Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Insects and Spiders » Centipedes: Chilopoda - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Centipedes And People, Conservation Status, Scolopender (scolopendra Morsitans): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET

Centipedes: Chilopoda - House Centipede (scutigera Coleoptrata): Species Accounts

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Physical characteristics: Adult house centipedes measure up to 1.2 inches (35 millimeters) in length. They are yellow or brown with three purplish or bluish bands along the length of the body. They have large compound eyes on each side of the head. The antennae are very long and threadlike with five hundred to six hundred segments. Adults have fifteen pairs of long slender legs that keep the body well above the ground when they are on the move. The last pair of legs are the longest with those of females twice as long as the body.

Geographic range: This species is native to southern Europe, North Africa, and the Near East.

They are widely distributed in North America and South Africa. Populations with limited distributions have been found in Britain, northern Europe, Australia, Argentina, Uruguay, tropical Africa, and Taiwan.

House centipedes eat insects that are considered to be household pests, such as flies and cockroaches. (Illustration by Barbara Duperron. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: House centipedes are found in a variety of habitats under wood, in trash, or inside caves. They are often found in homes, especially in places where there is moisture, such as tubs, basins, and basements.

Diet: They eat silverfish, flies, cockroaches, moths, spiders, and other house centipedes.

Behavior and reproduction: House centipedes are usually active day and night and run quickly when threatened. They can run at speeds up to 16 inches (400 millimeters) per second.

Males and females court one another by forming a circle and tapping each other with their antennae. The male eventually deposits a lemon-shaped sperm packet. He guides the female to it, and she removes the sperm from the packet. The eggs are 0.05 inches (1.25 millimeters) long. The female holds a single egg between her reproductive structures, covers it with dirt, and then places it in a crack in the soil. The breeding season lasts about two months. During this time she will lay about four eggs per day. Hatchlings start with four pairs of legs. With each molt the total number of legs increases to five, seven, nine, eleven, and thirteen pairs. There are five more molts after they have all 15 pairs of legs. Adults live nearly three years in captivity.

House centipedes and people: House centipedes eat insects that are considered to be household pests, such as flies and cockroaches. They are delicate animals, and it is unlikely that their fangs can puncture human skin.

Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ∎



Lewis, J. G. E. The Biology of Centipedes. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1981.

Tavolacci, J., ed. Insects and Spiders of the World. Volume 3: Carrion Beetle-Earwig. New York: Marshall Cavendish, 2003.

Walls, J. G. The Guide to Owning Millipedes and Centipedes. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, 2000.


Shelley, R. M. "Centipedes and Millipedes with Emphasis on North American Fauna." The Kansas School Naturalist 45, no. 3 (1999).

Web sites:

The Centipede Order Scolopendropmorpha in North America. http://www.naturalsciences.org/research/inverts/centipedes/ (accessed on November 1, 2004).

"Centipedes. Chilopoda." BioKids. Critter Catalog. http://www.biokids.umich.edu/critters/information/Chilopoda.html (accessed on November 1, 2004).

"Chilopoda. Centipedes." Ecowatch. http://www.ento.csiro.au/Ecowatch/Insects_Invertebrates/Chilopoda.htm (accessed on November 1, 2004).

Myriapoda. http://www.myriapoda.org (accessed on November 18, 2004).

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over 9 years ago

I understand from what I have read that they are beneficial in that they eat the bad bugs. I only have them in one bedroom of my house and the more of them I squish and kill, the more that show up. They hang out there on the celiling just waiting for me to go to sleep so they can decend.

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about 10 years ago

I live in my basement and it seems that me and the centipedes that also live there have an unfriendly relationship. I have sprayed down my entire room and bathroom with Raid which seem to be the problem spots, but I didn't think of spraying my ceiling! I love killing centipedes, I'm not going to lie. I get bites from them sort of regularly and this is my question. Do they produce pheremones like bees do-when you kill one of them and it attracts them back to you? Because one night I was minding my own business sitting under my blacklight and one of them actually fell off my ceiling onto my head! I freaked out, pulled it off my hair (because it already got entangled into the strands) and flung it across the room. Could they have been attracted to the light or were they taking their revenge on me for killing their kind?

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about 9 years ago

I am afraid to get up in the morning because I fear that I will come across many house centipedes in my bathroom. They give me shivers just thinking about them. Is there anything you can do?!

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about 8 years ago

@ Samantha

No black lights do not attract them, they could be attracting other insects they enjoy eating though.

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over 7 years ago

This whole "centipedes are harmless" Isn't true because just about everyone that lives in my house has been bitten by one. and we found that if you don't squeeze the puss out immediately the bite becomes infected and begins to feel like a cyst but looks like a boile with a blackhead. so how would i go about getting rid of them?

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almost 8 years ago

I hate these creepy crawlies as they give me shiver. I hate the centipedes because it is hideous looking and once I was very and I mean very very very close to get a strong bite from a mature fiery large centipede. I was 3 or 4 years old that time and I was getting ready for school. I didnt feel anything wearing the socks at first until I put the shoes on and suddenly I felt something moving inside my left shoe. I took off my shoes fast but it was not inside it. It was inside my sock and I hurriedly took off the sock and then I saw it crawling on the floor. My aunt smashed it with something and it died. Since that day I hate all the things that crawls and bites. I have been a victim of a black bee bite at the age of 3.