Centipedes have a pair of poison claws behind the head and use the poison to paralyze their prey (usually small insects). However, the jaws of centipedes are weak and can rarely penetrate human skin. The rare individuals who are bitten may experience localized swelling and pain no worse than a bee sting.
The house centipede is found throughout the United States. This centipede can be found outside under stones, boards, or sticks or beneath moist leaf litter and other organic matter. When disturbed, centipedes move swiftly toward darkened hiding places. When they are found in homes, they are often found in moist basements, damp closets and in bathrooms. Centipedes require moist habitats. If they are plentiful, there may be an underlying moisture problem that should be corrected.
Centipedes are sometimes called “hundred-leggers” because of their many pairs of legs, but they can actually have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs, depending on the species. Interestingly, centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs.