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7 Things to Know About Centipede Infestations

While moving boxes around your basement, a frighteningly long, multi-legged creature runs across your path. The rare event of encountering a centipede can be very startling, especially if it moves too quickly to identify it in time.

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Though a centipede infestation is uncommon in homes across the US, even a few centipedes indoors are a few too many. Centipedes, after all, feed on other arthropods and insects. They may even go after other centipedes. In other words, spotting more than one in your home could be a sign that you have a larger pest issue than what initially meets the eye.

Either way, centipedes in your home are not a reason to immediately worry. They often made it inside by accident, will rarely harm humans, and can be easy to control before becoming an infestation. However, they should not be ignored, especially if you see more than one.

We’ve answered all your common centipede infestation questions below.

What Does a Centipede Look Like?

Centipedes can be surprisingly tricky to identify since many species look so much like other household pests—specifically millipedes and silverfish. If you’re able to get a closer look, you can always differentiate a centipede from the other insects by the number of legs and by its distinctly segmented body.

The Centipede’s Legs

As its name suggests, the centipede can have over 100 legs, but this all depends on the length of its body. Each covered segment of its body contains one set of legs each, so the longer the centipede, the more legs. There are thousands of centipede species around the world, so you’re bound to find ones with a few dozen legs to nearly 200.

Centipede Coloring

When it comes to its color, centipedes will range from yellow and brown to black and red. The most common species in the US—the house centipede—is yellow and tan with gray markings. 

As for the many other species, centipedes will often blend in with their common surroundings, taking on a range of earth tones.

Centipede Body Structure

As we noted above, centipedes are arthropods. Their highly segmented bodies contain one leg each and their head is often topped with a long set of antennae. Its legs come in many shapes, either thin and bent to thick and straight out to either side.

The length of a centipede depends on its age and species since they are able to grow over time as they molt. Therefore, centipedes can range anywhere from half an inch to up to a foot long. House centipedes, however, will typically only grow up to about an inch-and-a-half. 

Centipedes vs. Silverfish

It is very common to mix the silverfish up with the house centipede. The house centipede has a more tan and yellow hue, while the silverfish is, as its name implies, is often gray and silver. Silverfish will also only have six legs coming from its fish-shaped body, which centipedes have more than 30. 

Centipedes can—as we’ll explain more below—bite humans when they feel attacked, even though their bite is rarely anything to worry about. Silverfish, luckily, will leave you be.

Why Are There Centipedes in My House?

Centipedes do not seek out homes or humans to maintain their lifestyle. They are not parasites and do not feed off the blood or food of people and pets. Outdoors, centipedes live in soft wooden logs, in rich soil, or beneath moist piles of leaves and mulch.

These creatures will most likely come indoors during extreme weather, particularly to the parts of your home that are warm, dark, and undisturbed. This is why centipedes are often discovered when you move something in the closet, cellar, or attic that have been in the same place for several months.

Centipedes can also eat common household pests, so they are more likely to come indoors to live and lay eggs if they can keep up their diets. Centipedes may eat:

A centipede will use its antennae to seek out our prey and its fast reflexes to inject it with venom before eating. This venom is only strong enough for insects, so they are unlikely to affect rodents or other small animals.

What is the Lifecycle of a Centipede?

Luckily for your pest control efforts, centipedes are not social creatures and will not build nests with multiple caste systems. Each species, however, can lay a number of eggs in your home if they are able to find a dark, damp, and undisturbed location.

House centipedes, for example, can lay up to 35 eggs in a season. Throughout the warmer months, eggs will hatch into larvae that will then begin to grow in length. It can take a relatively long time for larvae to become full adults, especially compared with other insects. Overall, a centipede can live up to an average of six years.

Are Centipedes Dangerous?

Despite their frightening appearance, centipedes are not commonly dangerous to humans or pets. They are not known to carry disease or transfer bacteria throughout your home and if they do attempt to bite—which is more like a pinch to humans—it will rarely cause a reaction.

However, centipedes can try and bite humans with their front pinchers to infect a small amount of venom. They will frequently only attempt this, however, if they feel attacked. For this reason, avoid handling centipedes whenever possible.

On the whole, centipedes pose less of a threat to your space compared to other pests. Despite popular confusion, they do not have the ability to damage wood in your home. Nevertheless, it’s important to contact a professional if you detect an infestation, as their presence can make your home uncomfortable and be a sign of a larger issue.

How to Care for a Centipede Bite

Depending on your body’s reaction to insect bites, some centipede bites can be very painful. After all, centipedes are venomous to their prey, but they do not have strong enough venom to threaten the health of humans.

On a general level, the larger the centipede, the more painful the bite tends to be. However, if you often have a strong allergic reaction to other insect bites, this could exacerbate the reaction.

The bite will often include two fang marks, slight swelling, and be quite red and last for several days. If you experience more extreme reactions—extreme swelling, nausea, fever, or chills, for example—it’s important to contact a professional immediately.

How Do I Know I Have a Centipede Infestation?

Unlike other creatures that will build nests or webs in your home, you are most likely only able to detect a centipede infestation if you see them in great numbers. Centipedes only come out at night, but they can be found by looking in their common hiding places in storage areas, in damp basements, and throughout your attic.

Plenty of Centipede Food

If you have been battling other pest problems, such as cockroaches or bed bugs, you may have more centipedes than the one you spotted running across the room. Centipedes can attract one another with pheromones when they’re looking to mate, so one centipede with enough to eat in your home may call on others to enjoy it.

Signs of Centipede Bites

The only other way to detect a centipede infestation are signs of its bites. Centipedes will rarely seek you out, but if they end up near you in bed, they can take your movements as an attack. If you wake up with two small fang-like marks as bites, you could have a centipede infestation.

Common Hiding Places

Spotting a centipede in your home should be incredibly infrequent. Again, they don’t typically prefer to be there. Check their common hiding places behind storage containers, under furniture, and in the corners of rooms with low foot traffic. If you find more than one on your initial hunt, you likely have a growing problem.

Are There Ways to Prevent Centipede Problems?

Like all household pests, it’s important to make your space inhospitable for them to stick around by removing the its food source as well as taking other preventative measures. Here are some common ways to prevent a centipede infestation.

Seal Up Your Home Perimeter

Similar to other creatures of this size, centipedes can break into your home through shockingly small cracks and holes in your home’s structure. This includes holes in your basement all the way up to the eaves around your attic or top floor.

They may also find their way through holes in your screens or unsealed doorways. Be sure your home has secure screens in the warmer months when centipedes are more prevalent. 

Control Humidity

Centipedes will look for spaces similar to their homes outdoors. The more moisture and standing water in your living space, the more they will be able to survive and reproduce.

Be sure to use a dehumidifier and sump pump in moist basements to avoid creating the ideal conditions for some centipedes to thrive. You can also invest in a better bathroom fan to keep heat and humidity out of your bathroom long-term, which is another spot where centipedes can congregate.

This is especially true for homes in hot and humid regions. It should be noted that some common US centipedes actually thrive in arid climates, so be sure to identify your species for centipede before making adjustments to your home.

Avoid Clutter

Bugs, especially non-social creatures like centipedes, need shaded spaces to hide from extreme weather conditions and to stay safe from predators. The fewer items or piles you have lining the floors and walls, the less likely you are to have to worry about bugs taking shelter.

Address Your Pests

As we’ve noted before, centipedes do hide in places where they have a constant supply of other bugs to feed upon. Investigate other small pests in your home to get to the heart of your centipede problem.

Check Your Yard

Pest problems inside almost always come from an overabundance of pests outside your home. If your ecosystem in your garden or landscape is attracting too many insects, they are more likely to start making their way indoors. If the smaller pests come inside, so will predators like centipedes.

How Can I Manage Centipedes on My Own?

There is a range of common household products and store-bought pest control options. We always recommend handling any chemicals or strong natural products with special care, especially if you have small children or pets in your home.

Residual Insecticides

Liquid insecticides will stay on surfaces and make their way into cracks and crevices hard to reach with other traps and products. Depending on the product, you can often spray the liquid or spread the dust both in and outside your home.

Ultrasonic Pest Control

One of the easiest ways—though not always dependable—to keep pests away are ultrasonic pest deterrents that plug into outlets around your home. The frequency of emitted sound cannot be heard by animals or humans, but are designed to keep insects away.

Sticky Traps

Adhesive-based traps are not only effective at catching centipedes, but they are also able to catch the pests that centipedes thrive on. Sticky traps can be a beneficial initial step to get a sense of how big your pest issue has become.

Essential Oils

You can also create a simple spray out of heavily diluted tea tree or peppermint oil to deter most pests—including centipedes—from your home. Be sure to check whether these oils are safe on your given floors, furniture, and fabrics. Essential oils can also be harmful to pets, so ask your vet about how safe they are before spraying them in easy-to-reach places.

Professional Centipede Care

No one wants or needs to deal with unwelcome pests in your living space. Even relatively harmless creatures like centipedes belong outdoors and can demonstrate a problem throughout the rest of your house.

At Aptive, our caring and expert team will inspect your entire home inside and out to both identify the size of your pest problem and ways to stop it immediately. 

We pride ourselves on using eco-conscious pest control methods that keep dangerous chemicals out of your space without sacrificing efficient pest control care. You can rest assured that our comprehensive approach protects your home perimeter, gets rid of existing centipedes, and keeps them from coming back.

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