How to Control (and Prevent) House Centipedes

House centipedes are a common pest that can invade homes and make their presence known by scurrying across walls and floors. While harmless, their appearance and speed can be startling. Understanding their behavior and implementing preventative measures can help control and reduce centipede populations in your home.

What Are House Centipedes?

House centipedes, also known as Scutigera coleoptrata, are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda. They have elongated, flattened bodies with 15 pairs of legs. Despite the name, house centipedes only have 30 legs rather than 100. They are yellowish-grey in color and have three stripes running along the top of their body.

Adults can reach lengths of 1-1 1/2 inches. House centipedes are nocturnal and prefer humid environments. During the day, they take refuge in cracks, crevices, and moist spots. At night, they emerge to hunt for food.

House centipedes feed on a variety of arthropods such as cockroaches, spiders, bed bugs, silverfish, and termites. This makes them beneficial predators, as they help suppress pest populations. However, their speed and appearance causes most homeowners to view them as unwelcome guests.

Where Do House Centipedes Come From?

House centipedes are native to the Mediterranean region but have spread to other parts of the world, including the Americas. They are now common in many regions with humid climates.

Outdoors, house centipedes live in moist microhabitats under leaf litter, stones, logs, or bark. They may enter structures in search of food, water, and shelter. Cracks or gaps around windows, doors, utility pipes, vents, and the foundation provide entry points for these pests. Once inside, centipedes take refuge in damp, humid places like basements, crawl spaces, bathrooms, and closets.

Centipede populations are higher during warm, humid months. Their numbers decline in winter when centipedes either die off or become less active and visible. However, they can persist year-round in suitable indoor environments.

Signs of a House Centipede Infestation

The most obvious sign of house centipedes is sightings of the arthropods themselves, especially at night when they are most active. Centipedes move very quickly, darting across floors and walls to find shelter. You may also find them in bathtubs and sinks.

Other indications of centipede activity include:

  • Molted exoskeletons – Centipedes periodically shed their outer layer or cuticle. The shed exoskeleton looks like a flattened, brownish shell.
  • Egg cases – Female centipedes lay egg cases that resemble small tufts of cotton. Each egg case can contain 25-60 eggs. They are often hidden in cracks or crevices.
  • Declining prey populations – With fewer cockroaches, spiders, silverfish, etc. due to centipede predation.
  • Pet harassment – House centipedes may bite cats or small dogs if threatened. Reactions are usually minor.

Dangers and Risks of House Centipedes

House centipedes pose little risk to humans. They are not venomous and rarely bite people unless severely threatened or provoked. The small forcipules house centipedes use to inject venom are not strong enough to easily break human skin.

On the rare occasion a house centipede does bite, it causes a reaction similar to a bee sting with pain, swelling, and redness. The bites are not medically significant except for the small risk of infection.

House centipedes prefer fleeing from humans and pets whenever possible. The main risks they pose are:

  • Minor property damage from their movements and hideouts.
  • Becoming a nuisance if populations are high.
  • Causing anxiety or phobias related to their appearance.

Otherwise, their presence indicates a robust food source of other arthropods in or around the home. While startling if they move rapidly across your floor, house centipedes are relatively harmless.

How to Prevent House Centipede Infestations

Preventing centipede encroachment involves denying them access, removing food sources, and maintaining unfavorable conditions indoors. Recommended prevention measures include:

  • Installing door sweeps, weatherstripping, mesh screens, and caulk to seal gaps around windows, doors, pipes, vents, etc. This blocks entry points into the home.
  • Reducing moisture sources by fixing plumbing leaks, increasing ventilation, and using dehumidifiers to maintain indoor humidity under 50%. Centipedes prefer humid environments.
  • Keeping basements and crawl spaces dry with proper grading and drainage around the foundation. Address moisture sources like leaks or condensation.
  • Trimming vegetation and debris away from the home’s exterior to eliminate pest hiding spots.
  • Removing leaf litter, wood piles, rocks, and other potential outdoor refuge sites near the home’s perimeter.
  • Identifying and eliminating other arthropod pests that serve as a food source, such as cockroaches, silverfish, spiders, and crickets. This deprives centipedes of sustenance.
  • Using desiccant dusts like diatomaceous earth around possible entry points indoors and in crawl spaces. The abrasive dust damages centipede cuticles.
  • Keeping pet food in sealed containers and cleaning up spills immediately. Open pet food attracts cockroaches and other prey.
  • Drying out damp areas susceptible to centipede populations like basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

A combination of exclusion tactics and moisture control provides the best defense against centipedes gaining a foothold in your home. Consult a pest management professional if infestations persist despite preventative efforts.

How to Get Rid of House Centipedes

If centipedes become established or persist indoors, population reduction tactics and targeted applications of insecticides are recommended.

Sanitation and Moisture Control

  • Begin by thoroughly cleaning infested rooms to remove centipede eggs and exoskeletons. Vacuum cracks, crevices, walls, and corners.
  • Reduce humidity levels below 50% using dehumidifiers, fans, and by improving ventilation.
  • Fix any plumbing leaks and address moisture issues in basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms, etc. Drying areas out forces centipedes to retreat outdoors.
  • Remove refuse like stacks of paper, piles of clothes, and clutter to eliminate hiding spots. Centipedes seek refuge in disarray.

Home Improvements and Exclusion

  • Install weatherstripping and door sweeps to close up gaps beneath exterior doors. Seal cracks and crevices around windows.
  • Caulk or seal openings around utility pipe penetrations, vents, electrical fixtures, cable lines, etc. Prevent outdoor centipedes from entering.
  • Move firewood, compost, lumber, and yard debris away from structure. Eliminate outdoor refuge areas.
  • Place screens over vents, drains, windows, and other potential access points. This further blocks entry.

Insecticide Applications

  • Apply diluted essential oils like peppermint, clove, or eucalyptus oil to centipede hiding spots. This can repel and kill individuals.
  • Use boric acid powder around entry points, under appliances, and in wall voids. Boric acid is a stomach poison when ingested.
  • Spray insecticides containing pyrethroids for quick knockdown. Products with deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, or lambda-cyhalothrin work well.
  • Arrange glue boards or double-sided tape along walls, under furniture, or by entryways to trap centipedes. Check boards regularly to remove pests.
  • Consult a pest control professional for whole-home treatments using targeted liquid sprays, dusts, or aerosol fogs if infestations are severe.

Regularly monitoring and using a combination of tactics helps suppress centipede populations. Be patient, as it often takes weeks for exclusion methods and insecticides to take full effect. Eliminating their food sources, shelter, and moisture access provides lasting control.

FAQs About House Centipedes

How do I get rid of house centipedes naturally?

The most effective natural remedies against house centipedes involve exclusion and moisture control. Seal cracks and openings to prevent entry. Use dehumidifiers and fans to maintain humidity under 50%. Apply desiccant dusts like diatomaceous earth in wall voids and around possible access points. Essential oils also act as natural repellents.

Will house centipedes go away on their own?

House centipedes may leave if conditions become unfavorable and they cannot find food. However, populations will persist if they have sufficient sources of food, water, and shelter. Taking away their access to indoor habitats through exclusion and humidity reduction will encourage centipedes to leave and not return.

What scent do house centipedes hate?

House centipedes dislike strong smells from essential oils. Peppermint, tea tree, citrus, eucalyptus, lavender, and clove oils make effective repellents. The strong aromatic compounds bother their sensitive antennae. Apply diluted oils to entry points or suspected refuge spots.

Do house centipedes carry diseases?

House centipedes pose very little disease risk to humans. They do not spread illnesses. In rare cases, a bite may get infected due to bacteria on their legs. Proper wound care prevents infection. Their presence helps suppress actual disease vectors like cockroaches, ticks, and mosquitoes.

How do I keep house centipedes away while sleeping?

Reduce nighttime encounters by placing cloth at door gaps, sealing cracks, setting out glue boards or double-sided tape, and spraying repellents before bed. Keep sheets and bedding away from walls and floors. A fan circulating air can also deter centipedes from crawling on beds. Maintain humidity under 50%.

Will specialist pest control get rid of house centipedes?

Yes, professional pest control companies have the products, equipment, and expertise to treat severe centipede infestations. Fumigation and whole-home treatments using targeted insecticide sprays and dusts can suppress populations. They can also provide advice on pest proofing. However, prevention and exclusion methods are still important for long-term control.


House centipedes can be unnerving pests, but they pose minimal risks to human health and homes. While their appearance causes alarm, centipedes do help reduce other household pests. Their presence alone does not indicate a serious problem, only suitable habitat conditions.

Exclusion, controlling moisture, and reducing clutter provides long-term prevention and control of centipedes without sole reliance on insecticides. Be sure to also eliminate alternate prey to avoid attracting centipedes hunting for food. Population numbers will naturally decline once you remove their access, shelter, humidity, and sustenance inside a home.

With diligence and persistence, centipedes can be managed and excluded from indoor living spaces. However, occasional sightings may still occur during warm, humid periods or due to nearby outdoor populations. Combined efforts using sanitation, home improvements, moisture reduction, and targeted chemical treatments provide the best defense against nuisance centipedes.