House Centipedes

House centipedes rarely infest homes, but occasionally, a stray centipede or two will make their way indoors. Fortunately, though, centipedes are usually pretty harmless, and can actually be beneficial to have around. They feast on other pests including silverfish, firebrats, carpet beetle larvae, sowbugs, millipedes, cockroaches, spiders and other small arthropods. But, when they end up where we don’t necessarily want them, Sunday recommends an integrated pest management approach to identifying, preventing, and managing centipedes.

How to ID Centipedes

The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is the most common centipede you will see in or around the home. These centipedes are flattish, tan with brown markings, and can get up to 1.5 inches long. Their heads have long antennae and a pair of fangs. They have 15 pairs of legs (one pair per body segment), and adult females have an extra-long last pair of legs that can be nearly twice the length of their entire body. The legs look almost “feathery” when running.

Centipedes are often confused with millipedes and silverfish. To tell them apart, look for the following:

Millipedes:

  1. Rounded, segmented body
  2. Tiny antennae
  3. Each segment has two pairs of legs

Silverfish: 

  1. Carrot shaped
  2. Shiny silver or tan color
  3. Six legs
  4. Tail end has 3 long filaments

Where do Centipedes Live?

Centipedes are found nationwide in the landscape or on the perimeter of structures. Occasionally, they might enter a home. This usually occurs when temperature or moisture conditions outside are not suitable, but can also be a sign of an infestation of some other sort of insect or arthropod that acts as a food-source for centipedes. 

Outdoors, centipedes can be found in protected, damp locations like under boards, logs, rocks, and in compost bins or around mulch beds. Indoors, they’re likely going to be found in cool, damp areas at the ground or basement level. They might also be found in bathrooms – they enter via cracks and crevices and might get stuck in the bathtub, so keep an eye out! 

When are Centipedes Active?

Centipedes are most active when temperatures get above 50°F. During the day, they will hide in damp, dark areas. At night, they will come out to hunt for food. If they are indoors, they might run toward you or up a wall when you enter a room and turn on the light, but don’t worry! They do not attack and prefer to be left alone in the dark. 

Natural Pest Prevention and Reduction Practices

Centipede populations indoors rarely reach the level of an infestation, but there are some things you can do to prevent the stray centipede from entering the home. 

  1. Remove mulch from around the perimeter of the house
  2. Make sure water is draining away from the home
  3. Eliminate trash piles and move rocks, boards, leaf piles, compost and other dark, damp hideouts away from the home
  4. Prevent and control indoor pests that might serve as a food source
  5. Seal gaps in the foundation or other openings to the building
  6. Make sure window screens and doors are properly fitted

If, for some reason, you do notice quite a few centipedes around the home, Sunday’s Bug Doom spray can be used as a last resort to prevent entry to the home or treat those centipedes that have already scurried inside. But remember, centipedes are generally harmless, and can actually help control other pest problems!

Cited Sources

Merchant, M. Centipede. Texas A&M Extension Entomology. 

Jacobs, S. House Centipedes. PennState Extension. 

Gray, E. and B. Sparks. Millipedes and Centipedes. University of Georgia Extension.