In a way, though, they tend to bite infrequently with a venom that’s equal to or lesser in intensity than that of a common honey bee. 

How Do I Keep Them Out of the House? 

As stated previously, centipedes are creatures of necessity; if your home suits them, they’ll probably move in! The most effective way to prevent centipede infestations, especially house centipedes, is to make your home less inhabitable. 

The easiest way to do so is to eliminate their food source and preferred environment, meaning to get rid of your home’s other pests and keep your home dry and well-lit. If these tips don’t work, don’t hesitate to contact one of our qualified pest control experts. 

So what have we learned about centipedes? 

These little arthropods are tough, effective hunters that spend much of their time dormant. However, when it comes to a food source, they won’t nibble on you or your home; rather, they’d prefer to snack on the pests that have been plaguing your property. 

Centipedes love a dark, damp, moist environment, so use caution when cleaning rotten logs, old drains, rocks, and leaf piles. And traditionally, house centipedes are the only Chilopoda you’ll find roaming your living room. 

Centipedes can bite; however, they aren’t traditionally aggressive towards humans, and bites are rare/not dangerous. 

So in closing, are centipedes pests, and should you evict them? Depending on your view of the little arthropods, maybe. While posing little to no immediate threat to humans, pets, or residences, they aren’t often welcome due to their frightening appearance and potential to bite. 

However, if there’s a large infestation giving you the heebie-jeebies, give a qualified pest specialist a call or contact us below.   

Pest Issues? Contact The Pest Rangers Today.