How to Control & Prevent Centipedes

Centipedes are common throughout the U.S. with the house centipede being a common indoor invader.

The name centipede means “100 legs”, however, no centipede actually has 100 legs because all centipedes have an odd number of leg pairs. There are many different species of centipedes found throughout the United States.

A centipede on a wall

Many species are commonly found outdoors living in dark, damp spaces such as under logs and stones or in leaf litter. A few species, like the house centipede, may also be found inside the home. Learn to identify, control, and prevent centipedes inside your home.

What are centipedes?

Centipedes have flat, elongated bodies, and range in size from ⅙ inches to 6½ inches long or longer. While their name means "100 legs", centipedes can have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs depending on the species, with each segment containing one pair. Centipedes are found in several colors, but brown and reddish-orange are the most common color patterns.

The United States has a wide array of centipedes. The Cryptopid centipede is common along the west coast while the Florida blue centipede is an aggressive species found in the southern U.S. The North American, or giant desert centipede, common in the arid southwest, is likely the largest centipede in the U.S. and can reach up to 8 inches long. You'll find the bark centipede searching tree bark for its next meal throughout the central and eastern U.S. Perhaps the most common species of centipede in the United States is the house centipede. Unlike other centipedes, they are typically found indoors.

What are house centipedes?

House centipedes are usually 1 to 1½ inches long. They are greyish yellow with three dark stripes running the length of their back. Their body has 15 segments, each with a pair of long legs banded with white.

House centipedes are generally solitary, so infestations are rare. They can be found living in damp areas of the house, like basements, closets, and bathrooms. Sometimes they can even be found in tubs and sinks. During the warmer months, they may also be found in attics and crawl spaces. They are most active at night and hide during the day in floor drains or under cardboard boxes.

What do house centipedes eat?

House centipedes are active hunters and are constantly looking for prey. Many people would consider them beneficial to find inside homes because they kill the truly unwelcome pest insects. They will kill and eat silverfish, roaches, spiders, moths, flies, and even termites, in addition to other insects. Consequently, if you frequently find centipedes in your house, it may be a sign of a bigger pest problem.

How do I get rid of centipedes in my house?

Centipedes don't really leave any evidence that indicates they are in your home. Instead of building a nest, they find a new hiding place each day. You are most likely to accidentally find a house centipede resting on a wall, darting out from their hiding place, or trapped in a sink or tub.

To get rid of centipedes in your home, thoroughly clean damp areas of your house, like the basement, bathroom, or attic, and remove their hiding places. You can kill centipedes you find with Ortho® Home Defense Max® Indoor Insect Barrier with Extended Reach Comfort Wand®. The product can also be used to create a barrier of protection around door and window casings and along baseboards. To control centipedes hiding in tight places, use Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Cracks & Crevices. You can also simply vacuum up centipedes when you find them, then seal and dispose of the vacuum bag to keep them from escaping.

How do I prevent future centipede problems?

To help prevent future centipede problems inside your home, there are several things that you can do.

Reduce moisture.

Centipedes prefer moist, high-humidity environments to live. To eliminate these areas, repair water leaks, use dehumidifiers to keep basements dry, and run exhaust fans in bathrooms and attics to help eliminate excess moisture.

Remove clutter.

Centipedes will seek out spaces that provide protection. Reducing clutter in basements, crawlspaces, and attics will limit their ability to hide. Outside, move pile of leaves, grass clippings, and firewood away from the house.

Eliminate their food source.

Controlling other insects and spiders inside your house will also control centipedes since their diet consists of insects and spiders.

Seal entryways.

Seal holes, cracks, and gaps around the outside of your house to keep centipedes and other insect pests from getting inside. Repairing tears in screens and adding weather stripping to doors and windows also helps keep unwanted pests out.

Create a barrier.

Apply Ortho® Home Defense® Insect Killer for Indoor & Perimeter to door and window casings, along baseboards, and outdoors around the perimeter of your house to create a barrier that helps keep unwanted pests out.

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