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Creepy Bugs In Home

Expanded Question:

I moved into this apartment last summer; its a very old brownstone in the city and has about 35 units.  I've always seen a roach here or there (various exterminator companies said that was "unavoidable" if the landlord does not spray the entire building regularly).

But every day for the past 3 days I encountered THE MOST HORRIFYING bug I have EVER seen.  I can't even LOOK at the beast, let alone kill it.

Its body was about 2 inches in length, and its awful spindly little legs made it look 6 inches long.  Maybe 12 legs, though a couple look like antennae?  Its body is striped with grayish-yellow and brown.  It climbs walls, ceilings with ease and its FAST.  Its so awful I could cry!  It reminds me of a massive silverfish, but I'm sure its not one.

Funny thing is, a few weeks before these beasts came out I noticed a DRAMATIC increase in german cockroaches.

Would spraying only my unit do any good?  What about a bomb? 

Is there anything I can do? 

Thanks for donating your time to this website!


You are describing what is known as a centipede.  As you relate an increase in german cockroaches, it may be possible that interior climate circumstances brought about this noticeable change.

High humidity is attractive to both roaches and centipedes.  When the environment becomes excessively dry; whereby, you feel the need to add moisture to the air, these creatures may be less noticeable, since they will attempt to confine themselves to the more humid locations of your building.

Centipedes readily lose moisture content in an arid environment.  Since they are purely predaceous, and hunt in such preferred locations,their presence on a frequent basis is influenced by humidity.

Centipedes are easily killed, and can be killed by spraying one of a class of insecticides known as pyrethroids.  I am enclosing a university fact sheet that will give you more information.

If you wish to correspond further, please do so.  I will try to be more prompt in my response.  I prepared my answer several days ago, and was interrupted.  I thought that I'd already sent you an answer to your inquiry.

Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet


1991 Kenny Road, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1090




William F. Lyon  

The house centipede, unlike most other centipedes that normally live outdoors, can live indoors especially in damp, moist basements, cellars, bathrooms, crawlspaces or unexcavated areas under the house. They are sometimes seen running rapidly across the floor with great speed, stopping suddenly to remain motionless and then resuming fast movements, occasionally directly toward the homeowner in an attempt to conceal themselves in their clothing. They have a "fearful" appearance but cause no damage to the structure, household possessions or foods. Some can bite when handled carelessly, resulting in a slight swelling or pain no worse than a mild bee sting. 


Centipedes, or "hundred-legged worms," are reddish-brown, flattened, elongated animals with many segments, most of which have 1 pair of legs. The first pair of legs is modified into poisonous jaws located below the mouth. Antennae have 14 or more segments. The house centipede is grayish-yellow with 3 dark, long stripes down the back with the legs encircled with alternating dark and white bands. The actual body length is an inch or slightly longer (wormlike), surrounded with 15 pairs of very long legs making the creature appear much larger. The last pair of legs is more than twice the body length of the female. A pair of very long slender antennae extends forward from the head. They move quickly and are sometimes mistaken for long-legged spiders. Other centipedes, found outdoors, often are more elongate with shorter legs and antennae.

Life Cycle and Habits

Centipedes are long-lived, sometimes up to 6 years. They overwinter as adults and lay eggs during the warm months. Usually eggs are laid in the soil and protected by adults. Some species give birth to living young.

Centipedes need moist habitats and those living outdoors are found in rotting wood, compost piles, mulch, wood chips, leaves, etc. 

The house centipede can complete its life cycle indoors, as it prefers dampness. They mate and breed in dark cracks and crevices. Eggs hatch into larvae which have 4 pairs of legs. There may be 5 or more larval stages with the number of legs increasing with each molt. Following larval growth are 4 adolescent stages, each with 15 pairs of legs. Centipedes prey on insects, spiders and other small animals, being considered beneficial to humans. The last pair of hind legs are modified to lasso and hold the victims until they are paralyzed by venom from the jaws connected to poison glands.

The house centipede runs swiftly when disturbed and can climb walls easily. Some are found around sump pumps in basements or bathrooms and other humid, dark hiding places where they are most active at night. They usually occur in small numbers and, in spite of their fearful appearance, they are considered harmless to humans. Most in the United States do not bite humans, but a few tropical species will bite, inflicting painful wounds. The jaws of young centipedes are usually not strong enough to cause more than a slight pinch when biting. 

Control Measures

Centipedes, related to lobsters, crayfish and shrimp, require moist habitats and areas of high humidity. It is important to keep the house and outside area as dry as possible. 


Keep old boards, or rotting wood, compost piles, grass clippings, leaves, stones, etc. away from the house foundation. Remove, if practical, trash or leaf litter in a strip 3 feet wide surrounding the house foundation, exposing the soil surface to drying from the air and sunlight. Repair and seal cracks and openings in the foundation wall and around door and window frames with caulking compound and weather stripping. 

Properly ventilate basements and subfloor crawlspaces to eliminate excess moisture. Indoors, control nuisance insect populations to reduce the food source (prey) of centipedes. These creatures can be collected by broom and dustpan, vacuum cleaner or other mechanical means and discarded. 


Try to locate the infested area or cause of infestation (nearby woods, pastures, lakesides,river areas etc). Outdoor, spray a protective barrier thoroughly soaking the soil in a five to fifteen foot band around the house. Also, thoroughly spray the sides of the house up to the level of the first story windows, especially across doorways and other openings. The carbamate insecticides such as propoxur(baygon), bendiocarb(ficam) or carbaryl(sevin) give the fastest knockdown compared to the other groups of insecticides. Wettable powder formulations provide the best soil residual control. If foundation plantings are heavily mulched, insecticides may have to be rodded down to the soil beneath the mulch. Repeat applications at weekly intervals may be needed.

Treatment of the peat moss, mulch, wood chips, leaves, etc., used in landscaping around the house, is important. Subsequent water sprinkling will carry the insecticide down into the soil where these creatures hide. Do not expect immediate kill since control may be slow(three to six days or more). Additional pesticides such as amorphous silica gel (drione, Tri-die), boric acid (permadust). chlorpyrifos (Duration, Dursban, Empire, Engage), diatomaceous earth (Answer, Organic Plus), diazinon, esfenvalerate (Conquer), pyrethroids (Exciter, Kicker, Microcare, Pyrethrum, Safer, X-Clude) and Resmethrin (vectrin) can be used. Only the licensed pest control operator or applicator can use bendicorb+pyrethrins (Ficamplus) cyfluthrin (Optem, Tempo), cypermethrin (Cynoff, Cyper-active, Demon, Vikor), deltamethrin (suspend), Lambdacyhalothrin (Commodore), permethrin (Astro, Dragnet, Flee, Prelude, Torpedo) and Tralomethrin (saga). Indoors, if needed, certain formulations of Dursban, Ficam and Baygon household Spray formulations will give some residual, spot or crack can crevice control while space treatments of pyrethrins or resmethrin will paralyze or kill by contact. Always read the label and follow directions and safety precautions.


NOTE: Disclaimer - This publication may contain pesticide recommendations that are subject to change at any time. These recommendations are provided only as a guide. It is always the pesticide applicator's responsibility, by law, to read and follow all current label directions for the specific pesticide being used. Due to constantly changing labels and product registrations, some of the recommendations given in this writing may no longer be legal by the time you read them. If any information in these recommendations disagrees with the label, the recommendation must be disregarded. No endorsement is intended for products mentioned, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. The author and Ohio State University Extension assume no liability resulting from the use of these recommendations.


All educational programs conducted by Ohio State University Extension are available to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis without regard to race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, gender, age, disability or Vietnam-era veteran status.

Keith L. Smith, Associate Vice President for Ag. Adm. and Director, OSU Extension.

TDD No. 800-589-8292 (Ohio only) or 614-292-1868

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