Creatures of the Night

The house centipede, ­­­­Scutigera coleoptrata, looks like a creature straight from a horror film. Its long legs and creepy fangs moving around your home as you sleep, but what is the house centipede really like?

House centipedes, along with all other centipedes belong to Class Chilopoda. They have one pair of legs per body segment, and their feet end in little claws/barbs to help them get a better grip on prey. House centipedes are designed to be voracious predators. They are beneficial to have around the home, but they do present some risk. Centipedes are able to bite and inject venom, which can lead to pain and irritation. House centipedes are usually not strong or large enough to bite, but it is not impossible. If you are bitten, unless you are allergic to the venom, it is equivalent to a mild bee sting.

These little creatures can be found worldwide running amuck in the night. As you sleep, house centipedes are busy eating insects and other arthropods, usually their size or smaller. They are actually protecting you from other unwanted guests.

House centipedes are quick little creatures. They can reach speeds of up to 1.3 feet per second. While that might not be quick for humans, that is extremely fast for an arthropod. Assuming the average house centipede is .004 feet tall, if we were to assume there is a linear connection between height and lateral speed, that would be equivalent to a 6-foot human moving around 2600 ft/sec (>1700mph)!

Don’t panic as you slowly drift to sleep tonight. Rest assured the house centipede has no interest in you. It is there to simply keep you safe from other insects or invaders that may venture your way. You can keep the house centipede and other invaders out of the home by cutting back on moisture sources, making sure lights are turned off at night, and making sure you have a pest control company to keep an established barrier in/around your home.

Author: G. Wyatt West–A University of Georgia Graduate of Entomology

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