With the possible exception of the most passionate entomologists and perhaps a few bug-nerds, spotting an arthropod pest within a home is never exciting. Unfortunately, one of the most common indoor arthropod invaders in the United States is an exceptionally ugly species known as Scutigera coleoptrata, or the “house centipede,” as the species is more commonly known.
Many people refer to centipedes as insects, but the creatures are more closely related to crayfish, shrimp and lobsters. Centipedes belong to the arthropod order, which includes spiders, insects, scorpions, and crustaceans, but centipedes belong to the class known as myriapod. Centipedes are relatively understudied arthropods, and the United States may contain multiple species that have not yet been described by researchers.
While centipedes are not often encountered by humans due to their natural outdoor habitat where they dwell beneath rocks and leaf-litter, the house centipede happens to be an exception. Unlike all other documented centipede species in the US, house centipedes have no problem surviving indoors, as the species is capable of living out its entire life-cycle within homes and buildings. In fact, house centipedes may prefer indoor habitats, as homes and buildings contain more than enough insect prey to keep the pests well fed.
The house centipede can locate indoor insect prey easily, as the species is one of the fastest crawlers in the arthropod community, which makes these pests difficult to squish once they are spotted indoors. Many homeowners have had the displeasure of encountering house centipedes within their home, and it is rare for a person to catch up to a specimen before it rapidly escapes beneath furniture or into a wall crevice. In these situations, residents are forced to accept a house centipede as their new unwanted roommate.
While house centipedes can be found in every state in the US, the creatures are particularly abundant in the southeast, as this species must secure humid living conditions in order to survive, and this explains why they are frequently spotted within bathtubs, basements and below kitchen sinks. It is not uncommon for house centipedes to infest homes in large numbers, and these infestations are not eliminated easily. When serious infestations occur, pest control professionals can apply insecticide around the foundation of an affected home. Insecticide treatments only provide temporary protection from house centipede invasions, and heavy infestations often indicate that a home has a moisture-retention issue, which can arise from something like a plumbing leak, or frequent bouts of rain. Luckily, heavy infestations are unlikely to last when they are found indoors following rainstorms.
Have you ever encountered multiple house centipedes within your home?