fufailCentipedes belong to class of myriapods. The name centipede, which means “100 legs,” can be somewhat misleading: centipedes may have anywhere from 15 to 191 pairs of legs. Centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs. Centipedes are elongated, with flat, segmented bodies that contain a pair of legs for all but one segment. Adult centipedes are brown and measure over one inch in length.

The heads of centipedes have a pair of long and sensitive antennae.They have small mouths and have large, claw-like structures that contain a venom gland. Because most centipedes are carnivorous creatures that forage for food at night, they use their claws to paralyze their victims, such as worms, spiders and small vertebrates.

Adult centipedes hide in moist, dark and secluded areas during winter. They place eggs in dampened soil during summer or spring. As centipedes become adults, they grow a complete set of legs and extra segments. However, some centipedes are born complete. Most centipedes live for up to six years, but their development requires two to three years. Centipedes may enter houses and buildings, but they do not roam during daytime. They hide in damp areas around bathrooms, closets, basements and other sites typically infested by pests.

Diet: What Do Centipedes Eat?

Centipedes detect prey through the use of their antennae, which are covered with dense hairs. Their prey is immobilized by venom injected from the maxilliped fang and held in place by the maxillipeds. Prey is passed to the mouth via the first and second maxillae and is then broken down by the mandibles. Most centipedes are carnivorous and prey upon soft-bodied insects, spiders, worms and other arthropods, including other centipedes. However, Geophilomorph centipedes will consume plants if they are unable to locate other sources of food and larger species of centipedes may seek out small animals.

More Centipede Facts

Centipedes are fast moving, agile, nocturnal animals. They are rarely seen by humans due to their nocturnal activity and the speed with which they move. While some centipedes have compound eyes containing as many as 200 optical units, others do not have eyes. All centipedes have very poor eyesight and track their prey through the use of touch. Provided that they are able to escape from predators and that their surroundings are conducive to survival, centipedes can live as long as six years. Among arthropods, this lifespan is considered long. Centipedes are venomous. Their venom allows them to attack prey and defend themselves against predators and other natural enemies.

5-hydroxytryptamine has been found in most centipede venom and cytolisins, which can break down cell walls,is present in some centipede species found in North America. Centipede venom is not fatal to humans, although some individuals may be allergic to it and will experience more severe symptoms.

Centipedes in North America

Centipedes are found in a variety of North American environments, from harsh deserts to moist, deciduous forests. Centipedes in the United States are some of the largest of their kind. The sizeable Scolopendra hero, also known as the North American centipede and the Sonoran Desert centipede, can be found in arid wastelands. These centipedes are found within the United States and Northern Mexico, where they thrive under rocks and logs. There are three distinct subspecies of these centipedes in United States. The body of the Arizona centipede, or Scolopendra hero arizonensis, is tan in color with bright orange antennae and a black head and tail. The blue-tailed centipede is yellow in color, with blue or purple coloring at the end of the tail. The Scolopendra hero castaneiceps, or redheaded centipede, is tan or brown in color, with yellow legs and a bright red head. The Scolopocryptops sexspinosa, Scolopocryptops peregrinator, Scolopocryptops rubiginosa andScolopocryptops gracilisis are found under rocks and logs in gardens and woods across the United States. The stone centipede, or Lithobius forficatus,is commonly found beneath rocks.

Centipede Control Methods

Because centipedes feed on insects and other arthropods, eliminating their food sources is a step toward controlling centipedes. For this reason, it’s ideal to identify all other pests inside houses and buildings before performing any pest control. Some experts suggest not treating centipedes directly, as their populations will die off or migrate if their prey disappears. Although centipedes may help homeowners get rid of insects like cockroaches and houseflies, large species could produce bites that are as painful as bee stings. Some centipedes can run quickly when disturbed. When they are handled, centipedes may bite, causing severe pain, numbness, discoloration and inflammation. For common house centipedes, setting sticky traps can be a way to accurately gauge centipede population levels. This activity will also help to identify potential routes of access within your home. If an infestation is confirmed, homeowners should try to reduce moisture and seal entry routes to the house or dwelling. Moisture in a building’s foundation can be a problem and lead to an infestation, as can water accumulated from the roof. Keep leaves, wood, compost and other organic material away from the sides of the home or building. Consult your local pest control professional.


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