The House Centipede Is One Impressive (And Leggy) Creepy-Crawly

It may not be your desire to come face-to-face with a house centipede while cleaning out the garage, but if it happens, just know that you're in presence of arthropod greatness.

The KQED video for PBS above reveals just how fast and ferocious this 100-legged (or fewer) insect can be, especially when it's on the prowl for prey.

This creepy-crawly uses its dozens of appendages in a synchronized wave of action to gain speed and catch its dinner. It can move as fast as 16 inches a second, the equivalent of a human running 42 mph.

The House Centipede is one impressive creepy crawly worth marveling at
Not to be confused with their herbivorous cousins the millipedes, centipedes are aggressive predators that use venom to subdue their prey. Kevin Collins/KQED

Once a centipede nears its prey, it catches the soon-to-be meal with its legs and restrains it by "lassoing" the victim, using its appendages like rope.

"Basically arthropods are Swiss army knives," Greg Edgecombe, a paleontologist who specializes in centipedes at the Natural History Museum, London, explains to KQED. "They differentiate the legs for different functions."

The centipede's fangs, called forciples, then inject deadly venom into its prey. Luckily, house centipedes rarely bite humans.

Centipedes are actually one of nature's best exterminators. While their millipede cousins are herbivores, centipedes add some insectivore value to their night-time presence by feeding on cockroaches, flies, bedbugs, crickets, spiders and snails.

The House Centipede is one impressive creepy crawly worth marveling at
Centipedes are born with eight legs, but that number grows to 30 or more as they reach adulthood. Kevin Collins/KQED

The centipede's forcibles also double as a grooming tool. It passes its legs through the forcibles to clean and lubricate its sensory legs.

Some of the centipede's appendages are also antennae, though they aren't much different than their legs. They're used as a defensive ploy against predators and also play a role in mate selection.

House centipedes typically live between three and seven years, and they begin breeding in their third year. The female can lay over 100 eggs at a time. These nocturnal insects prefer to live in cool, damp places.

So the next time you see a house centipede in your home, know that this athletic and aggressive arthropod is there to help you, not haunt you.