The house centipede is one of the most commonly spotted arthropods within American homes, and their frightening features and fast movements rarely fail to instill a sense of fear in those who discover this creepy-crawly. The house centipede is neither an insect nor an arachnid; instead they belong to the chilopoda class of arthropods, just like centipedes and millipedes. Massachusetts residents who have spotted a house centipede, or several, within their home have likely noted the insect’s otherworldly appearance. As it happens, this observation is not inaccurate, as house centipedes are not even native to North America and should never have wound up within any state, especially Massachusetts.

The house centipede originated from the warm and humid mediterranean region of Europe before it was brought to latin America a few hundred years ago. This species eventually moved into Mexico before establishing a habitat in the southern US. Remarkably, this centipede managed to overcome its usual environmental conditions by later moving into the relatively cold  northeastern states.

As the house centipede traveled farther north during the 1800s, specimens stuck to the northeastern coast in order to retain needed moisture. The house centipede was first recorded within Pennsylvania in 1849, then New York in 1885, and eventually Massachusetts in 1890. By 1902, the house centipede was common throughout New England where they frequently appeared in homes much to the disgust and fear of the occupants.

Unfortunately, of all documented centipede species, only the house centipede is able to complete its entire lifecycle indoors. Therefore, these centipedes do not have a physiological need to leave people’s houses. House centipedes prefer to dwell in moist areas of a home, such as in bathrooms and basements where they often dwell year round. These centipedes can easily gain access to homes through cracks and crevices in foundation walls, and while they are sometimes spotted skittering rapidly across floors, house centipedes are most active in the dark during the nighttime hours, as they are nocturnal creatures. So house centipedes rarely bother residents of houses and apartments, as they prefer to sneak around people at night. At least the creatures are known for killing-off many other types of insect and spider pests within a home.

Have you ever managed to squish a house centipede before it managed to safely skitter away?