Most pests, you kind of understand. Much as you may dislike them, at least mice and rats kind of make sense. They come into your home in the fall to stay warm over the winter. They might freak you out, but you know why they’re around. Unfortunately, you probably don’t feel that way about all pests.
As you’ve probably surmised, we’re talking about centipedes. What is up with centipedes? What do they want? Why are they here? Are they trying to kill you?! Who knows! Well. We know. And we want to teach you. It might not help you “get over” these creepy crawlers, but at least you’ll understand them. To some extent, at least. Since fear of the unknown is the worst kind of fear, that should help a little… right?
What are the centipedes in my house?
Unfortunately, the centipedes in your home are probably house centipedes. We’ve… discussed our feelings about the house centipede before. Adult house centipedes are 1 to 1½” in length, though their legs make them look 3 to 4” long. House centipedes have 15 pairs of legs, one per body segment. The last pair of legs on either side of the centipede are almost twice as long as their bodies. These legs have distinctive dark brown banding or striping.
As you’ve probably noticed, these legs help the house centipede run… fast. House centipedes are known for their fast, erratic running style. They often dart out from under things suddenly and run in jerking zigzag patterns. Yeah, it’s the worst. You’ll probably find house centipedes in your basement, though they’re also common in bathrooms and crawl spaces. House centipedes might also reproduce in your home. Young house centipedes look like adults, but they’re smaller and have fewer legs.
What attracted these centipedes to my house?
Centipedes want moisture, food, and shelter–mostly in that order. Unlike many insects, they lack a special moisture-preserving cuticle. Without that cuticle, centipedes need a constant source of moisture or they’ll dry out and die. Unless they’re in a humid environment, house centipedes can’t even remain active or hunt for very long. As such, they’re attracted to dark, damp environments that remain humid all year. If house centipedes are in your home, they’re finding moisture or water somewhere inside.
House centipedes are predators. They primarily hunt smaller arthropods and insects such as silverfish, firebrats, spiders, carpet beetles, roaches, files, and more. Unfortunately, that means what you think it means: if you have house centipedes, you have other bugs too. Like spiders, centipedes often follow their prey indoors. Once inside, they’re never in a particular rush to leave, especially if they find a damp environment. Finally, house centipedes also like to have cover to dart between while hunting. Boxes, bags, and debris suit their purposes just fine.
Are the centipedes in my house dangerous or damaging?
In short: no. Centipedes do not pose any real danger to you or your family. They can’t seriously hurt you, and they won’t damage your home. That being said, house centipedes do rarely attack people. Adult house centipedes have two small front legs near their mouths. The centipedes use these legs like stingers to pierce their victims and inject a paralytic venom. They primarily use this venom for hunting, but they may also use it defensively.
Centipedes very rarely “bite” humans this way. Even when they try, centipedes can rarely break a person’s skin. Even when they successfully do that, centipedes rarely choose to inject their venom. At worst, centipedes stings cause localized pain, swelling, and redness. Symptoms may be comparable to a bee sting, and shouldn’t last very long. Centipedes only “bite’ when they feel threatened or startled. If centipede bite symptoms persist, you should contact a doctor. Overall, however, consider house centipedes less “dangerous” than an average wasp.
How can I keep centipedes out of my house?
Centipedes want moisture and food, so keeping them out means making sure they can’t get those things. First, check out any areas of your home that produce a lot of moisture or humidity. For most homes, this is the basement, bathrooms, and, in some cases, the kitchen. Look for and repair sources of excess moisture. Hidden pipe leaks are a surprisingly common source of excess humidity, for instance. Consider installing a dehumidifier in particularly humidity-prone areas.
You should also look for drafts, especially in humid parts of the home. Not only do these drafts contribute to humidity, they also let in bugs. Finding and wiping out other pest infestations is the other best way to control centipedes. If house centipedes can’t eat in your home, they can’t survive there. Find access points where house centipede prey may infiltrate your home and seal them off. Start in your basement, crawl spaces, or attics and work your way in. Pay special attention to door and window frames.
Hopefully, this will help you feel a little less sheer, cold terror if you ever run into a centipede. Even if it doesn’t, however, these tips will at least help you prevent that terror-inducing encounter from happening. Which is even better! …kind of!
If you do end up having an unfortunate encounter with a centipede, don’t burn your home down! Instead, give Plunkett’s a call! We’ll figure out how to wipe out your centipede problem for good–without burning down the house.BACK TO BLOG