Cautionary Creepy Crawly Facts: Are Centipedes Dangerous?

Oluniyi Akande
Feb 29, 2024 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Oct 25, 2021
A centipede on green leaf in garden.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.5 Min

Centipedes are small, crawling insects found in human houses, especially in basements.

Centipedes are pests that should be immediately removed. Let's find out more about their venomous bites.

Centipedes are many-legged creatures that crawl around damp places. They belong to the Phylum arthropoda and Chilopoda class. Their length typically lies in the range of 0.1-12 in (2.54-304.8 mm). Their large number of legs helps them to climb any surface. You may be surprised to find centipedes crawling up your cupboard with their many legs. House centipedes are attracted to moist and warm areas. They infest houses if they find large supplies of spiders and cockroaches to feed on. House centipedes are sometimes even seen crawling in people's beds. They are attracted to the warmth of the bed at night!

After reading about this arthropod, do check out more fun facts, such as are silverfish dangerous and are earwigs dangerous.

Are house centipedes dangerous?

House centipedes are commonly found in humans' houses. Centipedes are active at night and can be seen crawling across the floor. They are attracted to the warmth and darkness of corners, floorboards, and basements in houses. Houses which retain moisture are more susceptible to centipede infestation. All infestations are dangerous to the health of home dwellers, including pets. The intensity and effects of the infestation may vary depending on size.

House centipedes have venomous toxins in their bite. These poisonous toxins do not have a very strong effect on humans, but centipedes's prey, such as spiders, are highly affected. They inject the body of their prey with venom to kill them and feed on them later on. Centipede bites are dangerous. They can cause severe allergic reactions in humans. These dangerous bites can get quite nasty if not treated properly and on time. However, most humans are oblivious to centipede bites. If they haven't seen what bit them, they would never imagine it was a centipede. Cats try to chase centipedes around the house. Centipedes will not cause much harm to cats but, if your feline decides to eat it, that might be a serious hazard.

What's the difference between a millipede and a centipede?

Millipedes and centipedes look very alike at a glance. People commonly find it difficult to distinguish between a millipede and a centipede. Despite the obvious differences between the two, distinguishing between them can be difficult if you don't know what you're looking for. You need to keep a few important distinguishing characteristics in mind to be able to successfully distinguish between a millipede and a centipede.

Millipedes are shy insects. You will find that they coil up upon interaction with unknown surfaces. Centipedes, on the other hand, are aggressive. They will tend to bite the surface or run away very quickly. Millipedes are scavengers. You will never find them killing a living thing. They feed on decaying plant leaves and wood. In contrast, centipedes kill their own prey and feed on them. If you look at a centipede from the side, you will find that it has a flatter body, and you will notice that millipedes have a rounder body. The most important and very noticeable difference between these two is their legs. In centipedes, each segment of the body has a single pair of legs. In millipedes, each segment of the body has two pairs of legs.

Red centipede walking on the sand.

What does a centipede bite look like?

Centipede bites are very rarely seen in humans. The bites are venomous for their prey, but the effect on humans is mild. However, some humans have severe allergic reactions to their bites and can require instant treatment. Most commonly though, the effect of a centipede bite reduces in a few hours. Identifying a centipede bite can be a tricky task.

Centipede bites are definitely painful for humans. Some experience mild pain while others experience severe pain. People who do not have a centipede allergy are quite safe from centipede bites, but people who suffer from allergies might need to be hospitalized immediately. The skin around the bite will experience swelling and inflammation. The swelling of the skin usually lasts only for a few hours, and, in some rare cases, for a few days. The forcipules (the body part which centipedes use to bite or sting) make a V-shaped mark on the skin. The V is usually not complete, and it looks like two distinct red marks on the skin. Red swelling is a common occurrence with centipede bites.

What should you do if you've been bitten by a centipede?

When bitten by certain insects, proper care should be taken. The venom of centipedes is strong enough to kill their prey but it is not fatal to humans. Even if it is not fatal, it does not mean that you should just ignore it. Proper directions should be followed once you recognize that you have been bitten by a centipede.

Bug bites always cause at least a little discomfort. Poisonous creatures, such as centipedes, always leave behind a mark on the skin. Some people have an allergic reaction to their poisonous bite, whereas only a little bit of swelling and discomfort is observed in others. Those whose allergic reaction does not subside should be taken to the hospital. The bite itself is not life-threatening, but the symptoms of an allergy can cause serious health issues. Others can treat the centipede bite at home. Make sure you clean the bite instantly with soap and water. This will kill any bacteria that enters the bite. Apply a cold compress to the bite. Under no circumstances should you use a hot compress because that will just make the bite worse!

Different Types Of Centipedes

People usually think that all centipedes are the same. They are unaware of the fact that there are several different species of centipedes even around them. It is currently known that there are around 8,000 different species of centipedes in the world. Some of these centipedes are carnivorous and feed on other insects, while some are scavengers who feed on decaying matter.

Among the several different species of centipedes, the most common species is the Scutigera coleoptrata. This species is commonly known as house centipedes. They are found in houses, bathrooms, basements, and gardens near to houses. They do not live in the wild and prefer human settlements due to their warmth. Another species are stone centipedes. They are hardly detected in stones and rocks, which is their habitat. Soil centipedes behave very much like earthworms; they bury themselves in soil and only come out to find food. Aquatic centipedes, on the other hand, live in watery areas. They are also called waterfall centipedes due to their ability to swim in water, just like eels. Flying centipedes get their name due to the wing-like projections on their backs, although, in reality, they cannot fly.

How To Get Rid Of Centipedes

Centipedes are pests that are attracted to dark surroundings. To get rid of centipedes, strong action must be taken. These pests are resilient and do not move out as quickly as one would hope. Pest control is often necessary. Centipedes do not build a nest; they hide in different corners each day. A normal sweep will not get rid of them.

Pests, such as centipedes, bugs, bees, and ants, infest houses very frequently. You can call pest control services to get rid of these pests altogether. You can also take a few measures at home: try to keep your house free of moisture and dampness; get rid of the food source; seal all small corners and entryways into the house so that they do not have any space to come in; don't clutter up things for a long time as they will take shelter in dark corners.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion of are centipedes dangerous, then why not take a look at are iguanas dangerous, or centipede facts.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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