Many species of centipedes are native animals in North America.


The most common centipedes found around structures are fast-running predators of other arthropods, such as insects, as well as earthworms and snails. They generally are nocturnal, hiding under boards, rocks, or vegetation on the soil during the daytime, and seen only when they are disturbed and uncovered. Centipedes do have the ability to inject venom through the pair of appendages directly behind the head, called maxillipeds. The North American species are relatively harmless to humans, while species in tropical Latin America may cause a serious reaction. At least one large western species also can cause severe pain with its bite. Some species may live up to 6 years. Females lay their eggs one at a time, usually burying it under a shallow layer of soil to protect it from being eaten, possibly even by the males.


Centipedes are very long and narrow, and flattened from top to bottom. There may be a great many pairs of legs, but they will have a single pair on each segment of the body, separating them from the millipedes. Color is usually dark reddish brown, although some kinds have a bluish-green tint on a tan background. They have a pair of very long antennae and the last pair of legs is often much longer than the ones before it and they project backward.

Characteristics Important in Control:

Control consists of habitat modification and possibly pesticide applications. Elimination of the debris and objects on the soil that provides harborage sites will reduce populations, along with the control of insects and other small animals that centipedes feed on. These are highly beneficial arthropods, and they should be encouraged in landscape whenever they are not invading the structure.