Everything you should know about dealing with creepy-crawly centipedes

House centipede

There’s no worse feeling than getting into the shower—only to be confronted with a large, leggy centipede hanging out on the wall. (Is your skin crawling yet?)

Before you break out your best whacking slipper, though, there are a few things you should know about these multi-legged creepy-crawlies that might stop your squish fest. (Don’t believe us? Check out the catchy Centipede Song by Pink Torpedo.)

Centipedes and millipedes are different

Although the label is often used interchangeable, centipedes and millipedes are different. Centipedes are flattish, multi-legged insects that lurk in bathrooms and basements and scoot towards you with yelp-inducing speed. House centipedes have 15 pairs of legs, with only one pair per body segment. Millipedes are rounder, darker, appear more solid and aren’t so feathery looking around the legs. They tend to live in woodsy areas, where they feed on rotting wood and other planty things.

Centipedes eat other pests

Unlike millipedes, which are vegetarian, centipedes are hungry little carnivores that eat ants, silverfish, termites, cockroaches, and (gulp) bedbugs. They catch their prey by jumping on their backs or lassoing them with their back legs. Not to say you should keep a houseful of centipedes, but they really can be helpful. That may not actually be a comfort when one randomly drops on your head in the laundry room. Also, unlike other pests, centipedes won’t cause property damage—they don’t eat wood, or burrow into things.

Centipedes are mostly harmless

Yes, house centipedes can bite (that’s how they eat bedbugs!), but their bite isn’t usually harmful—at most, it can be as painful as a bee sting and might cause an allergic reaction. The ick factor, though…well, they can’t help that. And when they run like mad right towards you? They’re not attacking—they can’t see very well, so to them, you look like a great big place to find shelter.

Centipedes are kind of cool

Typical indoor centipedes can lay up to 35 eggs, while some species lay live young, and they can live up to three years. (Some other species can live up to six year, yikes.) Also, the little buggers can move at speeds of up to 40 centimetres a second. We’re not sure if that’s awesome, or just terrifying.

All that being said, if you don’t want to keep a population of centipedes indoors, here’s what to do:

  • Centipedes like moist, dark places, so making sure your rooms are as dry as possible is a good start. Use a dehumidifier if needed, and empty it frequently. Clean up any clutter on the floor or resting against the wall (especially in basements) where they might hide.
  • Install a bathroom fan and run it while you shower to keep moisture levels low.
  • Outside, make sure piles of dead leaves, rotting grass or other rotting organic matter are well away from the house. These can attract other bugs that centipedes will feed on.
  • Eliminate other sources of food for them. Set ant traps, clean up any human food or garbage, shoo spiders outside, or see a pest management pro for more serious infestations.
  • Seal holes that might allow outdoor centipedes (and other pests) to set up shop inside.
  • Use a vacuum to remove indoor centipedes.