Centipedes are predators of insects and spiders. They are usually active at night. During the day, centipedes hide in dark, quiet areas. They prefer damp, humid areas, so it is common to find them in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and basements. People also find centipedes in closets and cabinets.
Centipedes do not have fangs like spiders have. Centipedes have specially adapted front legs that function as claws. These claws have ducts inside that lead to venom glands. The centipede uses these claws to deliver venom to paralyze its prey.
Many people encounter centipedes accidentally. Centipedes often hide inside of clothing or stored items. They bite when the item is picked up or moved. The centipede probably reacts defensively when a person’s hand comes within reach.
The common house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata, is normally about 10.5″ long. It is found in almost all parts of the United States. Scientists believe that because this centipede has very weak jaws, it would have difficulty breaking the skin of most people. However, there are reports of bites caused by this centipede. These bites resulted in redness and swelling.
The large tropical centipedes are members of the genus Scolopendra. These centipedes can grow to 8″ in length. They can inflict a painful bite. The bites result in inflammation, redness, and swelling. These symptoms usually disappear in a few hours.
There have been cases of bites from the large centipedes that resulted in swelling and tenderness that lasted for several weeks. Some of these bites were slow to heal and were accompanied by discharges and sores.
Scientists suggest that the centipede bite is no more dangerous than a bee or wasp sting. However, there are people who are very sensitive to bee and wasp stings and they react very seriously. Sensitive people can react with headache, itching, dizziness, nausea, or changes in blood pressure. While a centipede bite will probably not be life threatening for most people, it should not be taken lightly.
A person who receives a centipede bite should wash the site. An antiseptic should be applied if the bite broke the skin. Ice or cold compresses can help reduce the swelling and ease the pain. (Alternate ice applications –10 minutes on followed by 10 minutes off) The victim should be observed closely. If symptoms of allergic reaction appear, seek medical attention.