Taking care of your garden or backyard can be a confusing prospect, especially when you unearth a variety of different bugs and critters in the process. One of the insects you’re likely to come across is the garden centipede.
If you’re like a lot of people, you have a ton of questions about centipedes. You probably already know they have many legs, but other than that, most people know very little about these creatures.
Keep reading to learn more about centipedes and if they’re dangerous to you, your garden and your pets. The answer could be helpful the next time you’re planting flowers, vegetables or just playing in the yard with kids or pets.
Spotting Centipedes in Your Yard
If you’re like a lot of people you’ve got two basic questions about centipedes. First, what is a centipede? This might sound like a strange question but with so many insects in your garden and backyard as a whole, it’s easy to think you’ve seen one creature when you’ve actually seen another.
Centipedes and millipedes are commonly mistaken for one another because of a similar physical appearance and a fairly large number of legs. The difference is that centipedes tend to be larger and more rounded in appearance.
Certain centipedes are also capable of posing a threat to humans and pets. Millipedes on the other hand only have the ability to irritate the skin by emitting a certain scent, which typically is only effective against predators.
Are Centipedes Dangerous to Humans?
You likely also want to know if centipedes are poisonous and if they can harm you. The answer is a little more complicated than a simple yes or no, and in many cases, it depends on the centipede that you’re dealing with. After all, there are a variety of different types of centipedes out there.
For most people, centipedes are nothing more than a nuisance in the garden or a curiosity when it comes to insects in strange shapes and many legs. That doesn’t mean that you want to mess with them in your garden though, especially if you find a large group of them in one area.
Can They Kill You?
Like seemingly all things centipede related, whether or not a centipede can kill you isn’t an easy answer. For most people who encounter the average centipede in their backyard, even if they do end being bitten by one, the answer is almost certainly no, a centipede cannot kill you.
So to answer the question do centipedes bite, the answer is yes. Most people don’t even have a serious reaction to a centipede bite when they do come into contact with these insects though. It’s only in very rare cases that we’ll get to later on that centipedes can bring serious harm to humans.
Still, you may want to be cautions when dealing with centipedes in your yard.
Are Centipedes Harmful?
Centipedes are venomous and poisonous insects, meaning that they can and will bit prey in order to feed themselves. They’ll also bit humans or pets when they feel like they’re being attacked or threatened even though you, your cat or your dog are obviously much too large to be considered a food source for a centipede.
Here’s how centipedes attack prey:
- Centipedes use a pair of front legs that are a little different than the rest of the legs on their body.
- Centipedes use these special legs to inject their venom into their prey, which can kill very small animals around the same size or a little larger than the centipede itself.
- Centipedes attack humans in the same way. When a centipede attacks a human, it’s unlikely that the legs they use to attack will penetrate the skin. Even if they do, the result typically causes a discomfort similar to that of a bee sting, which is relatively mild.
So, are centipedes poisonous? Yes, they are, but they aren’t likely to do much harm to a human.
Are All Centipedes Poisonous?
Centipedes can be pests in your garden or backyard, and if provoked, they will attack humans or domestic pets. What happens when a person gets attacked?
- Cery minor discomfort is likely to be felt by a person around the area of the bite.
- Itching and redness are common around the bite area. Swelling can occur, but is usually very mild.
- Individuals who are allergic to centipedes may experience fever, nausea and vomiting.
However, centipedes don’t generally pose any significant threat to humans, at least when it comes to the varieties that most people will encounter around their homes.
Black centipedes are not nearly as common as the small little creatures you see in your backyard, but they can pose more of a threat to humans. For many people, these insects can also give you quite a fright if you see one in or around your home.
- Growing between five-inches and 10-inches in size, with an average of around seven-inches.
- Black centipedes, like other centipedes, have venomous claws that they use to dig into prey in order to neutralize them. These centipedes are known to be aggressive and they routinely hunt for spiders and other insects.
- When a black centipede bites a human it isn’t likely that any serious harm will come to the person other than an initial sharp pain that should subside relatively quickly. There may be some redness, swelling and discomfort at the site where the bit occurred. If the person is allergic, nausea, vomiting and fever are common.
Some studies show that discomfort from being bitten by a black centipede can last a few days, but most people report only a few hours of irritation.
What About House Centipedes?
House centipedes are the stuff of nightmares for some people. In your home, you’re likely to find them in dark places during daylight hours or on the hunt in the evening. That’s because their eyes are very sensitive to light and they prefer the darkness.
When it comes to house centipedes hurting a person it should be pointed out that it isn’t very likely. Typically house centipedes do not attack humans, and when bites do occur, it’s because they were picked up or handled by a person or placed in a threatening situation.
If a person is bitten by a house centipede the reaction is likely to be similar to a bee sting unless the individual has an allergy.
How Poisonous Are Centipedes?
Centipedes do have venom that can be poisonous to prey like other insects and even larger spiders and predatory inspects like wasps. When centipedes come into contact with humans though the poison is generally not problematic.
Most humans do not notice any ill effects at all other than irritation around the area where the bite occurs.
Dogs and Cats
Centipedes are poisonous, but the venom they release typically isn’t a major problem for cats and dogs. In many cases, it is hard for a centipede to bite a cat or dog because of the fur or hair that covers their skin.
If a centipede does manage to bite a dog or cat:
- Minor discomfort will be felt by the animal in some cases. If you know your pet was bitten, watching them for signs of discomfort for 24 hours is a smart choice.
- Your pet may seem lethargic.
- Your pet may show a lack of interest in eating or playing if they are experiencing side effects related to a centipede bite.
In general, the smaller the animal the more likely they are to have a severe reaction to the venom a centipede produces. Remember that centipedes typically use their venom to catch insects and spiders – not large prey like rats.
The Most Poisonous Centipede
The centipedes that you spot in your backyard do have venom that they can use to stop prey like insects and spiders. They commonly use this venom as a method of hunting so that they can eat. They aren’t particularly poisonous to larger creatures though.
One species of centipede, the Scolopendra subspinipes, is a little different. Typically black and red in color, these centipedes are known to hunt for larger prey in some cases, including mice and rats.
The good news is that these centipedes aren’t common in most people’s backyards. Typically they’re only found in Hawaii, parts of Indonesia and Australia. They’re also not likely to be found in areas where humans have settled, so you’re only likely to encounter one in the jungle or wildlife areas.
Centipedes are insects that you’ll find in a variety of gardens and backyards all over the place. House centipedes are also common fixtures indoors, and almost every home can get them from time to time.
While they do have venom that can be problematic for prey, most varieties aren’t harmful to humans. They likely won’t do much damage to your pets either unless they are very small or allergic to the venom centipedes produce.
Centipedes may be venomous, but for most people, they don’t pose a threat.