Centipedes are apex predators and have a beneficial role to play in a garden. Inside my home, however, these fearsome creatures are not always so welcome. Are they dangerous to us? How do we get rid of ones that make their way into the potted plants indoors?
In general, centipedes are found in houseplants because of the nutrient-rich environment that soil has to offer. However, centipedes are harmless to potted plants, and humans. To get rid of them often manual picking or sticky traps are necessary.
Why did you end up with centipedes in the first place? What should you do to remove their presence? More importantly, how to prevent them from coming back?
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The centipedes that you might encounter at home are the so-called Scutigera coleoptrata. As discussed in this study from the University of Georgia are safe for plants and humans. They have poisonous glands whose effects on us, given the significant difference in size, have minimal to no consequences.
“Centipedes do not carry diseases that affect people, animals, or plants.University of Georgia
However, I get that! Let’s be clear. Many of you might fear centipedes. Their long legs and creepy look are scary. How can you remove them?
- Sticky Traps
- Catch and Release Technique
Sticky traps are the most effective way to catch centipedes and remove them without even touching them. My favorite is the Catch Master, they are effective and quite cheap (you can also find on Amazon, check them here).
They are just rigid pieces of paper with special strong glue. Some of them also have a scent that might attract more insects. The work for you is pretty straightforward. You just unpack them, take out the cover above the sticky area and place it on the floor. Centipedes are speedy walkers covering quite a large area. Hence, very likely, they will also pass on top of such traps.
The success of this trap is mainly in its placement. It should be placed where the centipedes hang around. Very moist places (toilet, kitchen) are quite often the most targeted.
A trap can capture multiple of them on top of other unwanted insects (such as ants and even small mammals such as rats and snakes). Some people find out to have snakes and cockroaches at home (poisonous) after hunting for centipedes with this trap.
In my opinion, they are way better than chemical spry. Why?
- The spray must be applied in the area where the insect passes by or on top of the insect itself
- Second, the scent fades over time;
- Third, after the centipede dies, you need to remove it manually and touch it;
- Fourth, it might die in places you never imagine (perhaps the chemical was not strong enough at the moment the centipede entered in contact with) where it can become food for other insects.
- Fifth, it might dangerous for pets and children if it is not specifically specified safe for them
However, be careful.
If you want some insects indoors (like ladybugs, for instance), they might get trapped as well. Pro tip: if you find them in time, insects trapped and you want to release them, just some olive oil. Chances are that they can escape (especially if they are big enough) from such a trap.
Needless to say that you should keep your pets and children away. However, this should not be a problem. Leave them outside of the room where you place the trap, and you will be fine.
I totally understand if you fear centipedes, and you want to get rid of them as much as possible. However, some of you might find sticky traps unnecessary and cruel, especially if you have only a few centipedes around. Indeed, remember, house centipedes are not only harmful but also the best bugs ever you might have indoors if you do not have an invasion of them (why? On this more later).
If you have just a few centipedes and their presence really hurts you (indeed, you will discover later than they are actually the best bugs ever), you can catch them in a jar and take it outside. Wear a pair of gloves if you are scared of touching them (the gardening one, if you have them are good enough, if not any winter gloves will do the job).
Where I live, an infestation is not a problem. While there may be one or two on occasion, there are unlikely to be more. Centipedes move quickly, but I personally have never found it too challenging to catch them manually in this way.
Prevention is better than cure. To avoid the chance that centipedes will take up residence inside your home, make sure you are not attracting them by making a space where their food-sources thrive. Make your house less appealing to them, and they are less likely to show up in the first place.
Indeed, centipedes inside the home as a result of a deeper problem, rather than a cause. So rather than trying to tackle the result, I look to the root causes when trying to find a solution.
If you have centipedes on your houseplants or home, quite likely you have one (or both) of these problems:
- Damp: centipedes are attracted by a high-humidity environment. Hence, damp is one of the key magnets for them. You need to locate them (close, where centipedes hang around, is an excellent spot to start), and take care of it by yourself (DIY?) or with a good plumber.
- Insects infestation: the presence of centipedes is often due to the might be the feeding on other insects that might be thriving in your indoor herbs and houseplants (and you without even realizing as too small to be seen without a deep inspection).
If centipedes have been attracted to houseplants and herbs by insect infestations, the only way to prevent centipedes from coming back for such inviting banquets is to eradicate the cause of infestation. Here 12 ways
- Remove pests: these are especially slugs and other small insects (spider);
- Introduce competing insects: ladybugs are, by far, my favorite. Indeed, they are beneficial to prevent infestations as they have a similar diet to centipedes. In addition (and a great one) are way more “good looking” (if an insect can be so) visitors to have inside your home.
However, whether or not you are happy having these creatures in your home will depend on your attitude to ‘sharing’ your space. I am personally satisfied to let a few native ladybugs hibernate in my home as they help control blackflies and aphids in my indoor garden.
- Organic Solution: Spray plants with a water/castile soap solution (e.g., for a bad aphid problem). You can find them on Amazon for a few dollars. Combine the liquid soap with effective natural pesticides such as garlic, cayenne pepper, or neem oil, for example (check its price here on Amazon). One example can be seen in the video below.
- Watering time check: make this a habit. Every time you water your herbs and plants, spend a few extra seconds to check them, especially below the leaves where many problems might appear at an early stage (here for more). Unhealthy plants are more likely to succumb to infestation with pests – and where there are pests, predators like centipedes can arrive to make the most of the food source.
- Keep your home corners dry: dirt and, more importantly, damp corners will create the ideal habitat for insect life to thrive – and again, when there are plenty of food sources, centipedes are more likely to show up.
How? A dehumidifier is the right solution if you do not find any way to reduce the humidity naturally. Moreover, it prevents other humidity-loving pests from thriving. Here, a very cheap dehumidifier on Amazon (ideal for bathroom and kitchen) that has solved the humidity problems in many houses (check the reviews).
Remember: the common house centipedes are the only species capable of reproducing inside a home. However, a humid place is a must for this to happen. So keeping a home dry should prevent any proliferation in the first place. Check also your carpets. If your floor is covered with it, and it is moist, it can easily become the best home for centipedes.
- Check your firewood: make sure you don’t import centipedes on firewood that you bring into your home. Stack logs off the ground, and check them before you bring them in.
- Seal opening: Seal up entry points if centipedes are coming in from outdoors through gaps, cracks, or under the doors of a damp area in your home.
- Check pots that get indoor: if you are moving one of your herbs indoors (perhaps is wintertime, and you do not want your herbs/plants to frost), make sure you don’t accidentally import unwanted guests into your home.
- Avoid using gardening soil: using gardening soil for indoor plants and herbs is not to go for many reasons. One of them is the potential presence of ‘stow-aways’ like centipedes, flies, and others.
- Clear dead leaves and mulch: dead organic material around your houseplants and herbs is one of the best habitats where centipedes will thrive, so just remove them.
I know you are here as you want to get rid of them and can give you a little nip. I also got your fears in seeing them around. Centipedes may seem rather alarming when they scuttle out from between your houseplants and herbs.
However, what you might not know about them is that centipedes are apex predators that you want to have around (at least in an outdoor garden). Centipedes help keep unwanted and dangerous pest numbers down.
They feed on a vast majority of pests such as snails, flies, spiders, and other dangerous for humans insects (due to the disease might carry). Centipedes are extremely clean and do not carry any disease (they daily clean their legs from any residual food).
Centipedes will not appear at day time, and more importantly, they are not interested in our food. This is not the case with a large variety of other bugs (flies, cockroaches, termite) that might make your way indoor.
So, while this may seem a rather unusual thing to say, they can be good in a garden – even indoors. If you only have one or two – consider leaving them be. They’ll help indoor gardens become more natural ecosystems. This means more diversity, a healthier system, and, ultimately, less work for you.
Wait a minute. Is it actually a centipede you have seen, or is it a millipede?
The garden millipede is another creature you might find in your houseplants and in amongst your herbs. Millipedes are another largely beneficial garden creature. But in the ecosystem, they fulfill a rather different role.
Millipedes differ from centipedes for their speed, legs number, resemblance, colors, and diet.
- Speed: millipedes are usually slower than centipedes.
- Legs: millipedes also have two pairs of legs per body segment rather than one. The house centipedes have 30 legs, while millipedes can have up to 200.
- Resemblance: millipedes look very similar to worms due to their tubular bodies. Centipedes, on the opposite, remind spiders very closely.
- Colors: Millipedes are usually darker and of one color. Centipedes are brighter (yellow and brown)
- Diet: centipedes prefer living organism prey (smaller insects), millipedes are detritivores. A complex term to say that they eat dead or decaying plant matter and help break it down.
Like centipedes, they like damp, moist conditions. Hence, to prevent them, try to make your house as dry as possible!
Like centipedes, millipedes can actually be useful to have in your garden – even indoors. By helping to break down plant matter, they play a role in nutrient recycling. They will usually only be a problem where seedlings and plants are already damaged by another pest or disease issue. Keep plants healthy and happy to avoid any issues.
If they really bother you, as with centipedes, simply catch them and release them outdoors. Or pop them into your indoors (or outdoor) home composting system.
Do centipede bite? Centipede do bite humans, although very rarely and only if they do not have other choices (fell threatened). Their venom can cause mild sympthoms such as pain, redness, and swelling
Do millipedes damage plants? Millipedes are not generally interested in living material as plants so they do not represent a threat to them
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