Fossil evidence indicates that centipede-like arthropods were among the first creatures to walk the Earth. Scutigera coleoptrata, or common household centipedes, are small, terrestrial arthropods. They're extremely quick, covering more than a foot per second as they scurry across floors. Predators of household centipedes include frogs, mantises, wasps and humans.
The common household centipede's slender, flat body is 1 to 1.5 inches long, and dark yellowish-brown with three dark dorsal stripes. His antennae and 15 pairs of legs are long, thin and spidery, with one pair of banded legs on each body segment. The household centipede's front pair of legs end in venomous fangs; the adult female's last pair of legs are twice her body length.
Household centipedes are found throughout the United States; they live in darkness and favor cool, damp protected areas. They're often found under boards, rocks, leaf litter, fallen logs and pieces of bark. Centipedes' flat bodies can easily enter pressure cracks in concrete blocks or boards. They're known to enter sinks and tubs in search of water and will inhabit basements, crawl spaces and trap-less floor drains.
After finding a receptive female, the male household centipede spins a silk pillow and deposits his sperm on it. The female uses the silk pad to fertilize her eggs, coats them in sticky saliva and buries them in dirt or decaying wood. She guards her nest, which contains between 35 and 150 eggs, until her babies hatch. Household centipedes normally mate in warmer weather, but they'll propagate year-round in heated buildings.
The hatching nymphs look like miniature adults, except they have only four pairs of legs. The mother centipede stays with her babies, protecting them during their first two weeks of life. Household centipede nymphs will grow another pair of legs during their first molt, then will grow two additional pairs of legs during each of five molts. Fully developed, he'll become an adult after molting four additional times. Scutigera coleoptrata have a lifespan of three to seven years.
Common household centipedes are predatory insectivores, capturing and paralyzing prey with their front legs. They rarely sting humans; a centipede sting may cause some pain, but it isn't dangerous unless you're allergic to their venom. Scutigera coleoptrata are voracious insect eaters, ingesting ants, cockroaches, spiders, termites, carpet beetle larvae, ticks, fleas, flies and small arthropods. Consider them an all-natural pest control; household centipedes won't cause household damage or eat your belongings, but they'll devour many harmful insects.
Karen Mihaylo has been a writer since 2009. She has been a professional dog groomer since 1982 and is certified in canine massage therapy. Mihaylo holds an associate degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College.