Centipede Scientific Name: Scolopendra

Centipede Facts

While not every genus of centipedes have exactly one hundred feet, there are plenty of interesting foot-related facts within this genus. Centipedes are best known for the origin of their name, which translates from Latin as, ‘hundred foot’. Numbers may vary anywhere from 20 sets to over 300 sets of legs (that’s a whopping 600 feet for those counting). These legs vary in length; the shortest are at the front of the body and the longest at the rear.

Centipedes come in a plethora of sizes, from a quarter of an inch to the whopping 39 inches of the largest recorded centipede. On average, these creatures typically measure closer to between two to ten inches and are a reddish-brown color.

Centipede Habitat

Centipedes are common in most gardens across America, Europe and Asia. Centipede sightings have even been reported in desert or drier regions, though they also typically thrive in wet, damp areas. Environments that have a thick, wet soil are ideal, as are piles of leaves or rocks, which provide the perfect hiding place for these insects. Areas that have high humidity may also see larger populations of the common house centipede.

Centipedes are predators and are uniquely adapted for agile hunting. They eat an incredible array of insects and small mammals. Larger species may be more ambitious, devouring small birds, bats, lizards and frogs. In spite of common misconceptions, these creatures do not eat plants or leaves.

Centipedes Life Cycle

Centipedes have an unusual reproductive ritual. They do not copulate. Instead, a male will deposit his seed, which the female will then gather and inseminate herself. Usually the male will leave a deposit for a female to find – rarely knowing who his mate will be. The female locates the seed by sensing the male’s pheromones.

The female centipede will lay her eggs in the spring and summer months as the weather warms. Typically laying her eggs in within soil, the female will produce anywhere between ten and forty eggs at a time. Newborn centipedes only start with 14 sets of legs.

Once the female has laid her eggs, she will cover them with leaves and lose debris to conceal them from the view of predators. Throughout the incubation stage, she may also lick her eggs to prevent the growth of fungus on the shells. In very rare cases, the offspring of Scolopendromorpha may eat their mother. This process is known as matriphagic.

The length of time required for centipedes to reach full maturity varies considerably between species, and may differ as much as six years. In certain species, mothers are nurturing, though this is not the norm for centipedes in general. Many mothers protect their eggs and young until they reach maturity, as these creatures are easy prey to predators prior to maturity. When eggs do not hatch or are abandoned, they can become a food source for fungi; which will aggressively devour the eggs.

Centipedes and Humans

Humans are most likely to come into contact with centipedes in the garden. They typically live in mulch, under rocks, and other damp areas. They may be beneficial to gardeners by providing pest control, and are sometimes studied in school by children as a science project.

Unknown to many curious children and adults, these tiny creatures can bite. If the centipede is large enough to pierce the skin, reactions can range from severe discomfort to anaphylactic shock. Allergic reactions are more common in those who are allergic to bees. The pain from a centipede bite is rarely reported as more severe than a bee sting, but may be more painful to smaller children.

Pest Control for Centipedes

Centipedes commonly enter homes in the fall or winter months or during times of cooler temperatures. They are typically found in basements and garages, both of which exhibit desirable environments for this creature. An increased population within the home may be attributed to one of two things: a readily available insect food source or, more commonly, increasingly humid conditions.

To eliminate centipede populations, the first step is to reduce humidity. Dehumidifiers can be purchased from a variety of stores and will pull the water out of the air, eliminating dampness and mold within the home. This will also help alleviate structural damage which may encourage other domestic pests.

You may more commonly find centipedes in greenhouses and outside structures. Insecticides may be used where significant numbers are found and usually provide sufficient pest control. They are available in both chemical and organic solutions. It is always important to follow the instructions on the label when applying insecticides within or around the home.

  • Find the location: Look behind plant posts or other gardening equipment regularly to ensure there are no signs of life.
  • Sanitize the area and remove the pests: These should be removed and the area thoroughly cleaned.
  • Prevent further infestations: Consider using a pesticide and monitoring the area regularly for signs of recurrence.

Also note, pesticides may or may not be labeled for specific use against centipedes on the label, but most will list them in the small print; so be sure to read the packaging carefully.

Professional extermination may be available locally, but it is usually not required.

Centipede Entomology

Centipede Scientific Name: Scolopendra

Centipedes belong to the chilopoda class and fit under the sub-phylum myriapoda. They join the rest of the animila kingdom and account for the majority of the arthropoda phylum. There are over 8,000 known species but only 3,000 are currently been categorized. Research is currently being conducted to establish the rest of this established genus.

Centipedes have a small, flat head, antennae and a pair of mandibles and maxillae. Mandible is a general word for mouthpiece, and maxillae is a technical word for an inner mouth. So these tiny creatures have four mouths, which are made up of two general mouthpieces, each with an inner mouth (which then has a set of teeth inside).