Are Centipedes Poisonous? The Facts About Centipede Venom

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Since creepy crawlies don’t exactly have the friendliest faces around, we tend to associate them with venom, poison and of course, death. Their scales and alien-like bodies just scream danger. Centipedes, for example, are commonly thought of as deadly because of how they look. But are they really? Are centipedes poisonous or is this just another household myth?

Are centipedes poisonous?

Centipedes are one of the most feared “bugs” out there. But are they deadly?

Poisonous vs. Venomous

Before we talk about centipedes and their potential dangers, it’s important that we try to differentiate poison from venom first.

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Poison and venom are not the same. These terms, though they both spell doom and gloom, shouldn’t be used interchangeably because they have some things that they essentially differ on.

Poison is a type of toxin that’s produced by non-specialized tissues. It gets inside a body when it’s inhaled, absorbed through the skin or swallowed. Poisonous animals don’t usually attack their prey or aggressors. Instead, their poisons are released when they’re physically harmed like when they’re touched or eaten.

Venom, on the other hand, is a kind of poison that’s produced by a specialized tissue or gland and is injected by a specific body part into the victim. For example, snakes and bees are venomous because they need to cut and inject their venoms via bites and stings. Additionally, animals that carry venom are usually aggressive or fiercely defensive as they possess weapons in their anatomy for both hunting and defending.

Note that being venomous and being poisonous aren’t mutually exclusive. Some animals can be extra dangerous by being both. Examples of this include the tiger keelback snake and the  Greening’s frog.

How dangerous are centipedes?

So are centipedes poisonous? Technically, centipedes are venomous animals. And majority of them are only dangerous if we’re allergic to their venom.

A centipede “bite” is the result of the centipede’s pincer-like appendages squeezing the skin and their tiny fang-like parts delivering venom inside. These arthropods will do this if they feel threatened or if they’re disturbed.

The venom, alone, is not strong enough to cause fatal effects on humans, and majority of these bite cases actually don’t result into death. However, centipedes can still cause alarming symptoms that can last up to a few days. These include severe pain, swelling, burning, itching, headaches, nausea, vomiting and even anxiety.

Naturally, the condition worsens if the person bitten is severely allergic to the venom. To avoid this, it’s best to consult professional medical help immediately after a bite, especially if the victim is a child.

How about millipedes?

Millipedes look fatter and rounder than centipedes. They got their name from their rows of tiny legs that look like they number by the millions. While this arthropod may look like it’s a harmless earthworm at a glance, it has a hidden weapon too.

When it comes to having toxins, millipedes are the opposite of centipedes. They’re poisonous instead of being venomous. But this is not so much that they can actually kill. They don’t bite and will just feed on dead plants. However, when they’re provoked, they have special defensive glands tucked away in their bodies that can spray an irritating fluid that contains hydrochloric acid. It’s a chemical that can burn skin and cause lasting damages like discoloration and scarring. The fluid can also trigger allergic tendencies which can lead to more serious conditions.

So how do you get rid of them?

Even if they’re not fatally dangerous, we definitely don’t want to get bitten by centipedes and be sprayed by millipedes, especially in our own homes. So to keep these creepy crawlies out, here’s what you have to remember:

  • Keep the other insects and arachnids out. These animals are food for many centipedes. So in order to keep them out, you have to stop giving them a reason to get inside your house in the first place. 
  • Clean your yard regularly. Dead wood and plants are a haven for millipedes.
  • Regulate the water. Keep the faucets and pipes tight. These animals are attracted to moisture.
  • Caulk windows, doors and other openings. Seal cracks and holes to keep the critters out.
  • Employ insecticide sprays. Liquid sprays are very handy when you spot a centipede or a millipede. You can buy these at your local supermarket.
  • For more information on how to get rid of centipedes, jump to our detailed post here.

Remember that centipedes and millipedes will only attack you if you do something to provoke them. Their bodily weapons are mostly hunting and defensive tools. So the next time that somebody asks you “Are centipedes poisonous?” Just tell him to just be cautious to avoid serious pain.