Thousands of centipede species have been documented worldwide, but only a few are known for being pests of homes and buildings in the United States. Scutigera coleoptrata, or the “house centipede,” is the most common indoor centipede pest, and they are often spotted darting for cover beneath furniture, appliances, clutter and other objects when they encounter humans. Occasionally, house centipedes will rapidly flee toward humans, as opposed to away from them. This may occur because, in a moment of panic, house centipedes flee for shelter beneath peoples shoes, or even up pant legs. House centipedes cannot always make a quick escape from humans, as their attraction to moisture often brings them into tubs and sinks where they are unable to scale the walls to escape.

Although house centipedes are nuisance arthropod pests that are targeted for control by pest management professionals, they can be somewhat beneficial within homes due to their natural habit of preying on insects that serve as indoor pests. In fact, the presence of multiple house centipedes within a home indicates that an insect pest infestation may have already been established. While house centipedes produce venom like most centipede species, their “venomous claws” are too small to penetrate human skin, though they may be able to penetrate exceedingly thin layers of skin located in between toes and fingers.

The number of legs a centipede possesses varies by species, but most species have between 30 and 50 legs, and all centipede species possess an odd number of legs. House centipede offspring possess eight legs, but by the time they reach adulthood they have 30 legs. These legs move in a wave-like motion to propel the pests forward and backward, and while this method of locomotion does not allow for fast movements, it’s ideal for burrowing into the ground soil where centipedes retain their needed moisture. Centipedes are capable of achieving rapid speeds because their legs progressively increase in length toward the rear, which allows the pests to propel themselves with maximum force. This leg arrangement also allows house centipedes to make abrupt and dramatic turns while moving rapidly, as well as make longer strides than they could if each of their 15 sets of legs were all the same size.

Have you ever encountered house centipedes within your home?