Mosquitoes flying around

How To Get Rid of Centipedes and Millipedes from Your Home

August 10, 2022

By Daniel Baldwin, BCE, CCFS, CP-FS

Centipedes and millipedes have those tell-tale legs and segmented bodies that can make them look very similar to each other. Their legs make them very quick and hard to catch as well. So, how can we tell the difference between these two insects? Learn more about centipedes and millipedes, if they are dangerous, and how to get them out of your home.

What Are Centipedes?

Centipedes are arthropods with many body segments, which allows them to move quickly. Each of their body segments has one pair of legs, except the first pair behind the head modified into claw-like poison jaws and the last two pairs, which are directed backward and often different in form.

Centipedes can range in length based on their particular type. Common house centipedes average 1 1⁄2 inches long, with up to 15 pairs of very long legs. The Scutigera coleoptrata is the most common type of centipede. 

Centipedes can bite with venomous claws located near the head; however, these bites are rarely dangerous to humans. Centipedes are not aggressive unless they feel threatened; in fact, they are actually beneficial as they rid your home of other insects.

What To Do if a Centipede Bites You

If a centipede does bite you, treat the affected area like any other bite. Clean it, then apply a cold compress as well as a calamine or anti-itch lotion of your choice. Centipede bites are rarely harmful to humans, but they have been known to create a significant health risk to people with allergies to other bug bites (such as bees and wasps). 

centipede on ground

What attracts centipedes in your house?

Centipedes will come into homes looking for food, water, and shelter. They like cool, dark hiding places, including floor drains, cinderblock walls, and boxes in basements or closets. Leaking plumbing fixtures like faucets and pipes provide easy water sources for these pests.

As predators, centipedes prefer homes that offer access to prey. Because of this, homes with spiders, moths, cockroaches, bed bugs, and other pests are more likely to attract centipedes. Dealing with other pest problems may also help address centipedes.

How do I keep centipedes out of my house?

To keep centipedes out of your house:

  • Repair leaks 
  • Keep your gutters and downspouts clean
  • Use exhaust fans to remove excess moisture from attics and bathrooms
  • Install a sump pump if your basement is damp
  • Fill in gaps, cracks, and crevices in your home’s foundation and structure
  • Reseal windows and doors as needed
  • Remove as much clutter as possible from basements, attics, closets, and outdoor living spaces
  • Opt for motion-controlled outdoor lighting to attract fewer pests that centipedes eat
  • Cover windows with screens to keep out pests
  • Clean your home and vacuum regularly for general pest control
  • Call a professional pest control company promptly if you find infestations of ants, bed bugs, and other pests

While it may not be possible to completely stop centipedes from getting inside, the above tips can reduce the risk of infestations.

What Are Millipedes?

Millipedes are very similar to centipedes in that they both share a long, segmented body (1–2 inches long) with multiple legs. The most common type of millipede is the Narceus Americanus, which is commonly found in forested areas. While centipedes are carnivores, killing and eating insects with their fatal venom, millipedes are detritivores, meaning they opt for decomposing plants.

What’s the difference between centipedes and millipedes?

One main difference between centipedes and millipedes is that millipedes feature two sets of legs per body segment. In effect, this means that millipedes often have at least twice the number of legs of centipedes. Some other tell-tale differences between these two insects include:

  • Millipedes sport a much more rounded shape while centipedes are flatter
  • Centipedes are more aggressive when threatened; they will bite to protect themselves if scared. Millipedes, on the other hand, curl up and pass some smelly gas as an attempt to scare you off. However, this gas can be toxic and could bring about health issues, so caution is still recommended, despite the humor of this unorthodox defense mechanism.
  • Centipedes move quickly, which allows them to attack their prey, while millipedes move a lot slower. A centipede’s faster leg motion is due to the way that they undulate their bodies in concert with their legs, which produces a more economic transportation method. Millipedes do not undulate their bodies, leaving their legs to do all the work. 

Both centipedes and millipedes can grow in size by molting as well as regrow lost or damaged limbs. That’s why their sizes and leg numbers can vary, depending on their recent activity. 

millipede curled up on the ground

Where Do Centipedes and Millipedes Live?

Both insects prefer damp habitats where they can be left mostly undisturbed. Inside, you’re more likely to find centipedes, as millipedes rarely venture into buildings

Both insects have similar predators—shrews, chickens, badgers, wasps, toads, and birds. Centipedes are tough and fight and sting their way through an attack whenever possible. While millipedes can’t sting, they do rely on their exoskeleton to protect their legs and body when curled up. They also emit that toxic gas when confronting a predator. 

bird holding a centipede in its mouth on a branch

Signs of a Centipede or Millipede Infestation

A clear sign of an infestation for either insect is actually seeing one or more of them scuttling around. Centipedes are nocturnal, so you may not notice them during the day. Centipedes come inside to find food (like silverfish, cockroaches, or other insects) as well as shelter during the colder months. They can fit through small cracks in your walls or foundation.

For millipedes, a common sign of infestation is decaying vegetation and high moisture areas along with visual proof of sightings. . They eat damp or decaying wood particles, decaying organic matter, plant material, and occasionally dead insects, earthworms, and snails. They may attack living plants during dry periods in order to obtain needed moisture. This means that they might be interested in items like firewood, cardboard boxes, or other sources of wood that may come into or near your home. Millipedes are also nocturnal, so you may not see them during the day. They do move in groups though, so you may catch them scrambling for cover when you turn on a light. Remember, millipedes are less common in structures, so it’s more likely to find a centipede infestation inside your home.

How To Get Rid of Centipedes and Millipedes

There are a couple of simple tricks you can try to get rid of centipedes and millipedes in your home (before calling a professional service). They include:

  • Keeping the house dry: By keeping your house free of leaks or pooling water, you may be able to keep them away from your house. You can also use dehumidifiers to keep your home dry.
  • Sealing all crevices: These creatures find their way to your house through cracks in the walls or the spaces around the windows and doors. Make sure all openings, however small, are sealed up.

It’s important to remember that centipedes and millipedes aren’t always bad; in fact, centipedes tend to act as natural pest control. However, if you find yourself with an infestation of either insect, it may be best to call a professional pest control company to help assess the situation and determine the best course of treatment for your home.

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