Centipede Bite: The Most Painful Bite in the World?

Centipede Bite - Underside of Centipede
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Written by Emilio Brown

Published: January 10, 2022

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Centipedes are widely distributed throughout the world, and common to find in most areas. Centipedes are myriapods and belong to the class of  Chilopoda. There are around 3000 species of centipede currently discovered. Areas of high moisture and plenty of natural debris to hide under are their preferred habitat. Their many legs, long bodies, and bright colors can make them intimidating to come across. While their name means “100 legs’ most species will have more or less, never 100.

Unlike millipedes, centipedes are carnivores and capable of delivering a painful bite. The largest of centipedes can grow up to a foot long and are capable of taking out large prey like birds. All centipedes are able to bite, but some will hurt more than others. The pain of a centipede’s bite will vary depending on the species and the amount of venom distributed. Here we will go over the centipede species with the strongest bite, and what to expect if you are bitten by one. 

How Strong Is A Centipede Bite?

10 Biggest Centipedes in the World - Zoom in on Centipede Face

Centipedes have mouths adapted for biting

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The bite of a centipede is not deadly but is painful. How much pain is dependent on the species. Centipedes are venomous, and larger species usually have more powerful venom. The sting of a bee sting is similar in pain when compared to the average centipede bite. Some species pack a much bigger punch. If you are more reactive to their venom then you will have more symptoms.

The common symptoms of a centipede bite include:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Numbness
  • Headache
  • Nausea

The bite from a centipede gives symptoms from two days to up to a week. Each species is different, but a bee sting is similar in pain to most. The Chinese red-headed centipede has the most powerful bite, but some species in America a capable of delivering a bite just as painful.

Are Centipede Bites Rare

Centipede bites are rare, but they do sometimes happen. When provoked is when a centipede will choose to bite. Biting is a last option, as most will try to flee first. If one finds its way into your house you may not notice it. Bites have occurred when people are sleeping or least expecting it. A centipede’s long body and many legs help it squeeze through the tiniest of places.

Bites are only common if you live in an area with a large centipede population. Deserts, forests,  and tropics are areas with a high population of centipedes. Smaller centipedes can be found in soil, but bites from them are harmless. 

House centipede bites are more common because they are one of the most widespread species. They live and hunt in homes and come out at night. Being nocturnal, it is easy to not see a centipede and get bit by one. 

Treating A Centipede Bite

Centipede Bite - Irritation from Centipede Bite

Most centipede bites cause swelling, redness, and may itch.

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Centipede bites can be treated at home, as most bites are not life-threatening. After getting bit the first thing you should do is wash the wound. Extracting its venom is possible if you have an extractor. You can tell a bite is from a centipede because it will leave behind two pincer markings. Applying a hot or cold pack will stop swelling and relieve pain. Over-the-counter allergy and pain medicine can also help with symptoms.

If you are allergic to centipede venom or are getting worse after a bite then you should see a doctor. Centipede bites are rarely life-threatening, even a bite from the largest of species. Fever, dizziness, and trouble breathing are when you should see a doctor immediately. 

Species With The Strongest Bite

10 Biggest Centipedes - Chinese Red-Headed Centipede

Chinese red-headed centipede bites can require medical attention.

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The giant desert centipede has an immensely painful bite, some of which say it is worse than a bullet ant sting. Compared to other centipede bites, this species brings pain that is almost unbearable. When bitten, its venom travels through your body and the pain becomes worse as time passes. The giant desert centipede can be found in American deserts and belongs to the genus of Scolopendra. This genus has centipedes around the world with some of the most powerful bites.

Large Scolopendra usually have bright colors and some of the most powerful bites. The Chinese red-headed centipede is a Scolopendra species that also has a bite that can leave some going to the medical room. Other centipedes deliver much less pain with their bites. Everybody reacts differently from a centipede bite, but you do not want to experience one from some of the larger species.

What Do Centipedes Use Their Strong Bite For 

Centipedes are carnivores and adept hunters. Smaller species feed mostly on arthropods like insects, spiders, and other small animals. Larger species of centipede are able to hunt larger animals like mice, birds, bats, reptiles, and frogs. Big or small, some species of centipede will find their way into your home looking for prey. At night in areas with a large centipede population is where bites occur most.

Centipedes are not hostile, and will usually try to run if scared. You should be careful around them to avoid any unnecessary bites. The average bite of a centipede is harmless, but some species can deliver a painful bite. Centipedes do not want to bite humans, and will actively go out of their way to avoid us. Large species are not dangerous to humans, only small animals. Their bite will bring extreme pain but is rarely deadly.

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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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