Centipedes are predators. They eat insects and spiders that they find at night. Centipedes paralyze their prey with their poison jaws.
Outdoors centipedes live under logs and woodpiles. They also live under mulch in flowerbeds. They usually stay hidden during the day. They are active at night.
The house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata (L.), is found in almost every part of the United States. These centipedes have very long legs and antennae. Adults reach 10.5″ in length. House centipedes are commonly found in homes in all seasons of the year.
The tropical centipedes occasionally invade homes. In many parts of the United States, these centipedes reach 3″ in length. Some centipede species that live in the western and southwestern states can reach 8″ in length. These sometimes invade homes and other buildings.
When centipedes move indoors, they usually seek areas that are damp or humid. They seem to prefer basements, crawl spaces, bathroom, laundry rooms, and closets. They hide in dark corners or inside of stored items.
Centipedes in a home may be evidence of an insect problem. They may be feeding on insects that dwell in damp areas. Silverfish, springtails, and psocids are common insects in humid areas. If these are present, centipedes may have followed.
Centipedes indoors may also be evidence of structural issues. Centipedes may have found cracks or gaps in the foundation. They could easily enter under door thresholds or through weep holes. Crawl space access doors and basement windows are also common entryways.
Controlling a centipede infestation starts with an inspection. It is important to eliminate their food and their entrances.
Outdoors, rake mulch and dead leaves away from the foundation. A 12″ clear zone will keep insects and centipedes from nesting next to the house. Stack firewood up on a rack and move it as far away from the house as possible.
Make sure exterior doors close tightly and replace missing weather-stripping. Repair damaged screen in crawl space vents. Small squares of plastic screen can block centipedes and insects from getting into the home through weep holes.
An insecticide barrier on the foundation is another tool for preventing centipede infestation. Because of rain and weather, the insecticide will have to be re-applied periodically. Many people prefer to have pest control professionals make these applications.