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Centipedes may help control roaches, silverfish, and other pests, but seeing their segmented bodies and many pairs of legs can send shivers down your spine. If you’ve spotted these critters in your home, we’re here to help. In this article, we’ll explain how to get rid of centipedes and prevent future infestations.
Common Causes of Centipede Infestation
Understanding why and how centipedes invade homes will help you address the problem. Here are some common causes of a centipede infestation.
- Availability of food sources: Centipedes are predators that feed on other bugs, including termites, cockroaches, silverfish, bedbugs, fleas, spiders, moths, and flies. If you already have an insect infestation, centipedes are more likely to invade and stay.
- Damp areas and high humidity: Centipedes are attracted to humid, damp places because they need a lot of moisture to survive. Basements, crawl spaces, and poorly ventilated areas are prime locations for centipede infestations.
- Entry points and gaps: Small cracks and crevices serve as entry points for centipedes. They can also come in through gaps around doors and windows.
- Hiding places and clutter: Centipedes prefer dark and secluded spots during the day and emerge at night to hunt for prey. Cluttered areas, storage spaces, and leaf litter give them ideal hiding places and make it harder for homeowners to find and eliminate them.
- Outdoor landscaping: Having excessive mulch, decaying tree bark, or plant clippings close to your house creates a favorably moist and sheltered environment that attracts centipedes. Once they’re drawn to a location, they may make their way inside.
Risks of Centipede Infestation
Centipede infestations pose no serious risks. These arthropods are generally solitary creatures, and only house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) will reproduce indoors. Other types of centipedes lay their eggs in the soil. As a result, centipedes are unlikely to invade in large numbers.
Centipedes have jaw-like claws directly behind their heads, which they use to catch prey. These claws are venomous and can be used to bite humans. However, centipede venom has little effect on humans and pets. Unless you have an insect allergy, a centipede bite will be no worse than a bee sting, with only mild pain and swelling.
One notable exception is the giant desert centipede (Scolopendra heros) found in the American southwest. This centipede grows up to 8 inches and inflicts a more severe bite. Fortunately, it’s rarely found indoors.
Centipedes pose no threat to your home. Their presence may indicate that you have a moisture or insect problem, but they do not cause any damage themselves.
DIY Solutions for Centipede Infestations
To get rid of centipedes yourself, start by reducing the entry points, hiding places, and excess moisture that’s attracting them and allowing them to enter your home. Then use traps, insecticides, or natural repellents to drive them out. Here are a few do-it-yourself (DIY) options.
- Boric acid: Apply boric acid along baseboards, entry points, and hiding spots to create a barrier that damages insect exoskeletons. Boric acid is a low-toxicity option that causes dehydration and death in centipedes.
- Diatomaceous earth: Sprinkle food-grade diatomaceous earth to target areas, just as you would boric acid. The microscopic particles in this nontoxic substance will penetrate centipede exoskeletons, causing them to dry out and die.
- Insecticide sprays: Choose a pesticide spray that lists centipedes on the label and is formulated for indoor use. Follow manufacturer instructions, applying it to infested areas and along potential entry points. These sprays act as barriers and kill centipedes on contact.
- Powder insecticides: Apply a powder or foam insecticide, such as ant dust, to hard-to-reach cracks and crevices where centipedes hide. Although ant dust targets ants, its active ingredient is also effective against centipedes.
- Sticky traps: Place glue traps in areas where centipedes have been seen or are likely to hide, such as basements, closets, and attics. When centipedes crawl onto the sticky surface, their long legs will become trapped in place.
Professional Solutions for Centipede Infestations
Pest control services are a convenient solution for a severe infestation. Trained exterminators have the knowledge and tools to address centipede problems as well as other household pests. The best pest control companies offer integrated pest management, which combines strategies to manage and prevent infestations by many pests, as well as ongoing service plans.
Professional exterminators may apply an exterior perimeter treatment as well as indoor pesticides and sticky traps to address your centipede problem. They will also recommend preventive measures and provide monitoring and follow-up services until the infestation has been fully resolved. Pest control pricing varies based on the specific situation.
How to Prevent Future Centipede Infestations
House centipedes—the species of centipede most often found in houses—won’t cause any real trouble, but it’s wise to address any issues that may have led these critters to your home. Here’s what to do:
- Eliminate dampness. Fix any leaks, water accumulation, or plumbing issues in your home to reduce moisture levels. Use dehumidifiers or exhaust fans in areas prone to high humidity, such as basements and bathrooms, to create an inhospitable environment for centipedes.
- Seal entry points. Inspects doors, windows, foundation walls, and vents for gaps or cracks that centipedes could use to enter your home. Seal potential entry points with caulk or weatherstripping to block their access.
- Declutter and clean. Keep your living spaces clean and clutter-free, especially in basements, closets, and other dark or secluded areas. Regularly vacuum and clean these areas to remove potential food sources and hiding spots for centipedes and their prey.
- Apply repellents. Apply a barrier treatment of diatomaceous earth along baseboards and entry points, or use an insecticide spray along your home’s perimeter. Alternatively, you can create your own natural repellent using essential oils like peppermint or tea tree oil mixed with water.
- Maintain outdoor landscaping. Trim plants, bushes, and trees away from the house to minimize potential hiding places and entry points for centipedes and other insects. Replace mulch with gravel, which is less attractive to centipedes.
- Address other pest infestations. If you have a preexisting insect infestation, you should address it with solutions targeted toward that particular species. Alternatively, you can invest in ongoing quarterly pest control from Orkin, Terminix, or another reputable company.
Learning about the common causes of centipedes and taking proactive DIY measures can help you get rid of and prevent infestations. Most homeowners are well-equipped to handle centipedes on their own by reducing humidity, sealing entry points, and applying barrier treatments. However, you can also invest in professional pest control for added peace of mind and ongoing service.
How to Get Rid of Centipedes FAQ
Do centipedes bite?
Yes. Centipedes use a pair of hollow claws to inject venom into their prey. However, most species do not pose a serious threat to humans.
What keeps centipedes out?
Homemade perimeter sprays that include peppermint and tea tree oil will help keep centipedes out, as will certain commercial pesticides. Addressing moisture problems and insect infestations will also deter centipedes.
What attracts centipedes to your home?
The following issues attract centipedes to your home:Accessible entry pointsDark hiding spotsExcess moistureHigh humidityOther insects
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