What Do House Centipedes Eat?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: December 30, 2021
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House centipedes are terrifying to unexpectedly find when moving a shoe, but these little pests offer little danger to humans. They are, however, prestigious hunters and love to clear homes of other creepy crawlies that may be present. Venomous and quick, house centipedes have a varied diet that reflects their hunting prowess. Let’s take a look at these interesting bugs and learn what house centipedes eat.

What do house centipedes eat?

What Do House Centipedes Eat? - What Do Centipedes Eat
Centipedes are predators and eat a wide variety of insects and small animals.

House centipedes are insectivores that primarily eat insects like cockroaches, flies, moths, and crickets.

While humans don’t think of centipedes as hunters, that description seems to fit these quick and insectivorous insects perfectly. An insectivore is simply a carnivorous plant or animal that eats insects as its primary food source. All centipedes are arthropods, and house centipedes almost exclusively eat other arthropods.

When it comes to their favorite foods, house centipedes will eat nearly any insect they are large enough to kill. Considered pests themselves, they differentiate themselves from other house pests by eating them, forming a sort of “natural” pest control. They eat cockroaches, flies, moths, crickets, silverfish, spiders, and even wasps.

Many people dislike the sight of house centipedes (they seem to prefer running at people’s feet) and often have them removed professionally. Still, these stubborn insects may provide some utility to a home or yard by way of their diets.

A complete list of foods house centipedes eat

House centipedes eat:

  • cockroaches
  • flies
  • moths
  • crickets
  • earwigs
  • spiders
  • silverfish
  • wasps
  • hornets
  • ants
  • earthworms
  • slugs
  • snails

How do house centipedes hunt?

What Do House Centipedes Eat? - Centipede on a concrete floor

House centipedes inject their prey with venom before they eat them.

©Jovana Kuzmanovic/Shutterstock.com

Almost all centipedes are venomous; the house centipede included. These insects have 15 pairs of legs and are extremely fast. On average, house centipedes can move at 1-foot a second. With their speed and their venom, they are able to take down prey that is significantly larger than they are.

Typically, house centipedes hide during the day and come out at night to hunt. Although they have eyes, they mostly use their antennae for hunting. Their antennae can smell and feel, helping more than eyes would in dark spaces. When they spot potential prey, they quickly move up and grab it within their legs. Once they have their prey firmly caught, they strike with their modified front legs known as forcipules (essentially fangs) and inject their venom.

Centipedes often use a technique known as “lassoing” to trap their prey within their legs like a rope. This lassoing effect can be seen easier with larger spaces, particularly when they are hunting larger prey like mice and lizards. Their venom usually kills their prey but has a mild response in humans.

Although we wouldn’t think of house centipedes as “smart,” they have developed special hunting strategies for various types of prey. When a centipede hunts wasps, for example, they will quickly get in range to inject their venom and then back away. Once it’s clear that the wasp has died, they will move in to finally eat. For insects that aren’t a threat to them, this behavior doesn’t occur.

Where do house centipedes live?

What Do House Centipedes Eat? - eating earwig

Incredible hunters, house centipedes can kill and eat almost any arthropod.

©iStock.com/Víctor Suárez Naranjo

House centipedes originated in the Mediterranean but eventually spread to the rest of the world.

When living outdoors, they prefer cooler, damp places. They need moist areas that keep them from dehydrating and can be found under rocks, piles of wood, and leaves.

They also live in proximity to humans, namely, in their homes. Most people have encountered one or two in their lifetime, and it often happens in the bathroom. Since they prefer dark and moist environments, bathrooms, basements, and garages are usually the most common places to find them. During the colder months, they will seek shelter in warm human homes, increasing sightings.

They often breed in the baseboards or dark places in homes and lay up to 150 eggs at a time. Although they are terrifying to stumble upon, they aren’t usually seen unless they are stuck in a bathtub or sink since they are nocturnal.

Should you kill house centipedes when you find them?

Although house centipedes are true pests, is it worth it to kill them? There are competing beliefs when it comes to their extermination, so we will lay out a few of the best points from both sides.

When it comes to keeping house centipedes alive, the biggest argument resides in their ability to act as natural pest reducers. They are always looking for food and regularly attack and kill other pests that humans don’t want in their houses. If you have house centipedes, it likely means that you also have some other nasty pests making their home in yours. Additionally, when an area has been removed of arthropods, centipedes will move on and leave home. If you want a “natural” form of pest control, not extermination, these insects may be a decent option. Unlike millipedes, centipedes don’t potentially cause structural damage and can also kill insects who would (termites and millipedes). At a minimum, repeatedly seeing house centipedes in your home is a great sign to call an exterminator. It means there are likely other bugs you need to deal with.

On the other side of things, house centipedes are pests themselves and have bitten humans before. Although it’s rare, house centipedes will bite if they are handled roughly or trapped and prodded. If bitten, it takes the form of a very mild bee sting, and most people would consider it mildly painful. Most of the time they aren’t even able to get their “fangs” through a human’s relatively thick skin. In addition to the “bite potential,” some people don’t like the idea of having bugs living in their home, no matter how beneficial they may be.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Jovana Kuzmanovic/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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