“Centipede” isn’t just a weirdly addictive Atari video game from the 1980s. For many homeowners, the actual presence of these creepy-crawlies indoors is no fun and games.
The invertebrates are commonly about 2 inches long and have—count ’em—15 pairs of legs. It’s no surprise that, with all those tiny limbs, they can hustle across your floor like nobody’s business.
“For centipedes, speed is their best hunting tool,” says Stew Clark, director of research at Terro, an ant and insect control company. “When they sense prey, these nocturnal hunters move quickly to attack.”
Still, if you happen to stumble across a centipede in your home, you might want to think twice before removing your shoe to squash the bugger. There are some things homeowners should know about these insects. Let’s scurry through the facts, shall we?
Centipedes aren’t like other pests. They won’t eat your clothes, furniture, or wood. They don’t create nests or webs. They’re also nocturnal, so you’ll rarely see them.
“While they may look like strange, wiggling mustaches on your floor, they don’t pose a serious hazard to people, and it isn’t bad that they are inside,” says Jonathan L. Larson, an extension entomologist at the University of Kentucky.
Also worth noting: They’re not remotely interested in you and prefer to be left alone to do their thing.
Clay Kirby, an entomologist and insect diagnostician with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, says cases of people being bit by house centipedes are rare and seldom serious.
They’re your free organic pesticide
“Centipedes are predators, so they are on the hunt for other arthropods in the home,” says Larson. “Some might even say they are biological control for real pests—they might be controlling other critters in your home you would rather not deal with such as cockroaches and silverfish.”
Their presence could indicate a larger pest problem
House centipedes will stay around if they have ample food supply. And their preferred plat du jour? Other pests in your home.
“Centipedes are insectivores, dining on small bugs and spiders,” says Clark. “One of the best ways to control them is to eliminate food sources. Keeping your home insect-free will send centipedes searching for food elsewhere.”
Therefore, a constant presence of centipedes could indicate that your home has a pest problem you need to address.
They like moisture
To eliminate their presence in your home, experts say to keep moisture to a minimum. Keep an eye out for any leaky pipes or appliances that use water that need to be repaired.
“The weakness of centipedes is that they lack the protective waxy coating other bugs have, which helps to maintain moisture. That means that they are prone to dehydration, and must stay in moist environments to survive. Dry conditions dehydrate and kill them,” says Clark.
Using a dehumidifier to dry out moist areas can rid centipedes from your home. Also, be sure to run a bathroom fan after showers.
They provide exterminator duties outside, too
Clark says a house centipede can live its entire life indoors. If the sight of them gives you the heebie-jeebies, then catch and release them outside. They’ll put their exterminator hat on and get to work outside your home, too.
“Since they eat many pest species of insects, like cockroaches, centipedes are actually very beneficial. We just want to make sure they stay outside where they can do the most good,” says Chelle Hartzer, board-certified entomologist and technical services manager for Orkin.
They’ll come knocking if conditions are right
To keep centipedes out of your home, caulk all cracks in doors and windows. Clear any leaves, wood, and debris from around your home, especially if it’s damp.
“Pest-proofing involves checking weatherstripping of doors, making sure screens are secure and do not have holes, checking entry points for pipes to make sure there aren’t gaps in caulking, and checking vents/attics for entry points,” says Larson.
He says putting out glue board traps near the walls of the base level of the home can help, too.
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