Colorado is home to approximately twenty-five species of centipedes. Of these species, house centipedes and giant desert centipedes tend to be two of the species of main concern among homeowners. Centipedes in general have long, slender, segmented bodies with a single pair of legs on each segment. Their size varies greatly depending on their species. All centipedes have the appearance of a false head at the rear of their body. The final pair of legs is elongated and resembles antennae. This “pseudohead” is supposed to act as a deterrent to predators such as reptiles and birds. Centipedes’ legs allow them to move and maneuver very quickly when they are disturbed or threatened. Curved jaws on the first segment are attached to poison glands and centipedes can produce a painful bite in the larger species. Stone centipedes are the most frequently encountered species in Colorado and are easily found hiding under dense vegetation, rocks, mulch and other high moisture areas where prey can be readily found. Centipedes are sensitive to drying and will seek shelter in high moisture areas which may result in them invading homes where moisture is present when outside conditions are too dry.
CommonGiantDesert Centipede –
Also known as a tiger centipede due to the dark stripe that runs across each segment, this centipede is easily the largest species in the state. Adults are commonly found at 5-6 inches in length with color variations from brown to brick, yellow to bluish tints are also common. Found along the eastern plains, southeastern portion of the ArkansasValley and the lower elevation areas of the western slope. A nocturnal predator, this species will kill and consume any arthropod it can capture and larger specimens have even been known to kill small mammals and reptiles. Their poison gland is utilized to stun and kill their prey. Eggs are laid in cavities under rocks, inside of decayed wood or other sheltered areas to avoid drying. The mother will wrap around her eggs to guard them until they have hatched. She will continue to care for them until they have completed several molts and wander off on their own. This species produces a powerful and painful bite when handled and although it is not deadly, it causes significant concern to most homeowners. Lifespan of the common giant desert centipede is approximately 4 years.
House Centipedes –
With their extraordinarily long legs, house centipedes resemble a creature straight out of a horror movie, with the exception of their size. This species has 15 pairs of legs and are grayish-yellow in color. Three stripes run down the length of the back and legs commonly have a banded appearance. Significantly smaller in size than its giant cousin, this species typically reaches a body length of only 1-1.5 inches. An introduced species originating from the Mediterranean, house centipedes are not found world wide and have the potential to be found inside any home in Colorado. They are predators of insects and other arthropods and hunt mostly at night although they may also hunt in dark areas of the home during the day. This species has adapted to life indoors provided there is moisture available and sufficient food supply. This species commonly lives three or more years. Bites from this species are much less significant then the giant desert centipede as it has difficulty penetrating skin. Eggs are laid in spring and the first stage following hatching has only 4 segments and pairs of legs.