Facts and Figures

Details on the common North American House Centipede

What It Is
Though often considered an insect, House Centipedes (and all centipedes) are in a class by themselves called Chilopoda, so it is a chilopod. It is brown with striped black markings and has a long, narrow body that is surrounded by a plethora of legs. Its body grows to over an inch (2.5 cm) long, though the legs make it seem over twice that length. It is typically found in damp places like under logs or rocks, as well as inside basements, cellars and bathrooms. It is originally from the Mediterranean, but is now found all over North America, South America and Asia. It tends to be nocturnal, but may actively flee an area in the daytime if it is discovered. Its lifespan can range from one to seven years.

Those Legs
House Centipedes don't actually have 100 legs, but there are many, and they move so quickly, it seems like a hundred. If one stopped long enough to let you count, you'd find that it has 15 legs on each side of its body, which equates to 30 total legs. The legs are long and have bands of dark and light coloring. At the joints on each leg, short barbs stick out, making it easier for the centipede to hold down insect prey. A female has a particularly long pair of legs that extends more than twice the length of her body. This species can lose a leg and continue living a normal life.

That Speed
The rate at which the legs move when running gives the House Centipede a 'feathery' appearance. The body is held high off the ground, helping it move more quickly to a hiding place or shelter when spotted. In nature, that speed allows the House Centipede to chase down bugs for food. If it is not running, it tends to remain completely still. Sprinting and motionless are its two most common speeds.

Its Diet
The varied diet of a House Centipede means it can find something to eat just about anywhere. This is one reason why finding one inside a house or outbuilding is fairly common. The presence of other insects attracts House Centipedes to a location, and if the food supply is ample, it has no reason to leave. Spiders, cockroach juveniles, earwigs, ants, moths, termites, crickets, flies, beetles, and silverfish are all nutritious meals. If these kinds of arachnids and insects are present in your home, you are likely to come across a House Centipede, too. It is a fantastic insect hunter.

Eradicating Them
Most people do not want House Centipedes indoors. They are often found in bath tubs, shower stalls, and around sinks in bathrooms. They may even hide inside the water jets of a Jacuzzi tub. Their sudden appearance as they race across the floor or climb up a wall easily startles people. Humans are not a target, but occasionally, a frightened House Centipede will bite if cornered or roughly handled. It is not a poisonous insect, so the bite is harmless, but it may hurt and possibly swell a bit. Bites generally heal in a day or two without complications unless the person has an allergic reaction.

Preventing tempting insect prey from entering your home is the best way to deter House Centipedes from taking up residence. Keep screens on windows and seal any holes or gaps around doors and other points of entry that may allow other bugs to pass through. It is difficult to capture a fast-moving House Centipede in order to release it outside, so many people use a traditional method involving a shoe to reduce their numbers inside. That may be effective temporarily, but if one does not eliminate other bugs from the building, a new House Centipede may move in.
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Facts and Figures

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