House Centipede

Common Name - House Centipede

Category - Centipedes & Millipedes

ScientificName - Scutigera coleoptera

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class - Chilopoda

Order - Scutigeramorpha

Family - Scutigeridae

Genus - Scutigera

Species - coleoptera


Description - Elongated body; up to 15 pairs of long, thin legs (older centipedes have more legs); long, threadlike antennae; compound eyes; translucent gray appearance with dark stripes on body and legs

Size - 0.2 - 1.2 in. (5 mm-30 mm) long

Ecological Role - Adult and nymph house centipedes are very common in homes, caves, natural crevices, and other cool, moist habitats. These fast-moving centipedes are active predators that hunt for crickets, spiders, pillbugs, and other small creatures that live in dark, secluded areas. Like all centipedes, house centipedes have venomous fangs (actually modified front legs) that they use to paralyze their prey upon capture. House centipedes are sometimes eaten by larger arthropod predators, such as wolf spiders and other centipedes, and also by insectivorous mammals, such as the short-tailed shrew.

Fun Facts - Most centipede species are flattened, slow-moving predators that live in soil or under bark. The house centipede, though, is one of the fastest arthropods around, using its speed and agility to capture crickets, cockroaches, and other fast-moving creatures.

Because of its speed, the house centipede is often alarming to homeowners. The house centipede does have a small amount of venom, but bites are very rare and not severe except to highly allergic individuals.

It is believed that the house centipede originated in the southern part of North America, but has gradually moved north where climate-controlled buildings allow it to live and reproduce year-round.

House centipedes are sometimes called "hairy Marys" because their long legs look like strands of hair.

Food - Small terrestrial arthropods, including crickets, cockroaches, spiders, millipedes, and pillbugs





Habitat - Indoors in dark, cool, moist areas; also found in caves, cliff crevices, and similar habitats

Kentucky Distribution - Statewide

Life Cycle - Three developmental stages: egg, nymph, and adult (simple, or incomplete, metamorphosis); females lay eggs in soil or other protected habitats; upon hatching, nymphs have 4 pairs of legs and increase the number of legs with each molt, until reaching adulthood in 2 -3 years with 15 pairs of legs

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes


Status - Abundant




What We Can Do - Although house centipedes are often encountered in homes, they pose no significant threat to humans, and can actually help us by reducing the numbers of cockroaches and other pests. Keep this in mind when deciding upon a pest control program for your home.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

Contributed By - University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

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