A common pest in many parts of the United States, centipedes have an evolutionary lineage that experts say dates back 400 million years. Moreover, there are over 3,000 species of centipedes worldwide.
But, rich history aside, the centipede is usually an unwanted visitor both outside and inside the home, although they are relatively harmless to humans. Getting rid of them from your house and its surroundings takes some know-how and work – and may require professional help – but they can be eliminated.
How Do I Know I Have Centipedes?
Unlike many pests, centipedes don’t usually leave outward signs of their presence but are only known when they reveal themselves. In addition, they’re naturally nocturnal and are rarely seen during the day. The typical centipede is brownish with a flattened and elongated body. They have many different body segments with a pair of legs attached to each segment. Centipedes are between 1 to 6 inches long, but a house centipede is usually only an inch to an inch and a half long.
Note: Centipedes are sometimes mistaken for millipedes, but millipedes have two pair of legs on each segment and bodies which are not flattened.
What Are House Centipedes?
Unlike other types of centipedes, a house centipede can live almost its entire life inside a building. You can identify a house centipede by its grey-yellow body (that has three stripes down the back), as well as by its long legs that are banded with white.
While a house centipede’s body rarely measures more than 1 1/2 inches long, it seems much longer because of its 15 pair of legs.
Where Do House Centipedes Live?
House centipedes prefer to live in damp areas – such as cellars, bathrooms or closets – but can also be found in attics during warmer months.
Are Centipedes Harmful?
While centipedes don’t damage food supplies or household furnishings because they feed primarily on other insects, larger ones may bite if injured. The bite may produce a light swelling, and you may need to consult a physician if the bite has penetrated the skin.
How Do I Get Rid Of Centipedes?
There are a variety of methods to get rid of centipedes, including hiring the services of a professional exterminator if the problem persists.
It’s not easy to kill centipedes because their long legs make them very fast and hard to catch. The good news is that centipedes aren’t usually found in large numbers inside a house, so killing them as you see them can quickly eliminate the problem.
If killing a centipede seems too harsh, you can always try to catch it in a jar and release it outside.
Get Rid of Other Pests
Getting rid of other pests in your home will eliminate a centipede’s food supply, and they will either die or move on to another feeding ground.
Keep Your Home Dry
Centipedes cannot survive unless they are in a moist environment. You should clean up all damp areas and also use a dehumidifier.
Clean Up The Clutter Outside
Keeping the perimeter of your home free of organic material is crucial in keeping centipedes from gaining entry. That means placing firewood, mulch, tarps and compost bins as far from the house as possible. Also be sure to remove any compost, leaves, wood and other organic debris.
Close Off Entrance Points
Sealing any cracks in the concrete foundation of your home, as well has caulking any gaps around windows, will help prevent centipedes from coming inside. You can also:
- Apply weatherstripping to the outside of the house.
- Caulk holes between walls.
- Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves, branches or other debris that may be blocking the water’s natural flow away from the house.
There are a variety of insecticide sprays and aerosols that can be applied along cracks, crevices, entry points and baseboards. Liquid and dust applications can also be applied.
Sticky traps can be effective and should be placed in areas where centipedes tend to hunt – such as corners and crevices. You may also catch other insects with these traps, as well. But larger centipedes may be able to escape these traps by leaving a couple of legs behind.
Sticky traps can be effective in alerting you to heavy traffic areas for centipedes. This can help you pinpoint a specific area if you decide to use insecticides.
Cayenne Pepper is a natural way to discourage centipedes from camping out in your home. Lay down a thin layer of cayenne pepper at entrance points both inside and outside of your home.