House centipedes are insects with a unique look that many people find extremely creepy. Seeing them skittering around your home is not a pleasant sight to say the least!
But are they dangerous? Do they bite? This guide will answer all your questions.
Table of contents
Are House Centipedes Dangerous?
House centipedes are one of the creepiest insects you can encounter! Their worm-like appearance is made even more unsettling with about 15 pairs of undulating legs! To top it all off, these insects are fast movers that can quickly duck out of sight just as fast as they appeared.
There’s no shame in finding these insects a bit spooky. However, there’s no need to panic at the sight of them!
Contrary to popular belief, the average house centipede is not dangerous to humans.
Quick Tip: Many people mistake these bugs for their larger cousins, which can actually pose a threat to humans. But the common house centipede, scientifically known as Scutigera coleoptrata, is not dangerous to humans or pets.
Do House Centipedes Bite?
Now, just because the house centipede isn’t dangerous to humans, that doesn’t mean that you should pick them up or try to interact with them! House centipedes can bite you, but those instances are pretty rare.
A house centipede has no interest in you whatsoever. That’s why they quickly flee anytime you make yourself known!
These creepy crawlies prefer to snack on other insects. Believe it or not, but the house centipede is a skilled predator. They eat everything from larger cockroaches, spiders, and wasps to smaller ants and termites! They’re even a predator of bed bugs.
While most shudder at the thought of having them in the home, centipedes act actually as tiny exterminators to get rid of other pests!
These centipedes are built for hunting. They have about 15 pairs of legs that help them scurry across the floor at a rate of about 1.3 feet per second. That’s far faster than most household bugs.
Not only that, but those legs can also help capture prey. House centipedes are active predators. They don’t build traps or produce webs of any kind. Instead, they lurk around in the dead of night and search for insects they can ambush.
When they find one, they’ll use their legs to pounce and trap the bug. Some even beat the prey bugs into submission.
Once they have their meal lassoed tight, they can use their pincers to bite and consume the prey. It’s a pretty fascinating (and gruesome) process. However, seeing it happen in real-time is rare due to the nocturnal nature of the insect.
Quick Tip: If you see house centipedes in your home, take it as a sign that there are other pests lurking in the shadows. These bugs are initially attracted to the living conditions of your home. They may enter during the autumn season to find solace and protection from dropping temperatures.
Centipedes are particularly attracted to warm and humid environments. So, if you have a damp basement or live in a generally high-humidity climate, don’t be surprised to come across these creatures at some point.
Human centipedes are capable of completing their entire life cycle indoors, but they can only do that if they have food to hunt and eat! Bug-free homes aren’t going to attract centipedes over the long run.
So, use their presence as an indicator of other potential infestations happening under your nose! You might be dealing with termites, roaches, or a host of other household pests. These bugs wouldn’t be around if they didn’t have the means to survive.
If you are unlucky enough to encounter a house centipede, don’t mess with it too much. Remember, these bugs aren’t interested in you. The moment you make your presence known, the centipede will likely make a break for it faster than you can even identify it!
But whatever you do, don’t attempt to pick it up. Bites are rare, but they can happen if you coax the insect. Usually, bites occur when people try to pick them up with bare hands.
Be careful trying to trap the centipede, too. They can use those agile legs to crawl up the container and onto your arm to take a bite!
It’s a defense mechanism that the centipede is more than willing to use if need be. Thankfully, house centipede bites aren’t too much of a problem in terms of pain.
What Happens If You Get Bit By One?
The results of getting bit by a house centipede will vary from one person to the next.
Usually, the worst thing that will happen is a bit of swelling and mild, localized pain. The area around the bite may turn into a small red bump while you feed a subtle burning pain under the skin. Overall, it’s not intolerable.
The redness and discomfort will last around 48 hours or so, which is why no one considers house centipedes to be dangerous. After that, the redness will subside while the pain dissipates. You may be able to speed up the healing process a bit with some topical medications as well.
Now, other centipede species are known to cause some pretty significant pain after a bite! Giant centipedes have a reputation for sending people to the hospital. Thankfully, that’s not the case with the standard house centipedes you see scurrying around in the dark.
Quick Tip: For some perspective, most people say that a house centipede bite is less painful than a bee sting.
Those who are particularly sensitive might experience worse symptoms. Allergy sufferers may have to seek medical attention if a severe reaction occurs. There is another element to the bite that can cause irritation in those with sensitivities—more on that in a second.
Infections can occur as well if you don’t take care of the bite sight. It’s a good idea to clean the area and apply some antibacterial ointments to prevent any issues.
That said, the vast majority of people will not experience anything more than some mild discomfort and slight swelling.
Are House Centipedes Venomous?
Yes, house centipedes are venomous.
They can deliver an intense sting to prey insects. In fact, the venom causes more trouble to prey bugs than the initial bite.
Quick Tip: The venom is delivered through two modified legs. They’re located just behind the head and mouth. As a result, the insect can inject its toxins into prey immediately after entangling them in their legs.
For smaller insects like silverfish (here’s a guide on the difference) and termites, the venom is super potent. It can kill bugs in only a few minutes, giving the centipede plenty of freedom to eat it without much struggle.
Larger bugs can get knocked out by the toxins as well. House centipedes are some of the most intelligent insect predators around. You can sometimes observe them taking a more strategic approach to kill sizable opponents.
Spiders, wasps, and other insects with defensive tools can easily take the centipede out. So, they adopt stealthier hunting techniques. They may sneak up on the bug from behind so that the target has fewer opportunities to fight back.
The centipede catches them by surprise and quickly injects its venom to incapacitate them. While the centipede’s bite is more than enough to subdue most prey, the toxins make them an apex predator in the insect world.
So, how does the centipede’s venom affect humans? You’ll be glad to know that it doesn’t have much of an effect at all. While lethal to insects, the venom is nothing more than an irritant to us. Small pets won’t experience ill effects either.
The toxins are responsible for the inflammation and mild burning sensation we discussed earlier. Once again, those who are more sensitive to insect allergens might experience more irritation than most. So, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if you experience an infection or serious reaction.
Are House Centipedes Poisonous?
Technically speaking, house centipedes are venomous, not poisonous.
You’ll often hear people use “venomous” and “poisonous” interchangeably to describe insects and animals. While they both refer to the presence of toxins, they’re two very different descriptors!
When an insect is venomous, it means that it has the ability to deposit toxins into the bloodstream. Whether it’s used for hunting or self-defense, the insect will use the venom intentionally. Think of the house centipede using its venom-filled legs to subdue prey.
If an insect is poisonous, it unloads toxins after it’s eaten. It can’t use its toxins to kill prey directly. But, it can provide the last comeuppance to a predator that thinks it has won!
Therein lies the big difference.
To be affected by a poisonous insect, you have to eat it. Meanwhile, venomous insects will inject their poison into the bloodstream.
Quick Tip: Many mix the words up, but you can distinguish the two by thinking about how the toxins are delivered. One is intentional while the other isn’t. Think of it this way: a piece of fruit can be poisonous, but it can’t be venomous!
The house centipede is a venomous insect that uses its toxins for both self-defense and hunting. If another animal (such as your dog or cat) were to eat the centipede, they wouldn’t experience any issues beyond the sting.
House centipedes aren’t dangerous, even though they can bite. With that being said, you should always exercise some element of caution when picking them up.
There’s no point in getting bit if you can help it!