Did you know that centipedes, also referred to as “hundred leggers,” are actually arthropods and not insects? In as much as they have insect-like traits such as long, thin bodies and many legs, they also have segmented bodies, jointed appendages and an external skeleton.
Contrary to what the name “hundred leggers” suggests, centipedes do not necessarily have 100 legs. The number of leg pairs, which may vary depending on the specific type of species and the number of body segments, is always an odd one. Centipedes vary depending on the location, habitat and climatic conditions.
Below are the seven most common types of centipedes:
Type #1: House Centipedes
Just like any other types of centipedes, house centipedes are flat arthropods. They have a pair of legs that act as stinging fangs at the front, and a rear pair of legs that serve as a sensing organ. They are generally yellowish gray with three dark stripes and a unique body structure; that is, a body length of roughly an inch, and 15 pairs of long, barbed legs.
They are most common in dark or damp areas of the house such as bathrooms, walls, sinks, ceilings, restrooms, basements, closets and crawl spaces. Should there be cracks, crevices or holes in the wall or doors of your home, fix them because house centipedes can use these spaces to enter your home. Remember to also check for them under your carpet.
House centipedes are carnivorous hunters. They inject venom into their prey using their front pair of legs, paralyzing it and eventually killing the victim.
Centipedes feed on insects, annelids, small arthropods, mollusks, moths, spiders, house flies, silverfish, cockroaches, bed bugs and termites, among other household pests. This is why house centipedes are considered beneficial to homeowners.
From time to time, they may get curious and bite you as you sleep (however scary that sounds) or as go about your day, but their bite is not fatal unless you are allergic. If you have a centipede infestation in your house, make sure you contact a pest control service right away.
Type #2: Garden Centipedes
Unlike the house centipede, which prefers to spend its entire life in a structure, these centipedes can be found around your garden. You are likely to find them beneath rocks or pieces of wood where pests are most likely to hide.
Since they are carnivorous, they may not damage the plants you have in your garden. On the contrary, they could save you money by drastically reducing insect damage to your plants. In addition to the universal features of centipedes, garden centipedes range from grayish to reddish-brown.
Type #3: Soil Centipedes
These can be identified by their typical centipede-like structure (long, thin body with flattened segments) and about 27 or more pairs of legs. They are meat-eating creatures but cannot bite or inject humans with venom.
They feed on insect larvae and tend to dig up the soil and to break it up into tiny pieces, hence improving aeration. All the 1,200 varieties of soil centipedes can lay between 15 and 60 eggs at a time. These eggs can be stored either in rotten wood or in the soil.
Type #4: Stone Centipedes
Otherwise known as lithobiomorpha, the stone centipede has a dark-red colouring, up to 23 pairs of short pale legs and is nearly two inches long. Courtesy of its flattened body, it can move around exceptionally well in small spaces.
If you observe it carefully when it’s hunting down prey, you will realize that it senses the prey by touch since it has weak eyesight. They may be small and harmless to humans, but their unsettling appearance makes you want to avoid them at any cost. You can find them in moist environments, inside logs, under rocks, and in other temperate areas.
Type #5: Fire Centipedes
It’s hard not to notice this centipede. Its attractive red exoskeleton calls you from miles away. It’s known to spit out a poisonous bioluminescent chemical substance; so, take caution if you ever happen to be near one.
A fire centipede may have around 20-40 pairs of sharp-edged legs. They are found in the subtropics.
Type #6: Tiger Centipedes
Scientifically known as the scolopendra polymorpha, the tiger centipede can be 15 cm long or longer. It prefers an arid environment and comes in a range of colours. These include brown, green, blue, yellow, orange and black. Although these centipedes are not hostile, they can occasionally bite humans.
Type #7: Desert Centipedes
The most common species of desert centipedes is brown and tan in colour. It has dark stripes between each body section and grows typically to 4-5 inches long.
In most cases, they exhibit aggressive behaviour when handled and can be venomous. However, the venom is mostly not harmful, but it’s best to avoid it altogether. If you spot the common desert centipede around your home, call an exterminator.
Centipedes are mostly harmless, at least to humans. However, if you have pesky insects in your home such as bedbugs, termites, silverfish or cockroaches, these carnivorous creatures can clear them for you.