House Centipede

Scutigera coleoptrata

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Image of house centipede
Exceedingly fast, with zillions of wiggly legs! House centipedes seem that way. We usually see them in houses, where they prey on all the other insects and spiders you don't want around.
Family

Scutigeridae (house centipedes) in the order Scutigeromorpha (house centipedes)

Description

The house centipede is a yellowish-brown, distinctively shaped centipede with up to 15 pairs of extremely long legs. As with all other centipedes, there is only one pair of legs per leg-bearing body segment. The legs of house centipedes are barbed to help hold prey. There are three dark stripes running along the top of the body. Unlike many other centipedes commonly encountered, house centipedes are not flattened top to bottom, and they can run startlingly quickly.

Size

Length: to about 1 inch (not including legs or other appendages)

House Centipede

House Centipede
House Centipede
House Centipede
Habitat and conservation

House centipedes are usually found inside homes in damp areas like basements, crawl spaces, cellars, and bathrooms, especially in winter, when they move indoors. They patrol floors and walls in search of food, then scurry away when a person approaches. Outside you will find them under rocks and logs or in similar protected areas.

Foods

House centipedes, like all centipedes, are predators of other arthropods: Their diet consists of cockroach nymphs, spiders, silverfish, crickets, bedbugs, flies, moths, and earwigs, many of which are considered household pests. House centipedes subdue their prey with venomous fangs. They cannot easily bite humans, but if they do, it is generally no worse than a bee sting.

image of House Centipedes Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Common.

Life cycle

The female lays between 35 and 100 eggs. She does not guard them or provide for them in any way. The larvae are born with 4 pairs of legs; they add more pairs of legs as they molt and grow larger.

Human connections

House centipedes are aggressive predators of small insects, many of which are considered pests by humans. However, you may not wish to have these fast-moving centipedes in your home, either. Try excluding them by sealing small cracks and other entryways, or consult a licensed pest controller.

Ecosystem connections

Centipedes are predators that consume smaller invertebrates, particularly insects and other arthropods. They become food for other predators, such as birds, reptiles, and mammals. Their eggs and young are especially vulnerable to predation.