Centipedes are elongated, flattened arthropods with numerous legs – one pair per body segment. They are predaceous on many different arthropods including insects. Although all centipedes have poison glands and the means to inject their venom, bites are infrequent and normally do not cause more than temporary, localized pain.
Most centipedes can be found under boards, logs, rocks and other protected, damp locations outside. These centipedes are of little concern to homeowners. The house centipede, believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, was introduced into Mexico and the Southern United States and has increased its distribution. It was first recorded in Pennsylvania in 1849. Today, the house centipede can be found in many buildings throughout the United States. It does not survive winters outdoors in Pennsylvania, but readily reproduces in heated structures.
Because of their secretive nature, scary appearance and darting motions, homeowners typically fear the house centipede. In 1902, C.L. Marlatt, an entomologist with the United States Department of Agriculture writes in Circular #48 – The House Centipede: “It may often be seen darting across floors with very great speed, occasionally stopping suddenly and remaining absolutely motionless, presently to resume its rapid movements, often darting directly at inmates of the house, particularly women, evidently with a desire to conceal itself beneath their dresses, and thus creating much consternation.” Undoubtedly, the current favor of blue jeans as a preferred article of clothing has not appreciably reduced the angst felt by the household “inmates” when a centipede is seen scurrying across the basement floor.