House Centipedes

- Sometimes called "hundred-leggers" -

Summary: There are many species of centipedes that range in size from small to very large. They all are have multiple pairs of legs and all are predators. Most centipedes are found outdoors however one, the house centipede, is commonly found indoors. The house centipede is harmless but like any large arthropod can bite.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)
my resume

Centipedes are not insects

Centipedes [see photo right; more pictures of centipedes] are elongate and somewhat flattened predatory arthropods. Centipedes have a single pair of legs on each of their body segments whereas millipedes (Diplopoda) have two pair per segment. They range in size from very small (4 mm ~ 1/8") to very large (150 mm ~ 6"). Larger centipedes can inflict a painful but non-venomous bite.

As predators, centipedes are beneficial to gardeners and no attempt should be made to control them outdoors. They feed on a variety of small prey many of which are garden pests. Wear gloves when working around wood piles and other debris where centipedes are found to protect your hands from bites.

picture of house centipede

house centipede - notice long, delicate legs and antennae; head is to the right; common names & misspellings: "hundred leggers", "hundred-legged worms", centepede

House centipedes

The house centipede (above right) has unusually long, fragile legs and is the only centipede that lives in houses, other species can occasionally wander indoors. The house centipede occurs in southern Europe and eastern Canada and the US. This centipede is about 1-1/2" long and inhabits damp areas of houses, it is harmless but frightens many homeowners.

House centipedes tend to occur in damp, undisturbed areas of homes like basements and generally no control is needed. If, however, you do decide to control these arthropods here are some suggestions:

House centipede control in homes

If possible dry out damp areas and clean up any debris where centipedes might hide. Insecticidal dusts (see Using Natural Dusts in Home Pest Control) can be used in dry areas. Either borate or silica dust will be effective as long as it remains dry. Damp areas can be treated with one of the new plant-based botanical insecticides (see Using Botanical Insecticides).

Another option is to deploy sticky traps, the ones that are used for spiders, in areas where you find centipedes. These traps (see Spider Traps) can be home-made or purchased ready made. Replace traps when they become covered with debris.

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