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Centipedes, with no shortage of legs and alarming speed, seem to have been designed to make squeamish homeowners shriek. But despite their somewhat frightening appearance, centipedes are—for the most part—harmless, even somewhat helpful. They won’t damage your foundation, siding, or furniture; they’re not interested in the food in your pantry; and they come out at night and eat the terrible bugs that you don’t want hanging around, like termites, moths, roaches, and even bed bugs. If you’re not squeamish, you might consider just leaving centipedes alone to do what they do best—killing destructive pests with poisonous venom and then considerately gobbling them up so you have nothing left to clean. But if you find creepy-crawlies just too disturbing to live with, there are several things you can do to rid your spaces of centipedes.
If centipedes have already made themselves comfortable in your humble abode, here are a few ways to eliminate them:
• Capture: Centipedes are fast, but they don’t generally invade in large numbers. If you can trap the ones you see and either squish them or relocate them outside, you’ll be well on your way to controlling the problem. To transfer a centipede to the yard, trap one under a jar or cup, slide a piece of paper underneath the opening to keep the bug in the jar, then take it outside. Do not touch a centipede with your bare hands—they do bite. Although they are not prone to attacking humans, one might bite in self-defense; the bite would feel similar to a bee sting.
• Trap: Sticky traps, such as those used for other insects and rodents, are effective at catching centipedes. Place traps next to the baseboards in the corners of your rooms to capture not only the multilegged creatures but also the bugs they’ve been feasting on—which, incidentally, could help uncover your underlying pest problem.
• Spray: If the idea of using insecticides inside your home makes you less squeamish than the presence of centipedes, consider eradicating them with any number of sprays or dusts. (There are also a few nontoxic varieties available.) Before buying, check the label to ensure that the formulation targets centipedes and is safe to be used indoors. Then, apply it according to the manufacturer’s instructions around baseboards, doors, windows, and any cracks and crevices where centipedes might gain entry.
The best way to reduce your home’s centipede population is to prevent the pests from entering in the first place. Here’s how to create an inhospitable home:
• Outdoors: Centipedes like to hide and breed within leaf litter, grass clippings, and other damp yard materials. Clear away this outdoor debris and keep it a fair distance from your house. If you store compost or firewood, move it at least 30 feet away from your home’s perimeter.
• Inside: Use an expanding foam spray to seal up any gaps, cracks, and crevices around your windows, doors, siding, pipes, and wiring. Doing this will keep out not only centipedes, but rodents as well. Centipedes love damp areas like bathrooms, basements, closets, and even attics; in fact, they’ll dry out and die without moisture. Invest in a dehumidifier, and install exhaust fans in your bathrooms or attic if you haven’t already done so.
Finally, if you can figure out which bugs the centipedes are feeding on and eradicate them, your centipedes will move on to locations where the food supply is more dependable—like, perhaps, your neighbor’s house. And then you can clue him into the combination of prevention and control that saved you from those frightening confrontations with the “hundred-legged worm.”