Known for their painful and venomous stings, centipedes are a prevalent home invader that everyone wants to get rid of. These insects are normally found hiding in dark, moist areas, with certain species being vilified by humans, but are these insects truly the hair-raising creatures we make them out to be? Detailed below is an in-depth and concentrated look at the centipede, which will help us to not only understand this specie, but to also determine whether these pests are as bad as we make them out to be.
What are centipedes?
As the name suggests, the centipede can be described as a 100 legged pest belonging to the class Chilopoda in the subgroup of arthropods. Despite the name however, there are also centipedes with just thirty or forty legs, while there are others with as much as three hundred (300), with three hundred and fifty four (354) being the highest number ever recorded. These creatures are normally highly venomous, and can cause intensely painful stings and bites, resulting in a number of side effects. There are over eight thousand (8.000) known species worldwide, with just about three thousand (3.000) characterized by humans. They can be easily found in tropical areas such as deserts and rainforests, as well as in colder areas such as the Arctic circle and beyond.
Most centipedes generally live outdoors, but there are times when they venture inside, and this can result in an infestation. They prefer dark and moist areas such as under leaves, stones and tree barks, that provide enough coverage and safety for them to live and house their eggs. They also make homes in the soil, as it provides them with enough flexibility and convenience to move as quickly as possible when it becomes nightfall. They generally turn indoors when their habitats are uprooted or destroyed, or when the environment is no longer a conducive habitat for them.
Centipedes are also characterized as nocturnal pests, as they’re normally more active in the night time, though a specific specie (the strigamia chinophila) is recorded to be mostly active in the daytime. This makes them hard to find for most people as they are normally up and about when humans should be asleep, or at least indoors, resulting in an easy infestation. They’re not picky pests, and have adopted a diet that allows them to survive in most environments despite a lack of prey. They tend to feed mostly on other small creatures and insects, and are not normally plant based pests.
There are certain species of centipedes that are more prevalent in the United States, Europe and some close tropical countries. The most known specie however, is the Scolopendra Gigantea, from the order Scolopendra. These centipedes are also known as “soil centipedes,” because of their ability to burrow and dig by adjusting their body to different habitats. This specie is also one of the largest in the order, with an average 11 inches in length. These species are also the most dangerous, as they can inflict multiple bites or stings in the time the average centipede would take to inflict one.
What do centipedes look like?
While their numerous paired legs are easily identifiable, centipedes have an interesting body structure that is normally easily bypassed due to the popularity of their legs. Observing their body structure helps you to understand how these pests work, which in turn will allow you to be better at dealing with them. Centipedes normally have long antennae attached to their structured head, followed by a long segmented body with jointed legs attached. Their bodies are divided into two sections, the head and the trunk. The head houses the sensory organs through the attached antennae, which guides the centipede’s direction through smell and touch. While there are some centipedes that have eyes that allow them to see (albeit very poorly), there are a lot of other species that have no eyes, and depend solely on their antennae for direction. The head of the centipede is the center of its venom, with the side of the head boasting strong and poisonous claws, which this pest uses to inflict pain on its victim.
Much like many other pests and insects, centipedes are lined with a tough exoskeleton for protection from various predators. Not only is this exoskeleton an external protector, but it also helps to protect the internal organs of the centipede from harm. Their segmented bodies are fairly simple, and are generally just made up of their lengthy body and paired legs, with each pair being attached to a different segment of the body. Centipedes can appear in many different colors ranging from green, white, red and dark brown, but the most popular and known species are generally of a rusty red color. They range in sizes from as small as 4 millimeters to 152 millimeters.
Do centipedes bite and what are the symptoms?
As stated above, centipedes are mainly known for their dangerous and venomous bites that can cause serious allergic reactions, and leave someone nursing very painful wounds for a few days. Scientifically though, a centipede bite is actually seen as a serious clinical wound due to its impact and results. When a centipede ‘bites’ someone, it pierces the skin with their thick forcipules, resulting in a chevron shaped print on the skin. It releases a venom that is highly poisonous, generally causing swelling and a lot of pain, as well as other symptoms. Fortunately, these bites are not fatal for humans, but can be really detrimental for children if they have an allergic reaction to the venom.
There are a variety of other symptoms that may accompany a centipede bite, that may only occur in a specific set of people. Some of the main symptoms are:
- Skin necrosis – Also referred to as warfarin necrosis, this describes a condition in which a section of the subcutaneous layer of the skin becomes inflamed and eventually dies, resulting in it becoming red, swollen and sensitive. This condition is not very common and normally only occurs in a very specific demographic of people. If someone is suffering from this condition after being bitten by a centipede, they should seek medical help immediately.
- Swollen and painful lymph nodes – The lymph nodes are one of the body’s ways of filtering toxins from the body and are crucial for wellbeing. Swollen lymph nodes limits the body’s ability to clean the system, and normally occur as a result of an infection, and on rare occasions, are an indication of cancer.
- Heart palpitations
Are centipedes dangerous?
The short answer is yes, centipedes can be dangerous insects that may cause a lot of pain if bitten. Apart from their venom however, centipedes do no harm other than crawl around. A centipede without their forcipules or venom would be easy to live with, as the fear of being bitten would be removed, but centipedes as we know them now are better left alone. It is important to note however, that a centipede cannot be dangerous to you unless you encounter it, so using preventative measures and tactics to ensure you don’t have these pests in your home may be your best option.
Perhaps the most dangerous specie of centipedes are the Scolopendra Gigantea, who are known to inflict several bites at once. This specie can be detrimental to a person who has an allergic reaction to the venom, as their body would be fighting to attack larger amounts of venom at once. This may be fatal for children that are allergic, as their bodies are not fully developed, leaving them to fight multiple times harder to get rid of the intruder.
Signs of a centipede infestation
If there’s one thing you should know about centipedes, it is that they hide well. This becomes a big problem when it comes to figuring out whether you have a centipede infestation or not, but there are a few telltale signs that these pests are present. Based on scientific research, an infestation of certain pests is accompanied by a distinct scent, and centipedes are no different. Detailed below are some of the most recognizable signs that you may have a centipede infestation.
- Other smaller insects are in your home – Centipedes generally feed on smaller insects such as ground beetles, earthworms, crickets, cockroaches and even spiders, so if these insects are present in or around your home, it is a possibility that you may be suffering from a centipede infestation. This is normally more prevalent for people with backyard gardens, or rose bushes, as the soil is the perfect habitat for centipedes to dwell. Observing an increase or decrease of these pests is critical when searching for signs, as this will be the major indication of whether or not you may have a centipede infestation.
- You see a centipede in your house – Though it is fairly normal not to see any centipedes even if you have an infestation, when you do encounter one, take it as a sign to go searching. Centipedes lead relatively simple lives, and are generally out of sight for many, but whenever you encounter one, this is an indication of an infestation inside, or a nest nearby outdoors. The best way to act in this case, is to identify where the problem is coming from, whether indoors or outdoors, and then take action.
- It is cold and your home is warm – A simple change in temperature can easily force centipedes inside the home. Centipedes prefer soft, warm and moist areas to allow them to be able to move quickly and flexibly, as well as to provide a safe space for them to lay their eggs. If outside has become uninhabitable, and your home is accessible and warm, centipedes will easily find their way inside, and find a good place to hide. There are also occasions when centipedes may leave their habitat and venture inside your home despite suitable weather or living conditions, but in this case, they are normally searching for suitable food or other determining factors.
Centipedes are not your average pest, which makes them a bit harder to figure out. While other insects and pests may have certain determining factors that are influenced by human activity, such as the presence of crumbs and food substances, centipedes are in no way affected by human behavior. This makes them a lot harder to understand, but also more likely to stay out of your home than any other insect.
Why you may have a centipede problem
Centipedes enjoy a number of things that humans may not even think twice about, but this may be the reason that you have a centipede problem. From smaller, more seemingly insignificant things such as household temperature, to larger more daunting things such as an abundance of different household pests, here are the top three reasons that you may have a centipede problem.
1. Your house is accessible
One of the major reasons you may have centipedes is because your house is easily accessible. This doesn’t pose just a centipede problem, but a pest problem in general, as other pests will soon venture inside. Because centipedes are nocturnal pests, it is unlikely that you will encounter them actually entering the home. This makes it harder for you to find the areas of the home that may leave openings for centipedes and other creatures to wander inside. The best way to tackle this problem is to search for openings in and around your home that pests may crawl through.
2. Your home environment is the ideal habitat
Both your indoor and outdoor environment can be perfect for housing centipedes and you may not even know it. Because they are nocturnal insects with a sensitivity to light, centipedes prefer areas that are dark with low or no light. They also prefer areas that are moist and soft, allowing them to run as quickly and easily as possible. Outdoors, this may include forests, wet and damp areas of the yard and even under a leafy tree. Indoors, they may be found in basements that are wet and humid, the bottom floor or even a closed off attic.
3. You don’t declutter regularly
Apart from the environmental habitats listed above, centipedes will actually infest your home if you fail to declutter on a regular basis. Because they prefer dark areas with little to no light, centipedes love clutter. This provides them a safe space to dwell in without fear of exposure to danger and predators. Clutter also gives them a feeding place where other pests may be easy targets, and provides a safe space for centipedes to house their eggs and raise their offspring.
How to get rid of centipedes
Getting rid of centipedes is a more complicated process than getting rid of most other pests. This is because they are very good at hiding, and are usually first spotted when the infestation is at peak level. It is very rare that multiple centipedes are seen around the home, but if you ever encounter many centipedes at once, call a pest control center as soon as possible. There are many ways to go about getting rid of centipedes permanently, and while it is often recommended that you employ professional pest control services, there are a few home remedies that may drive them out.
Home remedies for getting rid of centipedes
Home and natural remedies can be very effective to remove centipedes and other pests from your home if used correctly and efficiently. Listed below are the best and most reliable techniques that will get centipedes out of your home in no time.
1. Sprinkle Diatomaceous Earth in and around your home
This is one of the safest and most effective natural remedies to date, simply because it allows you to get rid of centipedes without necessarily coming face to face with them. Diatomaceous Earth or DE for short is a powdery substance made of fossilized algae particles that have accumulated over a number of years. It is a naturally occurring substance that when sprinkled, poisons the centipede by penetrating through its tough exoskeleton and suffocating all its internal organs. There are two main types of DE, Food Grade and Industrialized. As humans, Food Grade DE is ideal to use around the home as it is nontoxic to our bodies, although it is still advised to wear protective clothing when applying it. So feel free to sprinkle DE on areas that you believe centipedes have infested, or in areas where these pests enter and exit the home. This includes spaces such as window sills, holes in the flooring, underneath the doors and even in the attic.
2. Use a dehumidifier
Since centipedes determine their dwelling place based on how dark and moist their environment is, employing the services of a dehumidifier is your next best option. This will allow you to keep your home dry, resulting in a migration of the centipedes. When you do this however, ensure that there is no other place in your home that is an ideal space for the centipedes to dwell.
3. Remove all opening and exit points
The best way to get rid of centipedes is by not allowing them to enter in the first place. To prevent them from entering your home, you need to make sure that there are no possible openings that they (or any other pests for that matter) could crawl through. To do this, you must first inspect the home for any possible openings such as cracks in the walls or holes in the flooring, and seal these cracks and holes off. If the centipedes are already inside when you do this, it prevents more from coming in while you deal with the problem at hand. If they are more prevalent outside, it prevents them from ever venturing indoors.
Professional pest control
While employing home remedies to get rid of centipedes may be an easy and efficient way to solve the problem, sometimes you need to call the experts. Centipedes can be dangerous pests with their poisonous venom, so if you feel even the slightest bit worried about your ability to get rid of them, feel free to employ the services of professional pest controllers.
While centipedes are not as predictable as other pests, there are simple ways to prevent them from infesting your home. The general consensus shows that centipedes have not been as well researched as other pests, mostly due to the danger that surrounds them, but from what we do know, we can conclude a few simple facts that will allow us to understand their patterns of behavior. This in turn helps us learn how to keep them out for good.
Get rid of excess clutter
One of the best ways to prevent centipedes from entering your home is by getting rid of any excess clutter, or cleaning up items that have been improperly stored. Clutter is found in a majority of homes, and many of us ignorantly conclude that it is normal to have a bunch of stuff piled in the attic, or even in the garage, but what this does is provide a safe space for insects to dwell. Clutter is normally ideal for centipedes because it provides them with a dark, moist and safe area to dwell and lay their eggs, and before you know it, you have an infestation on your hands. In order to prevent centipedes from entering and staying in your home, get rid of all excess clutter, and ensure that those areas get adequate natural light.
Keep other insects and pests out
Another way to get centipedes to stay away is to also keep other insects and pests out. One of the major determinants for centipedes when choosing a new environment is food, as they cannot survive without it. If centipedes enter your home and are unable to find food (other smaller pests to prey on), they will quickly move on to an area where they can find food. This not only keeps the centipedes out, but it keeps a clean environment for you and your family to rest. If you have another pest problem, then you may also get a centipede problem, so get rid of all those little pests that want to stay in your kitchen, and you will remain centipede free.
Consider annual checkups
If you have done all that you can to prevent centipedes from entering your home and still have problems, then it won’t hurt to call the professionals. Employing an annual pest control company to check for any pests, whether inside or around your home, can go a long way in ensuring you stay centipede free, and by extension, pest free. Most pest control services will put mechanisms in place to reduce your likelihood of developing a pest problem, so don’t be afraid to get some help if you think you may need it.
Centipedes can be dangerous insects that may cause harm to us, so ensure that you apply all the right tactics to get rid of these pests once and for all, before the problem gets out of hand.