The Surprising Reason You Should Never Kill a House Centipede


Pop quiz: what do you do when you encounter an unexpected insect inside your house? For most people, their first instinct is to smash the unwanted pest and go about the rest of their day.

There are some pests, though, that you should never kill, especially the house centipede. Just one problem: most people don’t know the first thing about house centipedes, including what they look like!

Ready to learn more about what house centipedes are, whether they are dangerous, and the surprising reason you should never kill them? Keep reading to discover the answers!

What is a house centipede?

House centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata). Aurora, Nebraska.

A house centipede is a type of centipede that originated in the Mediterranean. Eventually, this centipede was brought to both Mexico and southern America, and it has flourished ever since.

The first known house centipede was recorded way back in 1849. They were likely around long before this, but these centipedes are known for being very secretive and hiding in various places within houses (hence, the name). And we’ll admit that it can be scary to see one of these fellows pop up in unexpected places, and even scarier when you discover how fast it can run across the floor.

However, as we will reveal, the last thing you want to do is smash one of these little guys when you find one in your home.

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How to identify a house centipede

House centipedes are easy to identify because, despite being their own variant, these things are visually similar to other centipedes you may have seen before. They are arthropods that are characterized by many legs. Specifically, each house centipede has two legs per segment. And as these pictures show, that means plenty of legs for them to scurry around your home.

If you get close enough to see them, you may notice that house centipedes have fangs, but these fangs aren’t too dangerous (more on this later). More likely, though, you’ll see the house centipede in motion because it is easily spooked. And you might be spooked when you see them move because these centipedes have been known to run on their hind legs.

And trust us: the sight of one of these things standing upright and running away from you is something you won’t soon forget!

Are house centipedes dangerous?

One reason some are quick to kill house centipedes is that they worry about getting bitten. But while these centipedes are capable of biting you with their fangs, they aren’t very dangerous to humans at all.

Why is that? House centipedes use their fangs to poison their prey before eating them. However, the poison is only really effective at incapacitating small insects or very small animals. The fangs of most house centipedes are unable to break human skin, and even if one did successfully bite you, the only result would be a bit of mild, temporary pain.

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What do house centipedes do?

House centipedes are quite fond of water. For this reason, you are likely to find them around your drains or even inside of them. These insects get dehydrated very quickly, and you are unlikely to find them very far away from a source of water.

What do these critters do when they aren’t slaking their thirst, though? They survive by preying on other arthropods as well as a variety of insects. And while it might be a tad freaky to think about, this is the primary reason that you should avoid killing house centipedes on sight!

Why you should never kill a house centipede

Remember when we said that house centipedes like to eat other insects? As long as you can avoid getting freaked out by the sight of the centipede, you can start treating these insects like free pest control for your home.

Left to their own devices, house centipedes will feed on a variety of other unwanted critters that might enter your home, including cockroaches, ants, bed bugs, and spiders. In other words, if you’re willing to leave house centipedes alone when you see them, then you can enjoy a home that is relatively free of creepy, crawling bugs!

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Rule of thumb: avoid squishing most bugs inside your house

Now you know a bit more about why you shouldn’t kill house centipedes that you discover inside your home. But here’s one more hot take: it’s good to get out of the habit of killing all bugs inside your home until you know whether it is safe to do so.

Why is that? In some cases, killing a single pest actually causes more problems than it solves. For example, if you’re scared of spiders, you may want to squash them on sight. But killing a pregnant spider like this can actually release hundreds of tiny spiders in your home.

Long story short? Do your research before you lay the smackdown on any bugs that you encounter within the house, unless you want to make your pest problem even worse.