School IPM Best Practices

House Centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata

house centipede

Gary Alpert, Harvard University, Bugwood.org.

IPM Steps to Reduce House Centipedes

1. Sample for Pest

Confirm the presence of centipedes.

Where to find it while inspecting: Look in damp areas such as flooring around plumbed areas. They are generally more active at night or in dark areas.

2. Proper ID

Before you act, determine your pest is a centipede.

Size and Particulars: 1/8–6" (4–152 mm) long, flat, long multi-legged. The common house centipede is grayish with yellow or brown tones and long narrow stripes along its body. Most notable are the multiple pair of long delicate legs. In some species of centipede the legs are much shorter. Large clawlike jaws. Number of body segments vary with one pair of legs per segment (larval forms have increasing number of segments as they mature).

Life Cycle: Centipedes overwinter in protected areas outside and lay their eggs in or on the soil. Larvae and adults are similar and both can make their way into buildings if damp habitat and food is available.

3. Learn the Pest Biology

Knowing the life cycle and habitat needs helps you fight these pests.

Preferred Food Sources: Centipedes eat smaller arthropods and insects by using their poisonous jaws. (Note: in larger centipedes these jaws are able to leave a bite which may cause a reaction in humans).

Preferred Habitat: Moist areas outdoors and inside. Removing rotting leaves, wood and mulch from the edges of buildings is one way to reduce the chance they will enter the building.

4. Determine Threshold

Centipedes are unpopular guests, but what is your threshold for infestation? When should you act?

Threshold: The threshold is likely to be high. Centipedes are rarely seen and are a nuisance pest, not a public health or structurally damaging pest. If you find centipedes, this is a sign you have a moisture problem inside or near your building. Simply kill any centipedes you spot by crushing and you may have ended any problem.

5. Choose Tactics

IPM for indoor pests is always a combination of exclusion and sanitation: Try to keep them out. Don’t provide water, food and shelter if they enter your building.

Best Management Practices: Reduce moist areas inside buildings by increasing ventilation and covering pipes that “sweat”. Keep floor drains clean and working well. Reduce mulch along building if you have a recurring problem with house centipedes inside.

Treatment Methods: There is generally no reason to treat for house centipede.

6. Evaluate

Was the tactic successful? Record the date pests were first noted, and the tactic you used, and its success. Use one of our RECORD KEEPING tools.

For More Information:

Penn State Extension Fact Sheets: House Centipede


When a pesticide application is necessary, all necessary and required precautions are taken to minimize risk to people and the environment and to minimize risk of pesticide resistance or pest resurgence. Pesticide use in your school may be prohibited or regulated by local policies or state and federal regulations. Risk reduction methods can include, but are not limited to, spot-treatment, the use of gel or paste bait formulations placed in inaccessible locations, injection into a crack or crevice, and other methods that reduce potential exposure.