Identification and Life Cycle
There are more than 2,000 species of centipede, but the more common one is the House Centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata. They prefer to live in cool, damp places outdoors, but are commonly seen indoors in basements, bathrooms and occasionally in bedroom areas.
They are approximately 1 1/2 – inches long, and are brown to grayish-yellow in color with three dark stripes on top. It has a flattened head with well-developed, faceted eyes, a pair of antennae, and 15 pairs of slender legs that are encircled by dark and white bands. It features a unique pincer-like appendage found behind the head used to capture and inject venom to kill or paralyze its prey.
In the spring, they will lay an average of 50 to 100 eggs. As with many arthropods, the larvae looks like a miniature version of the adult, but with only 4 pairs of legs, not 15. They develop a new pair of legs with the first molting stage, and two additional pairs for each of the next five moltings. They have a lifespan from 3 to 7 years, depending on their environment. It does not survive winters, but will reproduce in heated structures.
Habits and Damage
Many centipedes live outdoors in moist, protected areas such as under mulch, leaf litter, wood piles and rocks. They are predators, and feed on small insects and insect larvae including silverfish, firebrats, carpet beetle larvae, cockroaches, spiders, and other small arthropods.
The house centipede is the only species that can live and reproduce indoors. They can live its entire life and breed inside a building. They can be found in damp and high humid areas including basements, storage closets, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and garages. On occasion, one may scurry and get trapped in the bathtub, sink or other area of moisture. Because of its scary appearance, home-owners typically fear the centipede.
They do not carry disease or damage clothes, furniture, or other items within the home. It is common for centipedes to move indoors from outdoor harborage locations during the spring and summer. Centipedes rarely bite people. Their jaws are too weak to fully pierce human skin, but in some cases if accidentally stepped on with bare feet or mishandled, its sting is comparable to a wasp sting.
Below are some common areas within a structure that provide harborage:
- They can be found in floor drains without water traps. Especially drains that are connected to dry sumps.
- Unexcavated areas under a dwelling such as crawl spaces.
- Under and inside cardboard boxes stored on concrete slabs & in high humidity locations.
- They can hide inside cement block walls. Centipedes can enter through cracks between blocks and gaps around plumbing pipes and the wall.
- Beneath concrete slabs. They can enter through expansion cracks & around sump pump openings.
Prevention and Management
The best strategy for centipede control is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can properly identify the pest and help you maintain a centipede-free environment.
It is important to recognize and alter conditions around a home or building to limit areas where centipedes can gain access from the outside and find safe harborage indoors.
Exclusion. Limit areas where centipedes can gain access into buildings, especially around doors & windows.
Sanitation. Reduce the possibility of an infestation by eliminating possible breeding sites.
Modify Habitat. Alter the environment around the dwelling by reducing the number of harborage areas.
The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with centipedes.
- Provide suitable drainage for basements, cellars, and crawlspaces under the building to reduce moisture.
- Dry out damp moisture areas by using a dehumidifier.
- Fill all visible cracks and voids in the foundation as well as using sealant or weather-stripping around windows, doors and screens.
- Install door sweepers to insure that doors close tightly.
- Remove all rotting wood, grass clippings, and other organic materials from around the foundation.
- Repair leaking faucets, water pipes, and air conditioning units to reduce moist soil conditions.
- Check the basement for cracks & crevices as well as sealing covers to sump pumps with screen & caulk.
- Properly grade the soil around the building to direct water away from the foundation.