They look like something from a horror movie. With 15 pairs of legs, they scuttle across walls, floors, and even ceilings. If you try to smoosh them but only get half of them, the undamaged half can zip away undeterred.

We’re talking about the house centipede. If you don’t know the name, you’ll probably recognize a photo.

Creepy Crawlers

House centipedes are only about an inch to an inch and a half long, but their long legs and antennae give them a much larger appearance.

House centipede
dzyanyi_igor on Pixabay

Hopefully, this doesn’t give you any painful flashbacks. There’s little worse than seeing one of these terrifying arthropods on a wall near your bed and wondering what they do while you’re asleep.

The good news is that centipedes are only a villain to other members of the creepy crawly world. They eat just about every other bug that lives in basements and walls.

You can think of them like the Night’s Watch from Game of Thrones. Sure, they’re unsavory, but they’re the only thing protecting you from all of the worse things lurking on the other side of the wall.

Dark, scary hallway
Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Helpful Creatures

Despite being known to hang out in damp and dingy places (or surprising you by popping out behind your toilet at 1 a.m.), house centipedes are incredibly helpful. They eat all of the common household arthropods like bed bugs, spiders, cockroaches, termites and silverfish. That’s something people pay exterminators good money to do. All centipedes need in return is to not be killed.

If centipedes creep you out too bad to live next to them, you can catch them in a jar pretty easily. You can put them in a damp, leafy place outside, and they’ll continue their arthropod killing spree outside your home (though don’t be shocked if they make their way back in).

Spider web
Nicolas Picard on Unsplash

If you’ve only ever noticed a few, and they don’t bother you too much, let them stay. You’ll gain a roommate who pays their way by terrorizing and eating harmful pests.

They’re bark is worse than their bite.

Centipedes are technically venomous, but humans have little to fear from them. Their first pair of legs is modified into venom claws called forcipules.

We know, that sounds terrifying. It is for smaller creatures, but these forcipules are not strong enough to pierce human skin in most cases (nor do centipedes generally try to bite humans).

In the rare case that a centipede does bite a human, the result is similar to that of a bee sting. There may be redness and a temporary stinging sensation.

Man with had on back of neck
Mabel Amber on Pixabay

Appreciate your bug brethren.

If these insectivores disturb you too much (don’t worry, they don’t grow that big in North America!), you can do a number of things to reduce their likelihood. They generally live in damp or moist places, like basements.

They take refuge in cracks or crevices in the walls or floor. Using caulk to seal up cracks and running a dehumidifier to dry the air will reduce their numbers.

House centipede
631372 on Pixabay

We know these scuttling arthropods aren’t the most appealing roommates. Just remember that neither are all the things they eat (we’ll remind you again: roaches, spiders, bed bugs, and more).

And unlike some of the pests they eat, house centipedes won’t damage your house or overrun it with a large population. The biggest downside to these creepers is their frightening appearance, and that’s a lot easier to cope with once you know how useful they are.