Centipedes are as gross as they come. They have a lot of piercing pointy legs and an elongated segmented body that would make just about anyone feel squeamish. But as creepy as these creatures are, you’d have to wonder. What do centipedes eat anyway? And what attracts them to your home? Knowing the answer may help you keep them out of your living space for good.
What do centipedes eat in your garden?
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Centipedes are known as generalist predators even though they’re usually thought to be omnivores. They take advantage of whatever’s small enough to consume in their habitat in order to survive. Though a lot of people have seen them eat vegetables and other plant matter, according to Cambridge University’s The Biology of Centipedes, these aren’t a necessary part of their diet. They only serve as options when moving live food becomes too difficult to find, basically acting like a survival mechanism.
When it comes to your garden, the usual prey for centipedes are spiders, flies, crickets, earthworms, pill bugs, moths and silverfish. Inside a house, these leggy creatures can also take advantage of the usually pests that scurry inside. They live off roaches, bed bugs and even small mice.
Being generalists, centipedes will also scavenge on dead organisms. They’ll be attracted to dead bugs like ants. This is why there are people out there who keep these arthropods as exotic pets. They feed them dead insects and arachnids.
What do wild centipedes eat?
House centipedes are different from their wild counterparts. Centipedes that thrive in the wild are huge and fierce hunters. They’ve been observed to feed on moths, spiders and earthworms. But they’ve also been seen to take on bigger vertebrate prey like snakes, bats, frogs, birds, rodents, lizards and other small reptiles.
These multi-legged predators are nocturnal. They go out to look for food at night and stay in during the day. They hide out under rocks which are moist and humid, perfect places for them to conserve energy.
Another interesting fact about centipedes is that they have species that will cannibalize each other. Several female centipedes have a penchant for consuming their young when stressed. When their nesting area is disturbed, they’ll either abandon their eggs or eat them. In contrast, other species that belong to the order Scolopendromorpha, are matriphagic. This means that the offsprings are the ones that eat their mother instead of the other way around.
Do centipedes drink water too?
Like us humans, centipedes need water to survive. Though they do get water from their prey, they will still need water sources to keep themselves well-hydrated.
These crawlies have waxy protective coverings like spiders. But these can only do so much to protect them from moisture loss. If there’s little or no water at all, a centipede dehydrates easily and rapidly. To survive, it chooses to dwell inside cool, damp, sheltered and dark areas like under rocks, piles of wood and under decaying trees.
So centipedes need access to a lot of moisture to stay alive. Because of this, there are even accounts of these arthropods invading human houses just to look for something to drink.
What about millipedes? What do they eat?
So now that we’ve covered the centipedes eating habits, how about its million-legged friend? What does it eat?
They may look scary. But unlike centipedes, millipedes aren’t labeled as voracious “all-eating” predators. In fact, these worm-like creatures only have a few things in their menu. Just like termites, most of them are what’s known as detritivores. They feed on dead and decaying plants, wood matter, feces and organics in the soil. And if there are no more of those dead plants lying around, millipedes are also known to consume fungi and algae and to suck on leaves and soft roots. This is commonly observed in farms where millipedes would often attack sprouting seedlings and cause farmers a lot of money for the damages.
Note that there are a small group of predatory millipedes. These millipedes are scarce, but they have been observed to hunt tiny centipedes, snails and earthworms.
To summarize, what centipedes eat totally depends on the environment they live in. They’re not picky eaters. If they’re situated in your garden, then naturally, they’ll consume garden bugs and arachnids. If they’re inside a home, then they’ll feed on common house pests. Of course, wild centipedes are different as they can feed on bigger prey.