The House Centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata)
Quick Look Pest Stats
Color: yellowish – dark brown, sometimes with darker markings
Legs: 15 pairs
Shape: Elongated, flattened. (worm-like)
Size: 1/8″ – 1 1/2″
Region: Found throughout the U.S.
Fun Fact: Centipedes can have anywhere from 15-177 pairs of legs, depending on the species. They always have an odd number of pairs of legs.
Centipedes are found throughout the United States and the world. They are typically found in areas of high moisture, such as in rotting logs, under stones, in trash or piles of leaves/grass. When they invade homes, centipedes are most commonly found in damp basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms, or potted plants.
Most house centipedes are nocturnal, and prey primarily on flies, spiders, beetles and sometimes plant tissue.
The house centipede adult has 15 pair of legs with the last pair (on adult females) nearly twice the length of the body, which is one to one and one-half inches in length. This gives the centipede an overall appearance of being from three to four inches in length (including legs and antennae). The legs are banded light and dark, and the body is a dirty yellow with three longitudinal, dark stripes. Newly hatched larvae (rarely seen) have four pair of legs. During the next five larval molts, the centipedes will have 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 pairs of legs. On the next molt the centipede is considered an adolescent and will have 15 legs during each of the next four molts – when it becomes an adult. Females have been known to survive for several years and produce numerous offspring (maximum of 150).
Centipedes are mainly considered nuisance pests, as they do not pose significant health or property threats. However, all house centipedes have poison jaws with which they inject venom into their prey. If handled roughly, some larger species can inflict a painful bite that can break human skin and causes pain and swelling, similar to a bee sting.
The most effective way to get rid of or prevent house centipede infestations is to reduce areas of moisture in and around your home. Remove leaf piles and grass clippings. Store firewood off of the ground. Provide adequate ventilation in crawl spaces, basements, etc. Continuing infestations may indicate a household insect problem, since these are their principal food. Look for insects such as cockroaches, attic flies, boxelder bugs, elm leaf beetles, and others. Controlling these insects may be the key to eliminating the centipedes.