The House Centipede: Get Rid of Them, or Let Them Be?

updated Aug 1, 2023
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If you have even a hint of arachnophobia or can’t stand cockroaches, there’s a good chance you won’t appreciate house centipedes either. If you’ve never come across one, trust us — you’ll know when you do. These common household pests are about an inch long, with enough long legs to make them look like giant hairy bugs. Even worse? They seem to run at 100 miles per hour as they skitter across floors, walls, and even ceilings.

If there’s any good news here, it’s that the house centipede is harmless — to people, anyway. Here, we’ll fill you in on everything you need to know about house centipedes, including how to get rid of them.

Quick Overview

House Centipedes: What to Know

  • The house centipede is the most common type of centipede found in the Eastern United States.
  • Their 15 sets of legs make them look extra creepy, but these bugs are harmless to people.
  • House centipedes love dark, humid areas, so to prevent them from settling in, it’s best to fix any leaks or other sources of moisture as soon as you see them.

What is a House Centipede?

The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is the most common type of centipede found in the Eastern United States. About an inch or two long with 15 (yes, you read that right) sets of legs, the house centipede is generally harmless to humans but can bite if disturbed.

House centipedes are active hunters, moving quickly to capture prey within your walls.

“Although house centipedes can be gross looking, they are actually quite beneficial to homeowners,” says Donnie Shelton, owner of Triangle Pest Control in Charlotte, North Carolina. 

“House centipedes are rather large and feed on unwelcome pests such as cockroaches, moths, ants, spiders, and even termites. These centipedes have a mild venom that they use to slow down their prey using their front two legs, and then once the venom has been administered, they jump on their prey and wrap them up with the rest of their legs,” Shelton says.

And that’s pretty much all they do (aside from scaring the bejeezus out of you). They don’t carry disease, or nibble on your wooden siding. They don’t even go after human food. Just bugs.

Where Do House Centipedes Come From?

Wondering what causes house centipedes to make camp in your home? Quite simply, dark and humid areas. “House centipedes make their way into your home as they are looking for these types of spaces with access to food such as cockroaches, spiders, ants or termites,” says Shelton.

In essence: House centipedes want to hang out where they can get both water and food (ie, other bugs) and will find their way indoor through cracks and crevices.

If you reduce the number of bugs in your home overall, you’ll reduce the likelihood of house centipedes.

“By putting down a perimeter pest control treatment, you’ll greatly reduce the number of other pests in and around your home, which will keep down the number of house centipedes as well,” Shelton says.

Do House Centipedes Bite — and Are They Dangerous? 

Although house centipedes are pretty innocuous, especially to humans, they can bite.

“House centipedes do produce their own venom which they use to kill various pests for prey. This venom is mild and is potent against insects, but doesn’t carry many effects on humans,” says Shelton.

“Although house centipedes are generally pretty skittish and will stay clear of humans, if they are cornered they can bite. Their bite is relatively powerful, and can feel similar to a fire ant bite. Generally though, house centipedes will do their best to stay far away from humans.”

Should You Kill a House Centipede?

These hunter bugs are basically all-natural pest control, and they’ll make a meal out of the types of bugs that can cause you big problems at home (think roaches, ants, and even termites).

If you’re not squeamish about these bugs, having them around won’t hurt your home — and might even help it. Of course, house centipedes want to have easy access to food, so consider centipede sightings to be a sign of other bugs lingering within your walls.

Can’t stand to have house centipedes in your home? The next best option is to catch them and release them outside, where they can continue to snack on bugs that might otherwise make their way indoors.

Of course, if that’s impossible (or intolerable), it’s OK to kill house centipedes when you see them.

How to Get Rid of House Centipedes

Aside from putting down a perimeter of pest control treatment, the best deterrents are to make conditions less ideal for house centipedes and to get rid of any means of entry into your home. Try any or all of the following methods if you’re wondering how to get rid of house centipedes. 

  • Eradicate their food source. If you’re wondering how to get rid of house centipedes, start by doing your best to get rid of any other household pests that they feed upon. Set up sticky traps for spiders, ants, and flies. 
  • Use a dehumidifier. House centipedes thrive in warm, moist areas. Running a dehumidifier can make the air in your space more dry, which isn’t as attractive to these creepy-crawlies.
  • Install a bathroom fan for showers. Same concept as above; this can reduce humidity, which is attractive to house centipedes.
  • Seal any cracks or crevices. Sealing the periphery of your home can cut down on a host of pests, including house centipedes. Don’t forget to add weatherstripping to doors and windows to seal up any gaps.
  • Clean up outside. Clear the perimeter around your home of leaves and other damp debris, which can provide a place for house centipedes to hide out.