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Description of house centipedes
House centipedes (Scutigera) are common arthropods with long, flattened, segmented bodies with one pair of legs per segment. The house centipede is up to 1 1/2 inches long and has 15 pairs of very long, almost thread-like, slender legs. Each leg is encircled by dark and white bands. The body is brown to grayish-yellow and has three dark stripes on top.
Life cycle of house centipedes
Though house centipedes are found both indoors and outdoors it is the occasional one on the bathroom or bedroom wall, or the one accidentally trapped in the bathtub, sink, or lavatory that causes the most concern. However, these locations are not where they normally originate. Centipedes prefer to live in damp portions of basements, closets, bathrooms, unexcavated areas under the house and beneath the bark of firewood stored indoors. They do not come up through the drain pipes.
Damage caused by house centipedes
House centipedes feed on small insects, insect larvae, and on spiders. Thus they are beneficial, though most homeowners take a different point-of-view and consider them a nuisance. Technically, the house centipede could bite, but it is considered harmless to people.
Management of house centipedes
House centipede control consists of drying up and cleaning, as much as possible, the areas that serve as habitat and food source for centipedes. Residual insecticides can be applied to usual hiding places such as crawl spaces, dark corners in basements, baseboard cracks and crevices, openings in concrete slabs, under shelves, around stored boxes, and so forth. For more information on insecticides please see this article. Centipedes discovered outdoors should not be controlled.
Do you live in Iowa and have an insect you would like identified?
The Iowa State University Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic will identify your insect, provide information on what it eats, life cycle, and if it is a pest the best ways to manage them. Please see our website for current forms, fees, and instructions on preserving and mailing insects.
Contact information for each states diagnostic laboratory for U.S. residents. If you live outside of Iowa please do not submit a sample without contacting the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic
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