Pest Information - Centipedes

There are over 3,000 species of centipedes and some can grow to 12" in length. There are 3 species found in Hawaii but only one of medical importance; it can grow to 8" in length and its bite is dangerous to humans and pets. Learn about their Appearance, Habitat, Diet, Health Risks, and Reproduction.

Centipede

Poisonous Centipedes

Scientific Name

Scolopendra subspinipes

Appearance

The Poisonous Centipede has a brown head and a dark green body; the first segment is a lighter green than the rest of the body. The body is long and flat with 21 body segments. There is one pair of legs per body segment. The antennae of the centipede are long enough to be seen easily; the poisonous jaws are less visible, as they are located beneath the head. The jaws are composed of a venom gland, a venom duct, a venom-injecting curved, pointed jaw, and powerfully developed muscles. The hind legs, although prominent, are nonvenomous and are used for clasping prey. These centipedes shed their outer covering (cuticle) in order to grow.

Habitat

Juvenile and adult centipedes live alone and are most active at night. During the day they can be found in damp, dark places: under leaf litter, rocks and logs, and in soil crevices. When the weather is too wet or too dry or when residential construction disrupts their habitats, these pests seek other locations, including the insides of homes. Once inside a home they seek dark areas (inside shoes and clothing, under bedding, and in cracks and crevices), although they prefer areas with high humidity such as bathrooms, damp closets, and basements. The large centipede is not aggressive toward people and will bite only when disturbed or threatened.

Outdoor control of centipedes requires the elimination of damp habitats such as those created by rocks, logs and lumber lying on the ground, leaf litter, compost, stacked hollow tile blocks, ground covers, and abandoned automobile tires.

Diet

Babies will eat pinhead crickets or other small insects. Adults will consume almost any creature that is not larger that itself, including large crickets, cockroaches, flying insects, and even fuzzy mice.

Health Risks

The only damage caused by the Poisonous Centipede is to other insects or to humans and pets, and that is by their painful bite.

It attacks its prey with the last prehensorial legs, then curves its head quickly behind to implant its venomous jaws deeply and firmly into the prey. The prey is held by the centipedes other legs until it dies from the fast-acting venom.

When humans are bitten, two puncture wounds are evident, and reaction to the injected venom can range from slight swelling of the immediate area to massive swelling of the affected limb, both accompanied by intense pain. With the latter, medical attention should be sought.

Life Cycle

The male produces capsules containing mature sperm cells, which are deposited in a reservoir of the female during mating. The female then fertilizes her immature eggs and deposits them in a dark, protected area. She guards the eggs until they hatch. Immature stages of centipedes are known as juveniles and depending on the species, may undergo several growth stages (molts) before reaching the adult stage. Adults of this species have been reported to reach body lengths of 15 to 19 cm. Adults shed their skin once a year. Large centipedes reach adulthood in their third or fourth year and can live for more than 10 years.

Interesting Facts

Centipedes and millipedes are not actually insects or spiders. They belong to a specific class of animals called Myriapods.  Centipedes and millipedes are distant relatives of lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp.