Centipedes are arthropods that belong to the Chilopoda class – a group that includes several multi-legged creatures such as millipedes. If your house is infested with these crawlers, you need to eliminate their food sources. To do that, you first need to understand what centipedes eat.
So what do centipedes eat? Centipedes exhibit carnivorous tendencies – i.e. they love to feast on meat. These multi-legged creatures are both hunters as well as scavengers. They eat insects and pests, whether they are alive or dead. Some of the stuff they eat includes spiders, ground beetles, cockroaches, earthworms, and crickets. They also eat some plants and vegetables to survive.
How do centipedes eat?
Typically, centipedes don’t come with the sharpest pair of eyes. However, their antennae are quite useful when it comes to searching for food sources. Centipedes are extremely quick, a skill that makes them excellent hunters. When they locate their prey, they use their quick reflexes to pounce on the target.
Centipedes use their powerful claws to lock on to their prey. Their claws secrete powerful venom that paralyzes their prey. Once the prey has been paralyzed, centipedes use their mandibles to chew their meal. However, centipede venom is not strong enough to affect large animals like rats. Their venom has no impact on humans either, except causing mild irritation and some form of infection.
Insects eaten by centipedes
Some of the favorite foods of centipedes are listed below.
If you have got ground beetles in your home, they can attract centipedes. Although these beetles have wings, they can’t fly. Centipedes can easily use this weakness to their advantage.
To get rid of ground beetles, you have to find out what attracts them. They like to stay near light. They can also hide in gaps and cracks in different parts of your home. However, they are fearless enough to make their way into your home through the windows and door.
To eat ground beetles, centipedes go around certain hot spots such as leaves, logs, rocks, and accumulated debris.
Unlike other insects, centipedes don’t fear spiders. Instead, they find spiders delicious!
Spiders enter homes via cracks and openings in windows and doors. Spiders usually enter a home to search for food, moisture, warmth, or a mate. One of the biggest reasons for a spider to come into a home is when it spots a sizeable supply of other insects in a home.
Sometimes, spiders are transferred in a home via infested mediums like clothing, firewood, and other items that are stored in areas like the basement and attic.
Centipedes also like to have cockroaches for dinner.
A significant reason behind the arrival of cockroaches is blamed on inadequate housekeeping. If you don’t clean and maintain your home properly, a dirty home will always attract cockroaches, which in turn invites centipedes. They can intrude your home via gaps and cracks, infested items, sewer pipes, and drains. Sometimes, the mere attraction of light sources is enough for a cockroach to barge in your home.
Crickets are another favorite food source of centipedes. Usually, crickets live outdoors. However, given the “right” conditions, they are drawn to homes. These include poorly sealed gaps, unmaintained damp spaces, and shiny lights in a home.
You have to wipe out crickets from your home at once because they inflict severe damage, other than luring centipedes to your home.
What do centipedes eat in garden?
Centipedes have forged a strong reputation as generalist predators. They are omnivores. Thus, they eat whatever they can discover in their surroundings for survival.
In gardens, they can eat plants and vegetables. However, it does not happen to be their favorite diet. Only, when centipedes are out of options and can’t find moving food sources, they relent and eat plants to survive.
If possible, they would also go for their favorite foods like spiders, crickets, and silverfish. Other bugs which they eat include moths, pill bugs, and flies.
The generalist nature of centipedes makes them scavenge on dead organisms. Hence, they will not think twice before eating dead pests…
What is different about the eating habits of wild centipedes?
Wild centipedes are a lot more different than house centipedes. Living in the wild has made them larger in size. They also tend to be deadlier as hunters. Wild centipedes eat earthworms, spiders, and moths. Studies reveal that they like eating larger vertebrate prey such as lizards, rodents, birds, frogs, bats, snakes, and other reptiles.
Like their house counterparts, they are nocturnal and search for food in the night. In the day, they hide in their safe spots. These spots include rocks – ones that are humid and damp. Since they thrive on water, moist places help them to thrive.
Centipedes are cannibals
Centipedes are one of those species which take part in cannibalization. In fact, a lot of female centipedes are known to devour their younglings. If the nesting spot of centipedes is destroyed, they may feel the urge to eat their eggs.
Interestingly, it is not always the parent who eats their offspring. In some species, there is a reverse occurrence (i.e. the child is known to consume its mother).
Centipedes drink water
Centipedes require water for survival. They don’t only drink water but also use water sources as a living space. This is why you can find centipedes close to water sources in drains, sewers, bathrooms, sinks, other moist areas in your home.
Like spiders, centipedes are protected by waxy coverings. While it can protect them from their enemies, it is ineffective in saving it from moisture loss. When there is no water, dehydration can speed up the death of a centipede.
Due to their need for water, some studies suggest that this maybe their primary reason to seek refuge in a home, so they can drink water and stay alive. This is why water cleaning off stagnant and standing water in your home can pay dividends for removing centipedes.
What is different about the eating habits of centipedes
Usually, predators hunt and eat animals which are smaller than them in size. As you might have observed by now from the above food sources of centipedes, they eat animals which are bigger than them. They can eat an animal which is more than 15 times larger than them. So how is this possible?
Centipedes succeed in eating larger animals because of their venomous bite. In Venezuela, studies have unveiled that centipedes even ate bats. In China, a centipede with a golden head and a weight of just three grams managed to subdue a mouse that weighed 45 grams! This victory came as a result of its venom, which was a lot more potent than the venom of a normal centipede.
According to Shilong Yang, an experienced researcher in toxins and venom, the feat achieved by the centipede has set a new record for subduing a 15-times larger prey in less than 30 seconds. Yang published a report in which he gave details of the toxin, which made the centipede so much powerful. This was due to peptide – a molecule in centipede venom. It is effective because it entirely blocks potassium from going in or out of mammal cells. As potassium channels are common throughout the mammal bodies, the toxin from a centipede can damage nervous, muscular, respiratory, and cardiovascular systems.
Are millipedes similar to centipedes in eating habits?
Centipedes are often used in the same category as millipedes. Millipedes may appear similar, but they are not as fierce in hunting habits as centipedes. The range of foods they devour is also a lot lesser than centipedes.
Millipedes are detrivores, which means they consume decomposing plants and dead animals. Some other foods on their menu include feces, wood matter, and organics in the soil.
In case millipedes cannot eat any dead plants, they turn towards algae and fungi. Similarly, they may attempt to eat soft roots and leaves. Farmers are always on the lookout for millipedes because they damage sprouting seedlings. Due to this reason, farmers suffer a great deal of financial damage.
Although millipedes are not typically carnivorous, they are a few species which have been found to hunt earthworms, snails, and even other centipedes.
What are other solutions to remove centipedes?
After destroying and eliminating the types of foods consumed by centipedes, don’t expect them to disappear completely. Make sure that you maintain clean and dry conditions in your home. Also, ensure that your home is free from stagnant or standing water.
Have a professional visit your home so you can identify gaps, holes, and cracks in your home, which serve as the entry points of centipedes. Subsequently, make them initiate repair work to seal these openings.
You can also go for insecticides and natural repellents to minimize a centipede infestation.
Are centipedes harmful? Centipedes are not aggressive towards people, but might bite you in the event that you provoke them. The bigger the centipede, the more debilitating their sting could be. All of centipedes use venom to kill their prey. Centipede bites infrequently cause health issues in people, and are not typically harmful or fatal.
Do centipedes eat mice? Centipedes don’t typically eat mice (though they can kill them with their venom). In most cases, house centipedes consume cockroaches, ants, bed pests, moths that eat garments, as well as other home insects.
Credit for featured image to Scott Akerman