House centipedes are a common sight in many homes, especially in damp areas like basements and bathrooms. These creepy-looking insects have long, segmented bodies with 15 pairs of legs, which makes them look like they have hundreds of legs. One of the most frequently asked questions about house centipedes is whether they travel in pairs. In this in-depth article, we will explore the answer to this question and many other fascinating facts about these multi-legged creatures.
An Introduction to House Centipedes
House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) are arthropods belonging to the class Chilopoda of the subphylum Myriapoda. They are commonly found in temperate climates throughout the world. Other common names for this species include the hundred-legger or the 15-legged centipede.
Some key identifying features of house centipedes include:
- 15 pairs of legs (30 legs total)
- Long, flattened bodies divided into 15 segments
- Front pair of legs modified into venom claws
- Dark brown to grayish-yellow bodies with three dark stripes
- Very fast runners capable of speeds up to 1.3 feet per second
Adult house centipedes are typically 1-1.5 inches (25-38 mm) long. Their last pair of legs is nearly twice as long as their body length. House centipede larvae hatch with only 4 pairs of legs, but gain additional pairs at each molting stage until reaching adulthood.
House centipedes are nocturnal predators that hunt small arthropods like cockroaches, spiders, bed bugs, silverfish, and termites. They use their venom claws to kill prey and also as a defense mechanism against predators. House centipedes are not considered dangerous to humans, although they can inflict a painful sting if handled roughly.
Now that we’ve covered some background on house centipedes, let’s dive into the question at hand – do they travel in pairs?
Do House Centipedes Actually Travel in Pairs?
This is a controversial question without a definitive scientific consensus. However, based on observational evidence and expert opinion, it seems unlikely that house centipedes intentionally travel in pairs. Here are some key points on both sides of the issue:
- House centipedes are solitary hunters and do not exhibit any complex social behaviors that would require traveling in pairs.
- Pairs of house centipedes are sometimes observed in close proximity under logs, stones, or in basements. However, this is likely coincidental rather than evidence of intentional pairing.
- Laboratory studies under controlled conditions have not revealed any tendency for house centipedes to actively seek out conspecifics (members of the same species). Their interactions appear largely opportunistic.
- Some experts theorize that when two house centipedes meet, they may temporarily tolerate each other and travel together simply because they are headed in the same direction. But they do not actively coordinate or cooperate.
- Pairs of house centipedes may be more likely to be spotted by homeowners because seeing two together is more noticeable than a single centipede. But this observation bias does not necessarily reflect their natural behavior.
So in summary, house centipedes do not demonstrably travel in pairs as part of their normal behavior. Apparent pairing is usually just a coincidence when two individuals happen to be headed the same way. But let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why the “traveling in pairs” myth persists.
Why the Myth Persists
Despite the lack of evidence that house centipedes intentionally travel in pairs, there are several reasons why this myth continues to be so widespread:
1. Coincidental pairing
As mentioned earlier, house centipedes are often spotted in pairs simply because two individuals happen to be traveling in the same location at the same time. This gives the appearance that they are intentionally staying together, even though it is just a coincidence.
2. Safety in numbers
Some speculate that when two house centipedes encounter each other, they may tolerate each other’s presence because there is “safety in numbers” against predators. However, this behavior has not been substantiated through scientific study.
Male and female pairs of house centipedes may travel together briefly during the mating season to reproduce. The male deposits a spermatophore (sperm packet) for the female to collect. But the two do not remain paired for long.
Sometimes other insects like garden centipedes or millipedes are mistaken for house centipedes. Observing two of these other arthropods together then propagates the myth.
5. Confirmation bias
People tend to notice and remember sightings that confirm the belief that house centipedes travel in pairs. Sightings of single centipedes are forgotten or discounted. This selective focus leads to confirmation bias.
So in reality, most observations of paired house centipedes have logical alternative explanations. But the myth still persists in part due to the reasons described above. Next, let’s take a closer look at house centipede behavior and biology to shed more light on this topic.
House Centipede Behavior and Biology
Understanding the biology and behavior of house centipedes can provide more clues as to why they are unlikely to travel in pairs. Here are some key points:
House centipedes are solitary predators and scavengers. They hunt alone at night, using their antennae to detect prey. They do not exhibit complex social behaviors or coordination with other centipedes.
When house centipedes interact, they are mainly competing for resources like food and shelter. There is no evidence they intentionally work together or coordinate as pairs.
No benefits to pairing
House centipedes gain no particular benefits from traveling with a mate. They do not hunt cooperatively, share food, or engage in any activities requiring a partner.
Males deposit spermatophores
Males deposit spermatophores (sperm packets) for females to pick up. Extended pairing is not required for reproduction. This is evidence against coordinated travel in pairs.
House centipedes prefer isolated dark spaces like leaf litter or under rocks. Their solitary nature makes it unlikely for intentional pairing to occur.
So in summary, house centipedes lack any biological or behavioral adaptations that would make it beneficial for them to travel in pairs. Their solitary hunting and reproducing strategies support the observation that pairing is mostly coincidental.
Observational Evidence of House Centipede Behavior
Another approach to answering the question of whether house centipedes travel in pairs is direct observation of their behavior in natural settings. Here is a summary of what controlled observations reveal:
No coordination or grouping
Careful monitoring of house centipedes shows that they do not coordinate their hunting activities or remain in pairs or groups for extended periods.
Occasionally two house centipedes will temporarily tolerate each other’s presence, but they eventually split off to resume solitary activities.
House centipedes given a choice of shelters tend to space themselves out in isolation rather than cohabitate.
When males and females interact, mating occurs quickly then the two go their separate ways rather than traveling together.
No advantage to pairing
Observations show no advantages to pairing up such as cooperative hunting, defense, or food sharing. Solitary hunting is just as effective.
So direct monitoring of house centipede interactions lends additional credence to the conclusion that their “pairing” is an opportunistic happenstance rather than intentional coordinated effort. But there are still a few more questions to address on this topic.
Additional Questions About House Centipedes Traveling Together
While we’ve established that intentional pairing is unlikely in house centipedes, there are still some additional questions worth addressing:
Do house centipedes ever travel with their young?
No, house centipedes provide no parental care to their offspring. The eggs are laid in damp spaces and the young hatch out fully independent.
What about male and female pairing during mating season?
The male will deposit a spermatophore and briefly follow the female until she picks it up in her sperm storage organ. But extended pairing does not occur.
Could “pairing” be a defense mechanism against predators?
It’s possible that two centipedes together may appear larger and more intimidating to some predators. But this behavior has not been substantiated.
How long do temporary pairings last?
Most observations indicate temporary toleration of another centipede’s presence lasts from a few minutes up to one day maximum before separating.
Do house centipedes have any social structure or hierarchy?
No, house centipedes are asocial and solitary. They do not form organized social groups or hierarchies beyond temporary reproductive interactions.
So in summary, the answer to questions about extended pairing of house centipedes appears to be that they do not exhibit this behavior in any substantive capacity. Short-term opportunistic tolerance is the extent of their interactions.
Ways to Discourage House Centipedes in Your Home
While we have established house centipedes do not travel in pairs intentionally, you likely want to discourage them from entering your home altogether. Here are some tips:
- Seal cracks and crevices around windows, doors, pipes, and the foundation to block entry points.
- Remove debris and leaf litter around the exterior of the home to eliminate habitat.
- Reduce moisture sources by fixing leaks, improving ventilation, and controlling humidity.
- Install door sweeps and weather stripping to block gaps under doors.
- Use yellow bug lights at entry points since house centipedes avoid light.
- Eliminate their food supply by controlling other insects like silverfish and roaches.
- Use sticky traps or insecticide sprays in basements, crawl spaces, and attics where centipedes are active.
In conclusion, thorough evaluation of the evidence indicates house centipedes do not intentionally travel in pairs despite the common myth suggesting they do. Their solitary hunting and reproductive strategies make prolonged pairing unnecessary. Observations of centipede behavior support the view that any apparent pairing is temporary and opportunistic rather than coordinated. While the myth may persist among homeowners, house centipedes are solitary wanderers that only briefly tolerate others of their kind. With some preventative measures, you can discourage these multi-legged creepy-crawlies from taking up residence in your home.
- House centipedes are solitary hunters and do not exhibit behavior suggesting intentional travel in pairs.
- Any observations of paired centipedes are likely coincidental encounters rather than evidence of coordinated travel.
- House centipedes lack any biological advantages to traveling in pairs cooperatively.
- Careful monitoring shows house centipedes prefer to space themselves apart and only briefly tolerate others.
- The myth persists due to confirmation bias, misidentification, and coincidental sightings.
- Sealing cracks, reducing moisture, and controlling insects can help exclude house centipedes from homes.
Citations:  https://www.familyhandyman.com/article/heres-why-you-should-never-kill-a-house-centipede/  https://www.reddit.com/r/NoStupidQuestions/comments/owkgrh/why_do_centipedes_travel_in_pairs/  https://www.westernexterminator.com/help-and-advice/pest-insights/occasional-invaders/understanding-the-house-centipede  https://extension.psu.edu/house-centipedes  https://www.brodybrotherspestcontrol.com/blog/spotting-centipedes-home  https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/house-centipedes-what-to-know