Image via flickr by A. Davey
Centipedes are skilled hunters that work to keep other pest populations in check. These resilient creatures can be found worldwide and vary significantly depending on the climate they have adapted to. A centipede’s aggressive nature brings them into conflict with people when they trespass inside homes.
Centipedes are poisonous and can inflict moderately severe pain when provoked into injecting their venom into human tissue. People aren’t their natural prey, but they will react in defense when necessary to protect themselves. This makes them quite a nuisance if you find that these feisty little creatures have infested your home.
Centipedes are classified as arthropods and are invertebrates that can live for more than five years in ideal conditions. The subphylum that centipedes belong to is Chilopoda, which includes somewhere around 3,300 different centipede species. This vast amount of species allows for diversity in size, color, and location.
Centipedes are carnivores and primarily hunt for their meals, but they have been known to scavenge from time to time. They will catch and eat insects, annelids, mollusks, spiders, and even other centipedes. Some of the larger centipede species that are located in tropical locales will consume small birds and frogs. When they capture their prey, they use their forcipules to inject venom and then wrap their bodies around the victim until the poison has taken hold.
A centipede’s venom has a paralyzing agent that renders their prey motionless as they consume them. Their first set of legs are forcipules, which are fangs that inject venom from a special gland; this is a unique trait that only centipedes have. They also have maxillipeds, or large poisonous claws, that work in tandem with their mouthparts when they eat. The last set of legs of a centipede aren’t used for moving; instead, they serve for sensory perception, defense, catching prey, or courtship.
When centipedes reproduce, it is not uncommon for the female to protect her eggs until they hatch. Female centipedes lay between 15 to 60 eggs and will guard them against insects and male centipedes. Aside from female centipedes caring for their young, they are typically solitary creatures and will fight when confronting one another.
Although centipedes are poisonous, some people do keep them as pets. They can be purchased from pet stores and are typically kept in a terrarium. Care should always be taken to ensure that a pet centipede is not capable of escaping their enclosure.
Centipedes are elongated arthropods that have segments with one pair of legs per section. They have a flattened body with long antennae and a varying amount of compounded eye pairs. A centipede’s head is made up of 6 segments and contains their mouthparts and a set of maxillipeds that are poisonous. Depending on the age and species of a centipede, it will have a different number of body segments, and two of those segments contain its genitalia.
Most centipedes grow to be 10 to 100 millimeters in length, but some larger species can grow to be 4 to 300 millimeters long. Although the word centipede translates to “100 legs,” these creatures never have 100 legs and can have significantly less or more. The number of a centipede’s leg pairs are always an odd number, and that number can range from 15 pairs to 191 pairs. The number of legs that centipedes have will change throughout their lives as they shed or molt their skin, gaining another segment with a new pair of legs each time.
Centipedes are just as varied in coloration as they are in species. Rusty red, dark brown, white, reddish-green, bright red and yellow only scratches the surface of the colors they can be. Some species are even multicolored, such as the giant red-headed centipede; this particular species has a black body, yellow legs, and a rusty-red head.
Antarctica is the only continent where centipedes don’t live. They have adapted to many different environments ranging from moderate to extreme climates. Centipedes thrive in tropical climates and have an array of different configurations and shapes. The majority of centipedes are well acclimated for living in leaf litter, in the soil, under tree bark, and beneath stones.
Most arthropods have a waxy covering that works to trap water and prevent dehydration, but centipedes do not have this luxury. They have to take refuge in damp and dark environments such as piles of leaves or wet, rotting wood. When seeking shelter in your home, they will typically live in humid basements or crawlspaces. They will enter your home, usually at night, to hunt for other pests that may be living in your home.
Centipedes are venomous and aggressive, making them a threat to people, notably children. When a centipede attacks and injects their venom into human tissue, it can cause bruising, skin damage, inflammation, and even gangrene if the wound isn’t correctly cared for; this makes centipedes one of the most unwanted types of pests to infest your home.
Some people will allow one or two centipedes to roam free in their home or garage to help control other pest populations such as spiders. Still, this choice comes with its inherent risks associated with the threat centipedes pose to humans. Sometimes they can even go unnoticed by homeowners since they are primarily nocturnal.
Preventing centipedes from infesting your property and home can be as simple as reducing the areas of moisture that come into contact with your home, or you may need to deal with more complex problems like humidity issues within your home. Not allowing mulch or other landscape materials to come into contact with your home and keeping shrubs and tree limbs from causing overshading can be of enormous benefit when it comes to keeping these pests out of your home. If you feel that you aren’t able to handle centipedes on your own, a professional pest control agency can be a lifesaver.
Centipedes are fascinating creatures but can pose a severe threat to your family and your pets if they have invaded your home. The best way to defend against centipedes is prevention, but in some cases, you may have to go on the offense, and this is where an expert can come in handy. Learning how to prevent centipedes from encroaching on your personal space can help you to protect your home, family, and pets.