Authors as Published

Eric Day, Department of Entomology, Virginia Tech

Image 1 centipede
Centipede. Eugene E. Nelson,


Centipedes are reddish-brown, flattened, elongated arthropods with one pair of legs attached on most of their body segments. The first pair of legs is modified into poisonous jaws located below the mouth to kill insects. 

Size: Slightly over 1 inch (25.4mm). 
Color: Reddish brown.

Their antennae are longer than those of millipedes. Centipedes feed on live insects and other small animals. They do not damage plants.



Commonly encountered in damp basements in the fall.

Life Cycle

They overwinter as adults and lay eggs during the warm months. Usually eggs are laid in the soil and are protected by adults. A few species give birth to living young.

Type of Damage

Nuisance in household and basement. They feed on small insects such as cockroaches, clothes moths and house flies; do not damage food supplies or household furnishings. If crushed, they may bite, causing some pain and swelling.

Cultural Control

Controlling these pests should start with reducing the moisture and humidity in the basement, then using household sprays.

Interesting Facts

Centipedes sometimes live up to six years.

Virginia Cooperative Extension materials are available for public use, reprint, or citation without further permission, provided the use includes credit to the author and to Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University.

Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Virginia State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating. Edwin J. Jones, Director, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg; M. Ray McKinnie, Administrator, 1890 Extension Program, Virginia State University, Petersburg.

Publication Date

May 13, 2011

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