Centipede Bites

How Centipede Bites Happen

Many people encounter centipedes accidentally. Centipedes often hide inside of clothing or stored items. They bite when the item is picked up or moved. The centipede probably reacts defensively when a person’s hand comes within reach.

When Are They Active?

Centipedes eat of insects and spiders. They are usually active at night. During the day, centipedes hide in dark, quiet areas. They prefer damp, humid areas.

Where Do You Find Them?

When they move indoors, centipedes seem to like dark locations. People find them in closets, cabinets, laundry rooms, bathrooms, and basements. People also find centipedes in closets and cabinets.

Outdoors centipedes are common in flowerbeds that have plenty of mulch or dead leaves. Centipedes also hide under woodpiles, landscape timbers, and logs.

Why or When Do They Bite?

Centipedes do not search for people to bite. However, they will bite to defend themselves when they are threatened.

Centipedes will bite a human hand if it is moving the item they have chosen as a hiding place. People sometimes get bitten when they put on a garment or a pair of shoes that they have not worn in a long time. Items that have been stored under the bed can also be centipede-hiding places. People who reach under the bed without looking sometimes get a bite.


Centipedes do not have fangs like spiders have. Centipedes have specially adapted front legs that function as claws. These claws have ducts inside that lead to venom glands. The centipede uses these claws to deliver venom to paralyze its prey.


Centipedes have claws – one on each side – just behind the head. The claws are connected to a venom gland. The centipedes use the venom to paralyze their prey. The effect that this venom has on humans depends on the type of centipede and the individual person’s sensitivity to venom.

More information about the venom.

Types of Centipedes that Bite

House Centipede
The common house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata, is normally about 10.5″ long. It is found in almost all parts of the United States. Scientists believe that because this centipede has very weak jaws, it would have difficulty breaking the skin of most people. However, there are reports of bites caused by this centipede. These bites resulted in redness and swelling.

Giant Centipedes
In the western states, the giant centipedes can reach 8″ in length. These centipedes can deliver a painful bite. The most common reaction is sharp pain. The pain sometimes radiates out from the bite site. There is often redness and swelling. These symptoms usually begin to disappear in a few hours.

Tropical Centipedes
The large tropical centipedes are members of the genus Scolopendra. These centipedes can grow to 8″ in length. They can inflict a painful bite. The bites result in inflammation, redness, and swelling. These symptoms usually disappear in a few hours.

Are the Bites Dangerous?

Scientists suggest that the centipede bite is no more dangerous than a bee or wasp sting. However, there are people who are very sensitive to bee and wasp stings and they react very seriously. Sensitive people can react with headache, itching, dizziness, nausea, or changes in blood pressure. While a centipede bite will probably not be life threatening for most people, it should not be taken lightly.

Reactions to the Bites

Some people experience swelling and tenderness that persist – sometimes for several weeks. These people sometimes also have sores at the bite site.

There have been cases of bites from the large centipedes that resulted in swelling and tenderness that lasted for several weeks. Some of these bites were slow to heal and were accompanied by discharges and sores.

Symptoms From Centipede Bite

A very few people might be very sensitive to the centipede venom. They may experience allergic reactions. These people might have a headache, nausea, dizziness, and even changes in their blood pressure.

How to Treat the Bites

Experts recommend that bite victims should wash the skin to reduce the chance of infection. Ice or cold compresses can reduce pain and minimize swelling. Ice should be alternated – 10 minutes on and then 10 minutes off. Bite victims should be observed closely. If symptoms get worse, if signs of allergic reaction appear, or if there are any doubts, seek medical attention.

An antiseptic should be applied if the bite broke the skin.