Is there anyplace with no house centipedes?
July 18, 2018 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Is there anyplace in the US, Canada or Central America where house centipedes have never made it or if they have, don't survive or only grow to 1/4 inch long or so? Before you answer this question, please go to Wikipedia and look at a picture of a house centipede. I am not talking about millipedes or any similar creature with many legs. Neither am I talking about a footlong centipede with short legs that looks like a millipede. I am talking specifically and only about house centipedes (which grow to 1.5 inches at most). Please no links to sites with pictures of centipedes. And please no discussions of the wonders of house centipedes because I am a Never Centipeder to the degree of asking a question like this and am completely immune to reason or detached interest on the subject.
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (76 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if they actually haven't made it to San Diego, but I never saw one in the 30 plus years I lived there. However, there were periods in the summer where I'd fish a scorpion out of our pool every day for at least a week straight.
posted by LionIndex at 12:46 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

From that wikipedia article you ask us to review, it looks like there's nowhere in North America that they don't have some kind of toehold. So if your goal is "I don't want to live within a mile of house centipedes" I think you may be mostly out of luck. But if your goal is "I don't want them in my house" you can probably get pretty close by ensuring that the inside of your house stays dry (low humidity). Which seems theoretically possible anywhere, but will probably be easier in some parts of the country (say, the Southwest and Southern California) than others (e.g., the Pacific Northwest)
posted by aubilenon at 12:48 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

I took a peek at the photo, I have never seen one in either our previous apartment or our current house in Denver (haven't seen one at a friend's house either). We tend to get very few bugs because it is so dry. Obviously it's not a guarantee, but if they are here they are rare enough to not be something I've ever seen (and I am pretty bug-conscious in that I do notice them and hate them!)
posted by rainbowbrite at 12:49 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've never seen one in Austin TX.

But you might not like our palmetto bugs.
posted by adamrice at 12:49 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

From Wikipedia, they are found from Alaska to Chile, Virginia to California. I think you're out of luck. (I feel you though, I haaaaaaate them so much! and thought they were just a city thing and then freaked out when I saw one on my suburban ceiling one day.)
posted by Fig at 12:50 PM on July 18, 2018

I've lived in southern California for over 40 years, and I've never seen one.
posted by Linnee at 12:53 PM on July 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

Never had them in NYC. Rats and roaches galore, but none of the Thing that shall Not be Named.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 12:54 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Also came in to add that I grew up in San Diego and had never seen one in my life. Only when I moved to Europe did I encounter these little guys for the first time in my life

They appear to like humidity which is uncommon in southern california's desert climate, so that may be it.
posted by vacapinta at 12:56 PM on July 18, 2018

I grew up in the SF Bay Area in California and lived a short stint in Los Angeles... never have I ever seen a house centipede in all these years here. Just millipedes.

The first time that I encountered a house centipede was in Philadelphia while living there for grad school -- my reaction was a mixture of horror and disgust and terror.
posted by extramundane at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Advice from an entomology department on how to reduce seeing them:

"Harborage reduction is the second most important management tactic. Close, with appropriate fillers, cracks and crevices in concrete slabs and block walls. Seal the covers to sump pumps with screen and caulk. Install window screen in basement floor drains to prevent centipedes from entering from dry sumps.

"Reduce the humidity by utilizing dehumidifiers. Grade the soil around the building to facilitate water movement away from the foundation."

In Wikipedia, there's a sentence: "They need an environment that protects them from dehydration and excessive cold."

This would suggest to me that excessively dry or cold environments, or areas of America, might have less or none of them.

Here's a sightings map (no centipede photos on that link, nor when clicking the individual dots) powered by people reporting through iNaturalist. While a lack of report doesn't mean they're not there, it does seem to lend some circumstantial credence to (2), in that the dry-heat areas of America don't seem to have as many sightings.
posted by WCityMike at 12:57 PM on July 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

None in San Diego or Long Beach, CA
posted by gryphonlover at 12:59 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Besides looking for a place that is fairly centipede free, keep in mind that many cats, mine included, will hunt them. So a combo of living someplace where they are scarce, and a pet cat or cats, if that is feasible, might help. (Our cat hunts most bugs in his territory to oblivion, though tends to leave spiders alone, and I have had other cats that did this, including one that totally got rid of roaches, may she rest in peace).
posted by gudrun at 12:59 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

According to several reputable websites I checked their territory does include the entire continent. I would imagine that drier locations and higher elevations (the US west and southwest) probably see less of them than we do where I live in the Northeast so you might consider west of the Rockies and someplace high and dry.

(Also. I know you did not ask for this, but I am seeing a specialist in exposure and response prevention therapy and it is an unpleasant process but I expect to be fully cured of my phobia [to something non-arthropodal] after the therapy. I only mention it because therapy might be cheaper than moving.)
posted by epanalepsis at 12:59 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Another Southern Californian checking in to say that I'm not sure I've ever seen one. The bugs I've seen indoors are limited to spiders, ants, moths, the odd cricket, houseflies, fruit flies, and small roaches. Seems like we might just be too dry for the likes of house centipedes.
posted by yasaman at 12:59 PM on July 18, 2018

I have lived in the Seattle area for 10 years and don't recall ever seeing any.
posted by joan_holloway at 1:00 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've lived in southern California for over 40 years, and I've never seen one.

I hadn't either...until this summer. Now we've got them. I don't know if it's because it's more humid this summer, or because I moved to a place with more landscaping, but I've had two inside the house this summer after 43 years in the same place literally never having laid eyes on one. IT WAS A SURPRISE!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:00 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

Boise, Idaho checking in. I'd never heard of them before today, and I have no memories of ever seeing one.
posted by Hatashran at 1:01 PM on July 18, 2018

Never had them in NYC.

I have seen them with some frequency in NYC as well as other parts of New York state.
posted by enn at 1:05 PM on July 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

NOT in New Jersey. We definitely have them here.
posted by Aquifer at 1:11 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

We get them in Toronto although I don't remember seeing any when I lived in Winnipeg.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2018

Southern OH has them too. No idea about the northern part of the state.
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:13 PM on July 18, 2018

My anecdata points:
-In the past 8 years, I have seen them in NYC (and elsewhere in the metro area), but I don't see them that often.
-In the previous 5 years, I saw many more of them (and sometimes much larger ones) in Chicago
-In the previous two decades, I saw exactly zero of them in South Florida.

I suspect whether you interact with them or not varies pretty widely based on the conditions of individual buildings.

Also, I once summarized my feelings toward them on a phone call: "Well, they're good because they eat other bugs. But they are bad, because they, themselves, are centipedes."
posted by voiceofreason at 1:14 PM on July 18, 2018

Mountain West USA and I've never seen them. We do get a swarm of Box Elder bugs for a few weeks every year.
posted by ShakeyJake at 1:16 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've only ever seen one in Minnesota. The short-legged variety seem much more common here. (I assume by "house centipede" you mean the long-legged kind.)

I did find one's molt in my kitchen sink recently so maybe they're not as rare as I thought...
posted by neckro23 at 1:21 PM on July 18, 2018

I’ve lived in various Southern California cities for several decades and have never seen one, inside or out. But I will forever regret looking at the photo on Wikipedia.
posted by elphaba at 1:24 PM on July 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

Sorry to counter what someone else posted re: Los Angeles, but I've lived here for decades and have indeed verrrrry occasionally seen one. Like, less than once a year. But they do exist here.
posted by BlahLaLa at 1:25 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Regarding San Diego / southern California: I live in the 92114 (Southeast San Diego) and we have major house centipede friendos in the back yard and a couple per year that make it into the house. Sorry to disappear your dreams!
posted by The Minotaur at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2018

I've lived in Portland Oregon for almost 30 years and I was the kid lifting up every rock and rotten log looking for bugs.

I have seen one house centipede in my entire life. It was stuck in my clawfoot tub in my 1920s era apartment building right after college.
posted by TomFoolery at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2018

I live at the junction of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River. We have tons of them, and they get... large. We have warm humid summers and cold damp winters, and they seem to like that. You're much less likely to encounter them if you're living on the 2nd story or above though, and cats do make quick work of them.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2018

I've never seen them in Sacramento, California.
posted by elsietheeel at 1:29 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I didn't see any in the Phoenix area while I was there. Pretty dry, and they mostly look for damp conditions. I think anywhere in habitable North America probably has the potential for them, but if you move to a very dry climate AND work to keep your home dry, that's as much as you can reasonably do.
posted by rachaelfaith at 1:32 PM on July 18, 2018

I've never seen one of them in Sarnia, Ontario (my home town) or Kingston, Ontario (where I went to school), but they're all over Toronto, which is between those two cities and doesn't have a significantly different climate. My wife also told me she had never seen them before moving here (she grew up in Thunder Bay). Fortunately, they are surprisingly easy to kill.

(Edited to add that our cats also kill them).
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I live on the ground floor of an older building now and see easily five to ten times as many bugs as I did when I lived in a higher-up unit. This building's basement is also continuously damp and not well sealed - we're going to have people in to improve it this summer. I didn't see any house centipedes in the second, third, and higher-floor units I lived in in this region, and now I encounter them semi-regularly. If you live in a city, this might help?
posted by bagel at 1:42 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Fellow Never Centipeder here. Horrific, horrific creatures.

I have lived in Massachusetts for 15 years and have never had one in my home. However, we definitely have them around because I get them at work (basement office, occasionally damp).

posted by dayintoday at 1:58 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've never seen one of them in Sarnia, Ontario (my home town) or Kingston, Ontario (where I went to school)

We definitely have them in Kingston. Were you living on the 2nd story or above while you were here?
posted by Secret Sparrow at 2:01 PM on July 18, 2018

We do get them in my second floor Chicago apartment, and I’ve had them in every place I’ve lived here - all older buildings which I think matters. I never saw them in Minnesota growing up, also in an old house. It’s possible that winters are too cold and dry for them there?
posted by mai at 2:04 PM on July 18, 2018

We definitely had them in our house in Wisconsin, and winters were plenty dry and cold there. I'm thinking one factor might be whether your house has a basement or not. Basements are almost non-existent in Southern California.
posted by LionIndex at 2:12 PM on July 18, 2018

Never seen one in any of our 4 houses in Maine or NH over almost 25 years.
posted by mmw at 2:17 PM on July 18, 2018

Haven't seen them in Arizona, but we do have scorpions. (We also pay for the Cadillac of pest control, because I do not want to see anything that is around here.)
posted by Polycarp at 2:24 PM on July 18, 2018

I have lived in New England since 1975 and have never seen a house centipede in any house I lived in or visited, as in friends houses or vacation rentals. They're around, but no common.
posted by beagle at 2:32 PM on July 18, 2018

I also suspect this may vary a lot with the type of home you live in in addition to location. I'm in Seattle, so generally wet throughout the year, but have never seen a house centipede before. However, I live in the city, with a tiny yard, and I think that helps. When I lived in an apartment, I saw even fewer bugs (here it is spiders, and in that apartment I saw ~1 spider inside per year).

(FWIW my parents are in the burbs and have a sizeable yard, and I've never seen a house centipede there, either. They average way more spiders, though.)
posted by catabananza at 2:35 PM on July 18, 2018

I've lived in and around Portland, Oregon for 42 years, and I've never seen one of those things in my entire life.

ETA: I've mostly lived in single family homes with yards. Suburban and semi-rural, up to an acre of land. Lots of bugs here, but I've never seen a house centipede.
posted by peep at 2:45 PM on July 18, 2018

I've battled bedbugs in NYC. I've swatted palmetto bugs in Austin, TX. I've relocated giant house spiders in Seattle, WA. I've exterminated carpenter ants in Southern, CA.

The only place I've ever lived where I regularly encountered house centipedes was Minneapolis, MN.
posted by brookeb at 2:45 PM on July 18, 2018

I have lived in New England since 1975... They're around, but no common.

I respectfully disagree. I too have lived in New England my entire life and have seen them with some regularity. I think your living conditions and locale may matter--which is good news for the OP, if they like higher floors and air conditioning!.
posted by epanalepsis at 2:48 PM on July 18, 2018

Never saw one in San Antonio, TX-- old house with lots of other gross bugs.
posted by 8603 at 3:51 PM on July 18, 2018

I asked my Dad, who's lived in Pasadena, CA (Northern LA Suburbs) for 70+ years:

"Occasionally, outside on the stucco or cinderblock wall (where there's lots of crevices), maybe a handful of times inside the house in the 40 years I've lived there. But I've seen two in the last year, so I don't know."
posted by ApathyGirl at 4:05 PM on July 18, 2018

I suspect whether you interact with them or not varies pretty widely based on the conditions of individual buildings.

Seconding this. Michigander here. I grew up on the water, in a house with just a crawl space. NEVER saw one in that house in 40+ years (my mom still lives there). My house, not on the water, with a basement...get them all the time, typically in the spring. I'll concur that it seems to have the most to do with humidity/dampness as well as opportunity (my basement has a lot of avenues for getting in). I tend to see them either in the basement or in the bathtub, although they do venture elsewhere.

Oh, and my cat DOES NOT hunt them, or any other bugs. Why would you kill them when it is more fun to watch them run around?

I'd recommend going for discouragement rather than trying to find a location that doesn't have them.
posted by Preserver at 4:09 PM on July 18, 2018

I was born in San Bernardino, California. I've lived in the area for 67 years. I've never seen a house centipede. There are other reasons, however, NOT to live in San Bernardino.
posted by crw at 4:26 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

never seen them in the CA Bay Area (THANK ALL THE GODS! That thing is wack.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:27 PM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

None in San Diego, though I can nth the presence of other beasties like scorpions in the country and inexcusably large tree spiders on the coast. I don't recall seeing any in Orange County, and growing up in Los Angeles my parents and I never saw any either. I asked my folks to get the last answer and they would like to share their hearty assertions that, "House centipedes and anything similar are worth burning ones domicile with fire should you encounter any."
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:27 PM on July 18, 2018

I’ve seen them in Portland, OR a handful of times. Sorry. Our town is now way too expensive to move to on false pretenses.
posted by outfielder at 4:42 PM on July 18, 2018

I grew up on the California coast near Santa Barbara and now live in the SF Bay Area and have never seen one of those things. When I googled it I literally gasped in disgust, I can’t imagine having those things running around the house.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 6:14 PM on July 18, 2018

I've lived in a bunch of US states, west and east, and now in the southeast. There seems to be a clear correlation: houses I've lived in with basements=scooters; houses with crawlspaces only=no scooters. Seems to be independent of relative dampness (I live in humid, flood-prone NC right now, but without a basement. No centipedes).
posted by media_itoku at 6:20 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Um I’ve lived in SoCal my whole life and I’ve seen them plenty. The first time I seriously thought some prehistoric shrimp crawled out from somewhere.

So maybe they’re not as common based off the comments above. But I have definitely seen them more than a few times (kept one as a pet, too.)
posted by sprezzy at 7:27 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Another n for environment vs geography.

Never saw one in my childhood home - raised ranch in Syracuse area. Moved a mile away to a basement apartment - multitudes.

On the other hand, Somewhere in there I went to college in Worcester, MA. My dorm, even up to the third floor, was riddled with the things and they had been around long enough to have undergone sufficient natural selection that they perfectly matched the awful brown didn't really see them as much as sense them moving. Argh.

But that's the only time I've seen them not on the ground /basement floor.

And in the apartment that had them, I complained and a single visit from exterminator was sufficient to eradicate them for the rest of the year we were there.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:27 PM on July 18, 2018

In my experience, the best approach to insect avoidance in your living quarters has less to do with where you live and more to do with where you live, by which I mean, every area has some kinds of creepy crawlies and the particular kind you care about appear to be everywhere, but I experienced massively fewer bugs of any kind when living on higher floors in relatively new high-rise condo towers than anywhere else.

Condo buildings are generally much more on top of bug eradication than rental buildings, new builds have fewer infestations that may have been poorly treated and fewer of the kind of plumbing problems and dank forgotten spaces that allow insects to infiltrate and get cozy, higher floors seem to have fewer bugs than lower floors, I assume for reasons of ease of penetration and travel, and central air conditioning keeps the humidity down throughout the building.

This isn't foolproof -- there are some kinds of bugs (bed bugs, I am looking at you) that thrive in high density housing, but I've always experienced more of other types of bugs (ants, spiders, etc) living in single-family / lower-to-the-ground dwellings than in big buildings.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:40 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

I live in SE Wisconsin. I grew up seeing tons of them. For the last four years I have lived in a second floor apartment that is very dry (because of radiator heat) and I have seen exactly one. I also have two cats, but I'm pretty sure they're too lazy to hunt. They may be a deterrent though.

So - if you cannot live outside of their natural range, I recommend being far away from a basement.

(You are not alone. One of my most vivid childhood memories is of standing on the toilet lid, screaming for my father, because there was a centipede on the bathroom floor and I refused to get down. I was about 5. I still hate them.)
posted by AFABulous at 7:52 PM on July 18, 2018

I'm in Los Angeles a couple of miles from the beach and I've never seen one. So, in comparing the habitats of my fellow SoCalis in this thread, it appears that the closer you are to the coast the less likely you are to see one. Also, we keep the landscaping pretty well groomed on our property, and there's absolutely no vegetation touching our house. The most we get in our house is ants and daddy longlegs.

We do have a lot of crickets, the legs of which seem sort of similar to your nemesis, so you might not be happy to see them around the property. Again, lack of vegetation within a minimum of four feet of the house walls seems to keep them outdoors though.
posted by vignettist at 8:29 PM on July 18, 2018

I have never seen a centipede here unless I turn over a dark log. I have never seen any in the house! Alberta, Canada. Quite dry.
posted by Nyx at 8:41 PM on July 18, 2018

Over 30 years in Tucson, Arizona, and I've never seen one of those things, in my house or my yard.

(I've also never seen a scorpion at any of my houses or paid for pest control - probably a benefit of living in the center of the city.)
posted by Squeak Attack at 9:10 PM on July 18, 2018

Been in Portland 10 years and have seen one once. Don't move to Michigan because it is LOUSY with these revolting beasties.

This thing is the only bug that literally puts me in fight or flight instantaneously.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 9:25 PM on July 18, 2018

Toronto is like the centipede capital of the world. They're mostly harmless, but yeah, not too pretty.

(You know what bug is pretty? Little baby praying mantis puttin up their dukes like "I'm gonna fight you!" Adorable;)
posted by ovvl at 10:07 PM on July 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

All over Northern California, contrary to some comments above. Had ‘em everywhere we’ve lived here. Just wrangle them onto a piece of paper, open door, set ‘em out. They’re friendlier than most neighbors.
posted by sageleaf at 11:46 PM on July 18, 2018

I have never heard of these, let alone seen one. From Fresno, however I'd give it a pass unless you're willing to put up with ginormous black widows. More affordable than San Diego though.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:20 AM on July 19, 2018

I've never seen one in Newfoundland ever. The weather is too terrible for most pests, I suspect.
posted by peppermind at 4:57 AM on July 19, 2018

This is just my story, but everytime i've seen one of these in the Philadelphia/ NJ area it's been in an area where i have paper stuff (books, magazines) stored on the floor. So don't keep paper crap on the floor,
posted by WeekendJen at 7:32 AM on July 19, 2018

I grew up in Hawaii and never saw them there, but I saw enough of the massive half-a-foot-long centipedes there that I doubt that'd be an upgrade. They are...horrible.

I always kind of associate house centipedes with being more basement bugs (probably because of the damp) so maybe settling in an area where basements or cellars don't really come standard (the South, California, etc.) and aggressively dehumidifying your house would help keep them at bay? Investing heavily in Damp Rid for all of the corners of your house and under any sinks?
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:56 AM on July 19, 2018

North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin have all had them. Less so in North Dakota, but they're still around.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:10 AM on July 19, 2018

> I always kind of associate house centipedes with being more basement bugs (probably because of the damp) so maybe settling in an area where basements or cellars don't really come standard (the South, California, etc.) and aggressively dehumidifying your house would help keep them at bay?

In my Philadelphia rowhouse, they exist in my basement, but they LOVE my second-floor ceilings most of all. (Anecdotally confirmed as a thing from other people who live in my area.)

Aggressively dehumidfying helps, yes, but that's a Sisyphean task in the south.
posted by desuetude at 10:59 AM on July 19, 2018

I lived in San Francisco for 15 years and never saw one. SF was overall oddly bugless.
posted by missmobtown at 1:21 PM on July 19, 2018

Never saw them in 10+ years in Modesto, CA (dry climate, apartment, no basement).
posted by gennessee at 2:22 PM on July 19, 2018

I'm a hour outside of Toronto and we have them. I've heard Montreal is lousy with them. I never had them growing up in Northern Ontario (we have more irritating bugs that actually do harm up there).

I don't mind them now but the first time I saw them was when I moved in with my wife and we had a basement apartment. We were cuddling in bed and there on the wall climbs the thing. I literally jumped out of my skin and screaming "WTF is that!" and prominently smashed the poor creature into oblivion.

They love damp (and mostly hang out in my basement) so I suspect any place dry, basement-less and hot will send them packing.
posted by Ashwagandha at 5:07 PM on July 19, 2018

I'm in Southern CA, approximately a mile from the coast. They are what I'd consider an occasional pest - I see one every 1-2 months. Spiders, ants and silverfish are far more common. It may be that the cats get rid of the centipedes before I see them.

Anecdotally, I've heard of that having the perimeter of the house/apt building sprayed for ant and roach control also controls for house centipedes, but I can't speak from personal experience.
posted by Orrorin at 2:25 PM on July 21, 2018

Sightings are unnervingly common in Chicago and I swear that they regularly exceed 1.5 inches.

(I also hate them and will chase down and kill any that try to escape. Re the notion that they're beneficial, as far as I'm concerned, there is nothing that a centipede can kill that is worse than a centipede.)
posted by she's not there at 8:17 AM on July 29, 2018

Ok, I learned of the existence of this bug last month through reading this thread, having never in my life seen one (OR, WA, CA). Today I saw two of these- in my office, behind my guest chair!
posted by sweetmarie at 11:23 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

I posted in July that I’d never seen one in SoCal, but this morning, for the first time, found one in my bathtub. (And I’m on the 3rd floor.) I want to burn down my entire condo building.
posted by elphaba at 8:45 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

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