Adults are approximately 1/8-6” long, elongated, flattened, and wormlike. They are usually yellow to dark brown in colour and sometimes have darker stripes or markings. Pairs of legs number 15-177 with 1 pair per segment. First instar centipedes usually have 4 pairs of legs and additional segments and pairs of legs are added with additional molts.
Centipedes typically overwinter outdoors in protected situations and lay their eggs in or on the soil during the summer. Females have been observed to produce 35 eggs over a period of days. Depending on the species, they may live anywhere between 1-6 years. If handled roughly some of the larger species can break the human skin resulting in a bite that causes some pain and swelling, much like a bee sting. However, the large Scolopendra can inflict a very painful bite and should be handled with great care.
Centipedes are typically found in areas of high moisture such as loose bark, rotting logs, under stones, trash, piles of leaves and grass clippings, flower-bed mulch, etc., where their typical prey is found. Some species will sometimes feed on plant tissues causing injury.
The key to centipede control is to reduce or eliminate moist areas and harbourage. For example, remove accumulations of leaves and grass clippings; move logs, stones and rocks off the ground, provide adequate ventilation in crawl spaces etc. Indoors, centipedes are easily removed with a vacuum. Application of appropriately labelled residuals can be made to exterior building foundation walls, perimeter flower and/or ornamental plant beds, unfinished basements, and crawl spaces. Control of the small arthropods, upon which centipedes feed, helps make building areas less attractive to them.