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How to Get Rid of Centipedes & Millipedes

Centipedes and millipedes are often mistaken for insects, but they are both animals belonging to the arthropoda phylum. The centipede is segmented the entire length of its long body, usually with one or more pairs of legs per segment, with a total leg count of anywhere between 10 and 120. The most common centipede in North America is the house centipede. The scolopendra species is also frequently found outside of the house and can be described as long, bright orange, and meaty.

The 'pill' millipede is recognized around North America as the 'rolee polee'. It may also be referred to as the pill or potato bug. The millipede has only 1 pair of legs per segment. The size of a millipede may vary between 1 inch and 1.5 inches. They are usually brown and much slower than centipedes. However, not all millipedes are as tiny, as some species average well over a few inches in size. Compared to centipedes, they are usually a much darker color. Their name literally means 'a thousand legs' and they will occasionally invade the house or garden in masses due to heavy reproduction.

CharacteristicCentipedeMillipede
Antennaelong antennaeshort antennae
Legsone or more pairs per body segmenttwo pairs per body segment, first three have one pair
Speedvery fastvery slow

The presence of either in the home are directly related to problems with moisture. For this reason, they are both treated much in the same way.

Centipedes & Millipedes in the House

Centipedes are exceptionally fast and thrive in wet locations. They can usually be found beneath piles of leaves, wood, rocks and mulch. In rare cases, they can even be found inside the house. One centipede is nothing much to worry about, but multiple sightings could indicate a problem with moisture and require additional attention.

Millipedes are nocturnal, which means they only come out during the night. Their exoskeleton is a round segmented protective coating and their presence often increases during the transition from summer to fall. Egg clusters are deposited in damp locations. The adults are equipped with a specialized defensive gland, allowing them to produce a fowl smelling odor against predators.

House Centipedes & Pillbugs

The house centipede (Scutigera coleptrata) is similar to a silverfish but has 15 pairs of legs oriented on its sides. House centipedes are yellowish to gray in color and can be distinguished by 2 long legs trailing at the back end of its body. It originated in Mexico but has since spread to the rest of the United States, where it prefers closets, cellars, basements, and damp bathrooms. House centipedes won't survive once inside of a home due to their high moisture requirements and are often found laying dead in bath tubs on their failed search for water.

Most indoor millipede infestations take place in the basement homes or slabs. They are usually dead by the time they are found because they are not equipped for survival in a climate as dry as a home. Some people are shocked to find hundreds of these little guys curled up along the outer walls of their home's interior. This is typical during extremely dry or wet weather.

Getting Rid of Centipedes & Millipedes

An excessive problem with centipedes or millipedes in the house is indicative of a problem with moisture, perhaps associated with a leak or poor outdoor drainage. It may also be that conditions outside are too dry. Follow the treatment methods outlined below by searching for the source:

  • Check any and all facet areas for leaks.
  • Treat around any piles of wood or grass clippings using a product labeled for use against centipedes. Remove harborage sites and any objects piling up or resting against the home. A/C units are an excellent source of moisture and the perfect breeding ground.
  • Rake any mulch around the home back far enough to apply product. Centipedes and millipedes can be found within half an inch of debris. The debris can be replaced after the product has been applied.
  • Check all exterior doors for proper seals (you shouldn't be able to see any light outside through the closed door). If need be, purchase weather stripping for a tighter seal and caulk any cracks and crevices around the foundation, doors, and windows.

Centipedes and millipedes are best controlled through exclusion and the correction of moisture related problems around the home. Insecticide treatments on the inside should be used as a last resort – if applicable, treat beneath rain traps and against the entire foundation of the property, focusing heavily around doors, windows, cables, and plumbing lines.

If you continue to see centipedes or millipedes on the inside, consider an interior treatment with a WP dust formulation (WP stands for wettable powder). DeltaDust is a commercial insecticide that has water resistant qualities and is labeled for use in crawlspaces, voids, and cracks and crevices. Cracks in cement or alongside patios should also receive special attention. If it's absolutely necessary, interior treatments should be limited to potential harborage sites such as behind cabinet kickboards, basements, cellars, entrance points, and cracks and crevices directly behind the baseboards and trim.

Every situation is unique, but the vast majority of these cases can be handled without any indoor treatment.

Centipede Bite

The bite of a centipede is not sufficiently toxic enough to be considered fatal to humans. Even the largest centipedes in the United States pose no more harm than a wasp or bee sting, although allergies could influence a unique reaction. They are not likely to bite unless provoked. Bites should be cleaned with soap and water - the swelling should disappear within a week. Antihistamines like Benadryl can be given to help with any mild allergic responses – apply calamine lotion to reduce itching and give it some time.

Millipedes are not known to bite.

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