Centipedes are arthropods, meaning that they are included in a class of invertebrates that include spiders, various insects, and an assortment of crustaceans, which is Chilopoda. While many refer to centipedes as “insects”, they actually are not. They have a closer relation to shrimp, lobsters, and crayfish – except that they dwell on land.


“Centipedes” translates in Latin to “one hundred legs”, but the truth of the matter is these creatures have an odd number of legs and do not possess exactly 100 legs.

Centipedes may possess as few as 20 legs to as many as 100.

Despite the variation in the number of legs, most do not favor an encounter with a centipede. This is especially true if the creature is found inside of the home. Continue reading to learn more about these fascinating creatures.

Centipede Drawing

Basic Description

The Chilopoda class that centipedes belong to include approximately 3,300 species. These creatures exist on every continent – apart from Antarctica. In warm, moist, tropical environments, they exhibit the greatest level of diversity.

  • The bodies of these creatures have six head segments. Three of these consist of mouthparts.
  • They have a pair of maxillipeds that are poisonous, trunk segments that include legs, and two body segments for genitalia.
  • The head includes two antennae and a large assortment of paired eyes – referred to as “ocelli”. Several species that live in caves are actually blind.
  • The segments that include legs have shields on the upper part and lower part. These are covered by a type of cuticle and each segment is separated by the next segment by a highly flexible membrane. During the growth process, the cuticle is shed.
  • The length of centipedes ranges from as little as .16 inches to as long as 12 inches. The average size ranges from .4 inches to a total of 4 inches. The total growth of the centipede is dependent upon the environment in which they live and their accessibility to sources of nutrition. Larger centipedes are found in areas that have higher temperatures and higher levels of moisture.
Type of Centipede

The Legs

While it is true that their name implies that they have one hundred legs, it is a true rarity for this to be true. In fact, most scientists have agreed and confirmed that these creatures never have 100 legs because they have an odd-numbered amount of legs and 50 is an even number.

The number of legs that a centipede has is dependent upon what species it is. Some may have only about 15 pairs of legs. Then, there are those that have way more than that – like nearly 200 pairs of legs. Centipedes will always have only one pair of legs on each segment of their body, never more.

It is possible for the number of legs that a centipede has to vary over the course of their lifetime. In most instances, these creatures are born with the same number of legs as their parents. In other instances, they may be born with a small amount and that amount increases as they grow into adulthood. In other cases, a centipede may protect themselves from predators by sacrificing their legs while under attack. The good news is, any sacrificed or damaged legs are – eventually – regenerated.

Preferred Environments

In most instances, arthropods possess a waxing coating on their body that aids in the prevention of water loss. Unfortunately, centipedes do not have this coating. This is why they opt to reside in environments that are dark and moist.

The most common regions where these creatures are found include areas underneath leaves, around wet wood, and similar locations.

Those centipedes that find themselves living in deserts and desert-like conditions go through the process of behavior modification so that they do not experience dehydration.

Carnivorous Nature

Centipedes are creatures that specialize in hunting. They most often opt for invertebrates such as mollusks, insects, and – in some instances – smaller centipedes. Those that are larger and reside in warmer environments have the capability of preying on frogs and even birds that are small.

When the centipede catches its prey, it will wrap itself around the creature and inject its venom into it. Once the effects of its venom take place, it will engage in the consumption process.

The first set of legs on a centipede are actually highly venomous fangs. They use these to inject venom contained in a gland to their prey. These are referred to as “forcipules”.

Once injected, the venom will – eventually – paralyze the prey. Additionally, the creature has poison claws that are just over its mouthparts. These also aid in the consumption process.

During the apprehension and injection process, most centipedes will use the very last pair of legs on their body.

Centipede inside

Are Centipedes Dangerous?

If left alone, most centipedes do not pose any danger to humans; however, they are an aggressive species that possess venom. Therefore, if threatened, they may prove to be potentially dangerous.

The bite of a centipede has the potential to result in damage to the skin, blisters, inflammation, bruising, and may even result in the development of gangrene.

Small centipedes may only result in a painful and localized reaction to a human. If the creature is large, the bite could cause immense levels of pain.

In most cases, a centipede bite is not considered to be deadly; however, it can result in many uncomfortable symptoms. The initial reaction occurs at and around where the bite occurred on the skin.

Immediately thereafter, many may find that they start to experience intense sweating, varying degrees of nausea, and may start to suffer from vomiting spells.

There have been cases where the lymph nodes throughout the body have become swollen after a centipede bite.

Additionally, severe reactions may include chills, the development of a fever, and body weakness. Individuals that have insect or general allergies could suffer from an allergic reaction that may include a rash and breathing problems.

Want to know even MORE about the centipede? Watch as Danielle from Animalogic describes the best of the creepiest centipede creatures.

The House Centipede

If you are reading this, it is quite likely that you have come in contact with a centipede in your home. In most instances, this is a “scutigera coleoptrata” or a “house centipede”.

House centipedes are not generally considered to be dangerous. In fact, they feed on pests such as bed bugs, spiders, termites, silverfish, and other insects that are known to invade the home.

When you stumble across the house centipede, it will most likely be in the attic, the basement, the kitchen, and the bathroom. This is because of their preference for dark, moist environments; however, they could move to other rooms of the home quickly.

Centipede Crawling

Centipede Behavior

For the most part, the house centipede is a nocturnal hunter. All of those well-developed eyes allow for keen eyesight – even in the darkest areas. They use these eyes and their antenna in order to seek out their prey.

They are capable of detecting smells, vibrations, and a wide array of other sensations that make them excellent hunters. In areas that experience harsh, outdoor conditions – such as ice and snow – the house centipede will find their way indoors in order to acquire warmth.

It is not likely that you will see too many house centipedes during the daytime hours because they are highly sensitive to the light. In fact, it is not uncommon for these creatures to find a nook or other obscure place to live out their life, never to be observed by those that live within the home.

These creatures do possess venom and could bite people, but they usually have no interest unless they are threatened, held, or handled.

To avoid complications, avoid picking the creatures up or handling them in any way.

How House Centipedes Enter the Home

House centipedes are extremely intelligent. When seeking a warm environment to live and searching for food sources, they will use every means necessary to find their way into the home. This includes going through cracks, under the doors, latching on to shoes and clothing of those that reside in the structure, and even entrances in the foundation of the home.

Due to their flat shape and small stature, it is important to understand that these creatures may enter the home through the smallest of cracks.

Getting Rid of Centipedes

In most instances, centipedes will enter the home as an individual; however, there are cases where an infestation will occur. You may use over-the-counter pesticides, but these are potentially harmful. It is best to opt for professional pest control services. As with any other pest, centipedes may prove to be a nuisance. They also have the potential to bite both humans and pets – especially during the night when they come out to search for their prey.

If you would like to quickly and inexpensively remove centipedes from your home, you may contact us here at All Pest Exterminating today. Simply call the following number for inquiries and/or to set up your appointment.