All Your Need to Know About Centipede Infestations

Centipedes have a terrible reputation, particularly due to their frightening appearance. In the unlikely chance that you spot one of these nocturnal insects, it could send you running for safety and leave you wondering if there are others nearby. And though there are thousands of centipede species around the world, the house centipede is the most common variety you’ll find creeping inside.

Luckily, centipedes rarely try to work their way inside your home on purpose. Since they are stealth predators and solitary creatures—often feeding on spiders and other large bugs on their own—large infestations are not as common. However, they do love a warm, humid space like a basement, bathroom, or closet, so there is a chance that they find their way indoors when seeking protection.

Removing a centipede or two on your own may be easy, but professional assistance is often necessary if you end up with a centipede infestation. In this guide, we’ll cover the range of common types of centipedes in the US and how to handle them.

What is a Centipede?

When one of these creeping bugs runs across your path, it could be difficult in the brief moment to identify whether it was a centipede, a millipede, or a similar bug like the silverfish. Silverfish, on the other hand, have thicker bodies and far fewer legs.

Appearance and Body Structure 

A centipede is a predatory insect with many body and leg segments. Each segment has one set of legs—unlike the millipede which has two sets per segment.

The majority of centipedes have flat, segmented bodies and range in color from brown to red or gray and yellow. Since there are so many centipede species around the glove, they come in many colors, but this reddish-brown hue is the most commonly seen in the US.

Depending on their age and species, centipedes can extend as long as 6 inches. Their heads are topped with long antennae, typically as long—if not longer—than their extended legs.

Centipede Behavior

Centipedes are good travelers, rarely claiming territories for their own, but instead, searching for shelter, food, and a mate where they can find it. As nocturnal creatures, you are unlikely to see them out and about during the day, unless you’re in a dark and damp basement with poor sunlight. 

As powerful predators, they do have powerful ways of protecting themselves and catching prey, including distributing poisonous venom, a strong glue-like material, or by attacking prey with their mouths and claws.

Centipede Reproduction

The centipede reproduction process widely varies from species to species. While some female centipedes only produce one offspring, others can lay up to 35 eggs at one time. These eggs are often laid in safe, warm areas like holes in the soil or in old trees and decaying logs. 

Since centipedes are not social insects, they do not keep a nest or a hive like other bugs. They, instead, will lay a trail of pheromones for a potential mate when the time comes to reproduce. After the eggs have hatched, centipedes will either abandon eggs after their born or stick with them to protect against predators.

Are Centipedes Dangerous?

Centipedes are known to defend themselves when they feel threatened, and have the tool to attack prey on a regular basis. Because of this, centipedes—even house centipedes—-are known to occasionally bite humans, cats, and dogs.

Centipedes will emit a small amount of venom when biting, but its effects on humans and other small mammals like pets are typically very mild. The most common reaction to a centipedes bite is swelling and low-grade pain. On rare occasions, some people may be more allergic to centipede bites than others and experience vomiting, dizziness, and heightened pulse.

Centipede bites frequently mirror the appearance of a spider bite, with two puncture marks in the wound.

Do Centipedes Damage Your Home?

The idea that centipedes eat wood is a common misconception. The pests known as wood-eating centipedes are more likely to be a variety of millipedes that consume plant cellulose, much like a termite. Centipedes do not commonly affect the structure of your home.

Why Do Centipedes Come Inside Some Homes?

Centipedes may be frightening, but they often end up in your home and garden to take care of other pests like spiders or even cockroaches. Though they should never make their way into your home, a balanced number of centipedes in your garden can be helpful for controlling other bug populations.

For this reason, it’s important to address pest issues before they attract predators like the centipede over time. 

The warmth and darkness of your space is also a safe place for centipedes to hide out, especially if the weather outside is too extreme to burrow. For example, very dry and even doubt-like conditions can inspire centipedes to seek shelter indoors.

Common Varieties of Centipedes in the US

Whether you’ve spotted a centipede in your home for the first time or just moved to a new area, it can be helpful to know what type of creatures you’re dealing with so you know how to get rid of them.

House Centipede

These common home invaders are a bit trickier to identify since similar insects share their look. Here are some common features of the house centipede:

  • Gray and yellow with dark stripes
  • Range from one to one-and-a-half inches
  • Has 15 pairs of very long legs
  • Legs are jointed, making them appear quite large

You’re likely to find the house centipede hiding areas of your home that are commonly undisturbed, such as behind appliances or in the basement. Since they feed on so many common house pests, they could be a sign of a larger pest infestation.

Giant Desert Centipedes

As the largest centipede in North America, it is rare that you will miss this insect if it makes its way into your home. Here are some easy ways to identify one:

  • Clearly segmented body can stretch as long as nine inches long
  • Segmented alternate between black and red
  • 20 pair of its legs are yellow while the last pair is black
  • They have long antennae

You are more likely to find giant desert centipedes in the south and western states of the US. They rarely make their way into homes on purpose, and are frequently found under rocks and logs.

Common Desert Centipede

Another resident of the southwest, this large centipede also prefers outdoor environments, typically under rocks and in naturally hiding places. You may also find them in damp areas like tall grass and piles of leaves. Here are a few distinguishing features:

  • They widely vary in color and can include orange, red, black, and yellow body segments and legs
  • They have long, segmented antennae
  • Also known as the Sonoran Desert Centipede

Signs of a Centipede Infestation

These nocturnal animals are so sneaky that you’re rarely able to catch the signs of a centipede infestation unless you spot them in real life. This will typically occur at night or when you move an object in a darker part of your home, such as the basement or the back of a closet.

If you begin to notice two-fanged bites in the morning, there is also a chance that there are centipedes in the vicinity of your bedroom. Centipedes do not seek out humans to bite, but could become jostled at night and take this as an attack.

Other than spotting centipedes in the flesh or experiencing mysterious bites, you’re unlikely to detect an infestation through signs of things like nests, droppings, or eggs. As expert hiders, infestations can be difficult to nail down. You will most likely need one of the pest sprays or poisons listed below to get centipedes out of hiding in their well-hidden places.

How to Prevent a Centipede Problem

Centipedes do not actively seek out your home for shelter, but when there are consistent sources of food and a warm, damp place to live, they’re going to take advantage of your hospitality. There are however, some easy ways to keep centipedes from getting into your space.

1. Take Care of Other Pest Problems

As we’ve mentioned earlier, centipedes are excellent predators for large and small insects alike. If you have a range of temptations in your home for their prey, centipedes will flock to your space to hunt at night. By starting with pest control of the smallest members of the insect food chain, you are less likely to work yourself up to centipedes.

2. Remove Moisture

A damp home is a perfect refuge for a centipede in an overly dry area. Utilize dehumidifiers and control sources that lead to a damp home such as leaks or flooding. Be sure to repair leaks in your plumbing or basement before they lead to increase humanity in the heat.

3. Close Up Entryways

Peruse the perimeter of your home to check for ways that centipedes are getting into your home. Even though they are large, they are capable of getting in through small cracks in your walls, floors, or foundation. Centipedes will then find easy hiding places once inside, even in small cracks and holes in your floors and baseboards.

4. Remove Hiding Places

Decluttering your home is a common way to cut down on pest infestations altogether. This is particularly true for centipedes, since they depend on hiding places to survive. Clutter on the floor is a prime area for centipedes to seek out and hide.

DIY Centipede Control

In many cases, a single centipede has found its way into your home by accident. In this case, you may be able to simply trap the centipede carefully in a glass and release it outside. If you need to remove it more forcefully, use a vacuum to remove the bug and dump the bag in the garbage outside.

Luckily, centipedes will rarely leave a large nest of eggs behind, so removing this one centipede could be the end of your problem. However, if you spot more than one centipede in just a few days, or are starting to get bitten, seek out natural or chemical-based products to protect your home.

Peppermint Oil

Certain scents, such as peppermint, can deter pests including centipedes. Spray a diluted solution of peppermint essential oil and water around trouble spots where you’ve spotted centipedes in the past. Be careful with the amount of peppermint oil used around the house since ingestion can be toxic to cats and dogs.

Insecticide

For a more direct approach, store-bought insecticides can take care of large insects like centipedes in many cases. Liquid and residual insecticides are often safe both in and outdoors and can be applied to the cracks and holes where centipedes often hide. Like the peppermint oil, use caution when using these strong materials around pets or children.

Preventative Dusts

Insect dust can also be applied throughout trouble areas in your homes as a preventive measure. This could be a particularly useful approach to centipedes since it is so difficult to catch them in the daytime.

Adhesive Traps

Standard pest traps like strong adhesives can be useful for catching centipedes, especially if you’re not sure if they are actually present in your home. It’s important to note that some centipedes can free themselves from these traps, so you may need additional methods.

Professional Centipede Extermination

Centipedes can be startling, and spotting more than one in your home could be a sign of a larger unseen issue. If you are concerned about the extent of your centipede infestation, invest in the peace of mind provided by a pest expert.

The Terminix team offers local pest control with decades of experience and personalized customer care. After a free consultation, they will thoroughly inspect your home, exploring areas you may not have thought to look for these shifty creatures. 

Terminix can then remove the pests quickly and efficiently while leaving preventive measures for their return. Additionally, they guarantee our services, promising ongoing pest control care for the extent of your plan.

Centipedes are common across the country, but you shouldn’t have to ever deal with one in your home. Their presence could be a sign of a larger pest problem, which is a perfect opportunity to have a professional check out your home for complete security.

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