Many homeowners across the globe are familiar with the creepy sight of a venomous centipede scuttling across their floors or walls. What you may not know, though, is how to identify, understand and deal with this diverse group of arthropods. This comprehensive guide to venomous centipedes will educate you on their identification, behavior, and habitat preferences. By the end, you will have the knowledge to correctly identify these critters and the confidence to approach them with caution and respect.

Identification of Venomous Centipedes

There are thousands of centipede species worldwide, but only a few are considered venomous and potentially harmful to humans:

1. Scolopendra subspinipes, also known as the giant centipede or the Vietnamese centipede, is the most dangerous species. It reaches up to 8 inches in length and has a distinct reddish-orange coloration with yellow or black legs.

2. Scolopendra polymorpha, commonly known as the desert or tiger centipede, is another venomous species native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. They can vary in color from light brown to dark orange and measure between 4 and 7 inches long.

3. Scolopendra cingulata, also known as the Mediterranean banded centipede, is a smaller venomous species found in southern Europe. This centipede boasts a striking black and yellow banded pattern and reaches a maximum length of 4 inches.

Behavior of Venomous Centipedes

Venomous centipedes are nocturnal creatures and spend the majority of their time hiding in dark, moist environments. They are carnivorous, feeding primarily on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates. Centipedes use their venom to paralyze their prey, allowing them to consume their victims with ease.

While centipedes would prefer to avoid human interaction, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. A venomous centipede bite is not usually life-threatening to humans, but it can be painful and cause redness, swelling, and numbness in the affected area.

Habitat Preferences

Venomous centipedes prefer humid, dark environments where they can remain hidden from predators. Common habitats include:

1. Under rocks, logs, or leaf litter in forests, gardens, or yards.
2. Inside rotting wood or decomposing vegetation, where they can find prey and moisture.
3. In damp basements, crawlspaces, or outbuildings, where moisture levels are high and food sources are plentiful.

To reduce the likelihood of venomous centipedes entering your home, take the following steps:

1. Seal any cracks or gaps in your home’s foundation, including around windows and doors.
2. Keep your yard clean and free of debris, such as leaf litter and rotting wood.
3. Install door sweeps on exterior doors to create a physical barrier against centipede entry.


While venomous centipedes may initially appear frightening, they are an essential part of the ecosystem, helping to control insect populations. As long as you treat them with respect, exercise caution, and take preventative measures to keep them out of your living space, there is no need to fear these intriguing arthropods.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Are all centipedes venomous?

Not all centipedes are venomous, but most species do have venom glands and use their venom to subdue their prey. The venom of most species is not dangerous to humans, but the species mentioned in this guide can cause a painful bite.

2. What do I do if I get bitten by a venomous centipede?

In the event of a centipede bite, wash the affected area with soap and water and apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and numb the pain. If an allergic reaction or severe pain occurs, seeking medical attention is recommended.

3. How long do venomous centipedes live?

The lifespan of a venomous centipede varies by species, but most centipedes live for 1-6 years. Environmental factors, such as temperature and food availability, can impact their longevity.

4. Do centipedes have any predators?

Centipedes do have natural predators, such as birds, reptiles, and some larger arthropods like spiders and scorpions.



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