Centipede Control in Your Home or Business
Members of the class Chilopoda, closely related to the class Insecta, centipedes are known for having elongated bodies featuring several distinct segments and more than a dozen pairs of legs. The many legs of centipedes often lead people to refer to the distinctive creatures as “hundred-leggers”.
Like insects, centipedes are invertebrates and classified as arthropods (Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Arthropoda). Centipedes, however, make up an entirely different subcategory of arthropods and are merely relatives of insects.
Centipedes inhabit various geographical areas, from tropical rainforests and deserts to temperate zones like New England. The segmented arthropods, though harmless to food and other household items, sometimes create problems for homeowners and residents disturbed by the appearance and habits of centipedes.
Appearance & Identification
What Do Centipedes Look Like?
Varying according to species, the size of centipede bodies generally ranges from less than an inch to as much as six inches in length. The bodies of centipedes are flattened and elongated, with upwards of a dozen clearly defined segments. Each body segment supports a pair of legs.
Despite the popular nickname suggesting that centipedes boast at least 100 legs, most species actually only have about 30. The rear pair of legs points backwards, while a pair of long antennae extends from the head.
Centipedes range in color from yellowish to dark brown. Some species also feature rows of darker stripes that run lengthwise across the body.
Habits & Habitat
Most New England centipedes live outdoors in areas offering plenty of darkness and moisture. Piles of grass, leaves, mulch, and trash provide ideal living conditions for centipedes.
The arthropods are often found under logs and stones, as well. Only certain types regularly inhabit indoor areas, where the pests typically reside in damp places like basements and bathrooms.
Centipedes are largely nocturnal and emerge at night to hunt for food. When exposed to light or otherwise disturbed, centipedes usually flee and seek refuge in dark spaces.
The nocturnal creatures boast strong running abilities and, often to the shock of witnesses, are capable of reaching relatively high speeds. While running, centipedes have a tendency to stop suddenly and become completely still before starting again.
What Do Centipedes Eat?
As predatory animals, centipedes feed on other living creatures. Flies, cockroaches, insects, spiders, and other small arthropods form the bulk of the centipede diet. The jaws of centipedes contain modified fangs capable of injecting venom. Centipedes use their speed and venomous mouthparts to chase, catch, grasp, and paralyze prey for consumption.
Fully developed female centipedes generally lay eggs during the spring and summer months. The fertilized females often deposit the eggs in moist soil on the ground. After several days, larvae hatch from the eggs. Depending on the species, centipede larvae either resemble smaller versions of fully developed adults or grow additional body segments and legs until reaching adulthood.
House centipedes, common in New England, usually take about two or three years to complete development. They overwinter in damp, protected (warm) places. Some centipede species live as long as six years.
Problems Caused by Centipedes
Generally considered a nuisance at worst, a small centipede neither threatens the health nor damages the property of humans. However, the unsightly appearance of centipedes often causes fear or discomfort in homeowners unfamiliar with the many-legged arthropods. The sight of a fleeing centipede running erratically yet rapidly across the floor can also cause witnessing residents to become distressed.
Larger centipedes are capable of causing physical harm. The venomous bites of larger centipedes can penetrate human skin and cause swelling, pain, discoloration, and other symptoms similar to the ones produced by bee stings.
Signs of Infestation
Because centipedes tend to live in places already sheltered by existing materials, such as logs or stones, looking for evidence of nest construction is an ineffective way to identify an infestation problem. Likewise, centipedes are not known to leave behind visibly damaged food or home furnishings because the arthropods feed on live prey. Thus, actually witnessing the presence of a centipede in a dark and humid area of the home remains one of the only consistently reliable signs of an infestation.
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Removing attractive nesting sites ranks among the easiest ways to prevent centipedes from taking up residence in a particular area. Homeowners should keep piles of grass, leaves, and mulch from building up in the yard and also avoid letting firewood, logs, and similar items lay on the ground.
Inside the home, residents should try to dehumidify particularly damp areas of the house to eliminate the moist living environments that centipedes tend to prefer. The removal of household pest insects may also deter centipedes by eliminating sources of food. For best results in handling a centipede infestation, contact a New England pest control service to ensure a complete and successful resolution to the problem.