What Are Centipedes?
If you’re looking to tackle house centipedes in your house, the first place to start is with a little useful education! First off, people can sometimes confuse a centipede with a millipede.
Millipedes have two sets of legs per segment that are positioned directly under their body, while centipedes have one set of legs per segment, positioned to the side of their bodies. Centipedes also have a flatter body while millipedes have a more rounded body.
Centipedes can be venomous, but neither centipedes nor millipedes are considered lethal or dangerous to humans and pets.
They do not transmit diseases to humans, and unlike other pests, do not go after our food, nor damage furniture and plants.
Centipede means ‘100 legs’, but depending on the species, this insect has anywhere from 15 to well over 100 pairs of legs! However, the common house centipede only has 15 pairs of legs, but it can travel approximately 1.3 feet per second! This makes it ideal for the centipede to run away from predators, or run after prey.
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To find out how to deal with centipedes in homes, we first need to know what are some of the common centipedes found in Malaysia, and what to do if you get bitten by one.
Centipedes In Malaysian Homes
The Malaysian cherry-coloured centipede, also known as ‘lipan bara’, has a red body and can grow up to a whopping 30 cm! It is notorious for its bite that causes excruciating pain.
The black centipede is similar to the Malaysian cherry-red centipede, except that it has a stealthy black body, making it hard to spot at night, or among clutter like dead leaves and branches.
Although centipedes use venom, and their bites are extremely painful, they’re not particularly harmful to humans.
However, it is good to note that centipede bites can be fatal to babies, small children, or those with allergies if treatment is not sought early on.
Their defense mechanism is to secrete venom from glands connected to the first pair of forcipules (basically, those little pincers!), which is used to claw and inject venom into its victim.
Generally, the larger the centipede, the more painful their bite may be. All centipedes use venom to kill their prey, but centipede bites rarely cause health complications in humans and larger pets like cats and dogs.
Similar to a snake bite or bee sting, centipede bites leave two tiny puncture marks and cause redness on the skin as well as swelling.
It is advisable to kill the centipede immediately if you have been bitten, as centipedes may attack several times when threatened.
Have you, or someone you know, just been bitten by a centipede in the house? Then, immediately wash the bite wound with antibacterial soap and rinse the area with running water.
If the area starts to swell up, soak the affected part in hot water (about 35-40 degree Celcius) for 30 minutes. Apply some steriod cream on the spot (you can try Hydrocortisone) to reduce the itchiness and redness.
If it causes intense pain, or if you are allergic to insect venom, consult your doctor or head to the nearest clinic, as it may cause anaphylactic shock that could be fatal if care is not received promptly.
How To Get Rid of Centipedes In Your Home
Centipedes love moisture, food, and undisturbed shelter. This makes them attracted to dark, hidden, and damp environments that constantly remain humid all year round.
If you realise that they are in your home, they could be looking for moisture, water, or a food source somewhere inside.
Centipedes also love areas outside the home that are cluttered, which makes it a great environment to hide and breed!
The rainy season also brings with it a rise in centipede bite cases as we encounter them on our turf more often due to the conducive weather.
Another place centipedes tend to lurk is in between sheets of cloth. Being nocturnal creatures, most centipedes are active at night, and love playing a round or two of hide-and-seek underneath your blanket.
A good habit to have is to always thoroughly shake out your sheets, blankets, and pillows before getting into bed.
Eliminating their food source is actually a great first step towards putting a stop to a centipede infestation at home.
Centipedes love eating termites, flies, spiders, cockroaches, bed bugs, and worms. The best part about cleaning and eliminating their food source, is that you will be tackling more than one pest infestation at once!
Prevention Is Better Than Cure: How To Keep Centipedes Out of Your Home
While it’s best to not kill centipedes, as they are one of nature’s more effective pest killers (considered to be an active hunter since they’re always looking for their next prey), here are some methods you can use in case you still want your home centipede-free:
- Seal holes, cracks, and gaps in walls and under doors. This will help keep other pests like cockroaches and ants out as well.
- Eliminate their food source. This means addressing other pest issues like cockroaches, ants, and termites.
- Clear all piles of dead leaves, tree bark, and branches around the perimetre of your home. Remember, centipedes love dark and damp areas, so check the drains and gutters for any blockage too.
- Salt is a wonderful natural remedy to keep centipedes at bay. Sprinkle some salt around areas with moisture or wall cracks to deter them from entering your home, but be sure your pets stay away from the salt.
- Slice or bruise pandan leaves or lemongrass, and allow the smell to waft through the air. Place the leaves in a bowl near infested areas. The best part is that this hack works for cockroaches too!
- A few drops of peppermint or eucalyptus essential oil act as an invisible barrier that helps deter centipedes as they hate the strong aroma. Not only that, coming into contact with the oil burns them, making them retreat immediately. However, if you have pet rodents, refrain from using peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils, because the smell will disturb them.
- Cayenne pepper is extremely irritating to insects (and even humans). Centipedes and spiders will go out of their way to avoid cayenne pepper, making it an effective ingredient to prevent centipedes from entering the home, especially when sprinkled around the perimeter of the house.
Sometimes, the situation might be dire, and a centipede infestation might have started to significantly impact the safety of you and your loved ones.
This is when you should leave it to the professionals and have pest control services help you get a good night’s sleep!
We sure hope that with early detection, you never have to go down that route. Let’s take some time to inspect our homes, and rid ourselves of creepy-crawlies once and for all!
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