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What do house centipedes eat?

House centipedes are creepy looking creatures with long legs and fast movements. Even though they look frightening, they are actually beneficial insects that help control pest populations. Understanding what house centipedes eat helps explain why they can be helpful to have around.

House Centipedes Are Insectivores

House centipedes are voracious insectivores, meaning they eat mostly insects and other arthropods. Some of their favorite foods include:

  • Cockroaches
  • Silverfish
  • Spiders
  • Ants
  • Termites
  • Bed bugs
  • Moths
  • Flies

House centipedes are well equipped to catch and eat these household pests. Their long, fast-moving legs allow them to quickly chase down prey. They also have poison claws that paralyze and kill small bugs. The house centipede then uses its other legs to hold the prey item and consume it.

They Especially Target Cockroaches and Silverfish

While house centipedes will eat most any insect they can catch, they seem especially fond of feeding on cockroaches and silverfish. These are two of the most unwanted pests people find inside their homes, so house centipedes do a great service by preying on them.

Cockroaches carry diseases and can contaminate food and surfaces. Silverfish damage books, papers, photos, and other household items when they feed on the starch content. Thus, house centipedes help limit roach and silverfish populations so these pests don’t overrun a home.

House Centipedes Hunt at Night

House centipedes are nocturnal, so they hunt and eat during the night. This is convenient since many of their prey species are also nighttime wanderers. With their excellent sense of touch and ability to detect chemical signals, house centipedes track down hiding and running insects once the lights go out inside.

Centipedes prefer to consume living insects, as the movement helps trigger their hunting instincts. But they will also feed on crushed or dead insects they find during their nighttime quests.

They Require Moist Habitats

Moisture is important to house centipedes. They have an outer waxy coating on their legs and body that needs moisture to stay intact. Without it, house centipedes can dry out. They also prefer higher humidity levels, which aids their breathing through tiny holes known as spiracles along their body segments.

That’s why house centipedes are most often found in basements, bathrooms, crawl spaces, cellars, garages, laundry rooms and unventilated areas. These places provide access to their needed prey, as well as the higher moisture levels centipedes require.

Outdoor Habitats Provide Food Too

Outdoors, house centipedes will eat a wider variety of small insects and arthropods. They will continue hunting their preferred prey like roaches and silverfish. But they will also consume insects found under rocks, leaves, logs, in the soil and on plants outside. Just about any insect or spider is on the menu.

Good outdoor habitats include piles of wood or compost, leaf litter, stored debris and uncontrolled overgrown areas. These contain many small insects, eggs, larvae and spiders for house centipedes to feed on before venturing inside.

Very Small Amounts of Food Are Needed

Despite their scary appearance, house centipedes don’t eat very much. These tiny arthropods only weigh around 1-1.5 grams as adults. Since they are cold-blooded, house centipedes don’t require large amounts of food to meet their nutritional needs.

Experts estimate they only need to eat one or two small insects or spiders per week. The rest of the time they are hiding out of sight in nooks and crannies. So while they hunt frequently, house centipedes only consume a tiny fraction of the pests inside a home.

They Have a Long Lifespan

Given their small food requirements, house centipedes can live an impressively long time. Each house centipede can survive 1 to 3 years on average. The longest living individuals may reach 7 years of age in ideal conditions.

During its lifetime, just one house centipede can consume hundreds of spiders, silverfish and cockroaches. They keep eating these pests throughout each year of their lifespan.

House Centipedes Provide Free Pest Control

Since house centipedes help lower populations of many undesirable insects, they provide a valuable service. Homeowners and landlords save money on professional pest control by allowing centipedes to live peacefully inside.

Rather than killing house centipedes on sight, let them continue hunting and reducing household pests. Their benefits far outweigh any creepiness factor in cohabitating with them.

If centipede populations start growing too high, gently sweep them up and release them outdoors. Otherwise, be glad these strange looking critters only want to eat other bugs around your home.


House centipedes are voracious insect predators that feast on many unwanted pests. Cockroaches, silverfish, spiders, ants, bed bugs and flies are just some of their preferred foods. Hunting at night in moist habitats allows house centipedes to keep pest populations in check. They require very little food to survive and live long lifespans while providing natural biological control services. While startling to see, house centipedes are beneficial companions that save money by reducing the need for professional pest control.