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Summary: Giant centipedes once roamed the earth, or should I say, slithered along the earth. Either way, it would have required a lot more than your average pest control professional to rid a home of one of those big fellows.

Centipedes are highly evolved predators. Evidence in the fossil records shows that the modern day centipede had ancestors living 420 million years ago. Giant centipedes were among the very first land predators. In prehistoric times they could grow to over a meter long. That is one arthropod I would not want to tangle with. (An example of one was in the new King Kong movie.)

Today, centipedes are smaller; the largest specimens living in tropical climates can grow up to a foot in length. Most centipedes are smaller than that, usually only a few inches in length. Each of their body segments has a pair of legs. Small centipedes might have fifteen legs, while the largest have as many as 191. The large number of legs helps the centipede move very quickly and they make them seem larger than they really are. Centipedes can be distinguished from millipedes because millipedes have two legs per body segment.


Centipedes are beneficial insects because they feed on pests like cockroaches and crickets. Large centipedes sometimes feed on small birds, reptiles, and even bats. They attack by wrapping their long, modified back legs around the victim and then attacking it with two front legs that have been adapted into poisonous pincers.

Centipedes are not dangerous to humans, but they do have venom and they have pincers that deliver a painful bite. Most people report that the bite is no more painful than a bee sting, but some people claim that the larger centipede species have a bite that is extremely painful. Apply ice to a centipede bite to reduce pain and swelling. As a rule, the larger the centipede the more potent and painful the poison.

Centipedes are hunters and they need moist environments. Most centipedes only come indoors in search of food and soon die if they do not return to the outside. There are some types of centipedes that are known as indoor or house centipedes. These centipedes are usually shorter in length, maybe one or two inches, but they have much longer legs than outdoor centipedes. They have very long back legs and long antennae extending from their head. These centipedes move very quickly and can surprise someone who isn't expecting such rapid movement.

The best way to prevent centipedes from entering the home is to reduce moisture from around the house. Make sure that the gutters are moving water away from the foundation of your house. Also, clean up any leaf piles or wet mulch that has accumulated around your house. Centipedes have flat bodies, so they can squeeze through small cracks. Seal up small cracks around the foundation of your house to keep the centipedes out. If these measures are not sufficient you might want to apply a barrier pesticide around the outside of your house. Talstar granules, a liquid treatment of Onslaught pesticide or an application of  diatomaceous earth will prevent centipedes from coming inside. These pesticides will also help keep out bugs that the centipede likes to feed on. I know I don't want anything with more than four legs inside my house, so centipedes are a definite no-no.

Supposedly, centipedes have two brains, one on either side of their body. The claim is that you have to squash both ends of a centipede if you want to kill one. This is untrue. Centipedes have a head on only one side of their body and they will die if cut in half. Centipedes can detach some legs to help them escape from predators, but the notion that centipedes can regenerate body parts was confused with earthworms, which do have that ability. Now you know in case that ever comes up on a TV quiz show.

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