Scolopendrid Centipede

Common Name - Scolopendrid Centipede

Category - Centipedes & Millipedes

ScientificName - Order Scolopendrida

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Arthropoda

Class - Chilopoda

Order - Scolopendrida

Family - Scolopendridae




Description - Long, flattened body; up to 23 pairs of legs; threadlike antennae with 17 – 30 segments; compound eyes with 4 facets; colors ranging from gray and brown to bright red and orange

Size - 20 mm – 100 mm long

Ecological Role - Adult and nymph scolopendrid centipedes are common in cool, moist habitats, especially in woodland areas under soil and rotten wood. These are fast-moving, active predators that hunt for crickets, earthworms, pillbugs, and other small creatures that live in dark, secluded areas. Like all centipedes, scolopendrid centipedes have venomous fangs (which are actually modified front legs) that they use to paralyze their prey upon capture. Scolopendrid 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 - There are several species of scolopendrid centipedes in Kentucky, but all of them are very similar in appearance and behavior, and can only be identified with the use of a microscope and a scientific key to species.

Although the scolopendrid centipedes found in Kentucky are usually less than 4 inches long, species in other parts of the world can grow to over a foot in length.Scolopendra heros is a giant centipede that lives in the Southwestern United States.

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





Habitat - Humid, dark environments, such as moist soil and under logs and rocks; some species found under loose bark on decaying trees.

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; some females will remain coiled around the eggs until hatching, occasionally grooming the eggs; upon hatching, nymphs are born with the full number of legs, and do not add legs with each molt (as with certain other centipedes, such as the house centipede)

Life Span

Life Stage


Seasonal Changes


Status - Abundant




What We Can Do - Although scolopendrid centipedes are venomous, they pose no significant threat to humans, and can actually help us by reducing the numbers of outdoor pests. Keep this in mind when deciding upon a pest control program for your urban landscape.


Diagnosis and Control

Interesting Facts

Contributed By - University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

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