Although “centipede” means “100 legs,” different species of centipedes may have up to 354 legs. Additionally, centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs, so none of them have exactly 100.
Centipedes aren’t actually insects, either; they’re a type of creature called an arthropod. Of course, these bits of trivia might not feel important to know if you see one of these creepy critters skittering across your tile floor. You probably just want it gone.
What You Need to Know about Centipedes
Scientists have identified over 3,000 types of centipedes, and according to livescience.com, there may be as many as 8,000 types on earth. While they do use venom to catch their prey, most have fangs that are too small to pierce human skin, so you don’t need to worry too much about centipede bites. The Florida blue centipede in the southeastern U.S. is the exception, as its bite can cause a reaction like a bee sting.
Centipedes usually live in damp areas. Indoors, this may mean basements and closets or floor drains. Outdoors, you’ll often find them in logs and piles of leaf litter or under stones or wood. Some species of centipede can live a very long time—up to 10 years. Females will lay 15-60 eggs at a time, usually in the soil or rotten wood, but other than for the purposes of reproducing, centipedes don’t form nests that they return to each day.
As carnivores, centipedes are predators, and they may actually serve a beneficial purpose in or around your home in terms of pest control. For example, house centipedes may eat roaches, flies, silverfish, and even termites. Additionally, centipedes don’t live in colonies like ants or bees do, so spotting a single centipede is no reason to assume large numbers of them are lurking in the walls. However, many homeowners dislike having any insects or arthropods in the home and are keen to know how to get rid of centipedes.
How to Kill Centipedes
In order to completely get rid of centipedes, you’ll also want to eliminate the conditions that make a centipede infestation possible. Follow these simple steps to clear your home of these many-legged pests.
1. Remove or kill any centipedes currently in your home
Unlike swarming or nesting insects, centipedes are unlikely to infest your home in large numbers, so killing or otherwise eliminating individual adult centipedes is worth your time. If you’d prefer not to simply squish them with a shoe, you can buy sticky traps made for general insect use and place them near baseboards or in corners. If any small centipedes cross the traps, they will stick.
Additionally, you can always relocate them outside. Centipedes don’t move very quickly, so put a glass or jar over the centipede, slide a piece of thick paper over the rim, and take the creature outdoors. Remember, centipedes kill nuisance insects, so consider removing them from your home instead of killing them.
2. Create an insecticide barrier around your house
If centipedes keep getting in, you can use a natural or synthetic insecticide to create a barrier that the creatures will have to cross to get inside. There are chemical sprays and dusts that are approved for indoor use, but those will depend on your comfort level with any children or pets around the home. Synthetic pesticides containing pyrethoids will kill centipedes on contact.
Outdoors, natural pesticides like diatomaceous earth and boric acid can be sprinkled around, but make sure to do your research to find out whether they will negatively affect any plants located around your home. Many natural pesticides work by dehydrating anything they touch, and you don’t want to accidentally kill any flowers or shrubs.
For large or tricky centipede problems, consider hiring a pest control service. These professionals will not only help eliminate the existing problem; they’ll also help you with the next step to prevent centipedes from returning.
3. Eliminate conditions that invite centipedes
There are plenty of things you can do to make your home and yard less centipede-friendly.
- Use weatherstripping around doors and windows to keep centipedes from getting in. Caulk or expanding foam can also help plug any gaps or cracks around plumbing or wiring that serve as potential entrance points.
- Get rid of any other insect infestations that the centipedes might be feeding on.
- Reduce humidity or areas of excess moisture in your home. Mop up spills, use a dehumidifier, and fix any leaky plumbing.
- Remove piles of dead leaves or other organic debris from your lawn and store firewood and mulch away from the sides of your home.
- Remember that centipedes require damp conditions, so fix any areas of your home or yard with poor drainage.
Pesticide use to control centipedes is a temporary fix, so use these prevention methods to make your home a less appealing place for centipedes to live.
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