Even for insects, centipedes can appear especially disturbing and alien. Their odd, flat bodies. Their namesake overabundance of long spindly legs. The wormlike way they dart out around a house. It can be quite a shock to walk into your bathroom and see one of these critters scurrying around your bathtub.
Fear not! Unlike their cousins to the south, the most common species of centipede found in American homes, the aptly named “house centipede,” is mostly harmless, and may be beneficial under the right circumstances. So long as you are only seeing one or two centipedes, there is a decent chance that that bizarre-looking little creature might be responsible for keeping other pests out of your home. Centipedes are tenacious hunters who feed on other, worse pests. Spiders, roaches, bed bugs, ticks, silverfish, etc., are all prey to the centipede. A centipede living in your home may be doing its part to help you keep those pests in check. And, unlike many other pest species, the house centipede rarely bites humans.
If you do want to prevent centipedes, your best bet is to work to prevent other pests from entering your home. Centipedes will come and go based on food supply. Clean up water and water damage whenever possible. Make sure all food waste is properly disposed of. If you start to see centipedes regularly or, more concerningly, in large groups it could be a warning of a larger pest problem. Centipedes are solitary and don’t build nests in human homes. Excessive centipedes are a good indicator that it is time to call the exterminator.
Centipedes are frightening creatures. It is relatively normal to be a little disturbed by a centipede in your home. Don’t panic. If you can take a second to calm your fear before reacting, a centipede could be a valuable asset in maintaining a pest-free home.