8 Bugs That Look Like Centipedes (But They Aren’t)

People are afraid of bugs that have a lot of legs. The more legs, the scarier they appear. The bugs with the most legs are not scary. In fact, they are harmless creatures. Centipedes are one of the bugs with the most legs, which can be rather daunting when you encounter them.

Wondering if you saw a centipede or some other bug? Continue reading to find out more.

What Are Centipedes?

A centipede is not actually an insect, they are myriads, which are distant cousins to the insect. They have elongated bodies with lots of legs, which separates them from other insects. Centipedes hunt other insects, which they paralyze using a venomous sting.

Centipedes are long and flat arthropods, with each segment having legs, except the last segment. They hide under bark, leaf litter, and tones, hunting at night. They are able to move fast with their numerous pairs of legs.

centipede anatomy
Centipede anatomy

Centipedes can range from having thirty legs to having more than three hundred legs once they are adults. There are approximately 3,100 species of centipedes around the world. They can be found where there is ample food, shelter, and moisture. They need high humidity in order to survive.

The centipede’s diet consists of spiders, mites, and other arthropods. They hunt at night and are fast. They move quickly when they attack, poisoning their prey before consumption.

Types of Centipedes

House Centipedes

House centipede

House centipedes are a yellow/gray color with fifteen pairs of legs. It originates from the Mediterranean and has spread to other parts of the globe. It is found in human homes, killing and eating insects and arachnids.

Adults grow to around 35mm in body length with fifteen pairs of legs and a rigid body. They have long antennae of around 100mm in length. Their yellow to gray body has dark stripes down the length.

These centipedes feed on bed bugs, termites, spiders, cockroaches, ants, and silverfish, to name a few. They are nocturnal hunters with developed eyes, though they rely on their antennae when hunting, which is sensitive to smell and touch.

Stone Centipedes

Stone centipede (Lithobius forficatus)

Stone centipedes are also known as brown centipedes and are common in Europe, though they have been distributed globally. They grow to around 30mm in body length and are chestnut brown.

They are mostly encountered in the upper layers of soil, under rocks, and rotting logs. When disturbed, they run quickly for cover. Their diet comprises invertebrates and insects, including worms, slugs, and flies.


This centipede has flattened or rounded heat with antennae. They do not have the best vision, relying on their antennae for touch and smell. Their front legs have adapted to become pincher-like appendages, found just behind the head, used to capture prey and inject them with venom.

The body comprises fifteen segments or more, each segment has a pair of legs. These centipedes can grow to more than 30cm in body length, eating lizards, frogs, insects, and more.

Tropical Centipedes

Scolopendra cataracta (a species of Scolopendromorpha order)

Tropical centipedes belong to the Scolopendromorpha order and include some of the most fierce and largest predatory centipedes. They are important in toxicology and medical research, focusing mostly on human bite studies.

These are strong and flexible centipedes, that can grow to 30cm in body length with up to twenty-seven segments and around twenty-three pairs of legs. They have a large head, which is rounded and has poor vision, relying on their long antennae to sense vibrations.

These centipedes can range in color from orange or red to blue, yellow, or green.  There are more than six hundred species of tropical centipedes in the world.

Soil Centipedes

Geophilus flavus

Soil centipedes spend their time digging and burrowing in soil. They do this by expanding and contracting their bodies, similar to earthworms. These centipedes are not often encountered, hiding in soil and under leaf litter, where they can grow to 280mm.

Bugs That Look Like Centipedes

There are a number of bugs you may encounter that you mistake as a centipede, these include:

1. Millipedes


Millipedes are groups of arthropods with two pairs of jointed legs on the majority of their body segments. They are elongated in either cylindrical or flattened body shapes, made up of twenty segments or more.  There are approximately twelve thousand named species of millipede in the world.

Unlike the centipede, the millipede is slow-moving and feeds decaying leaves and dead plants. They are common in gardens and homes and are completely harmless to humans. Millipedes can grow to 38cm in body length.

2. Earwigs


There are approximately two thousand earwig species in the world. They have forceps like pincers on their abdomen with rarely used fore wings. They are found throughout the world, except in Antarctica.

They are nocturnal, hiding in moist crevices during the day and being active at night. They feed on plants and insects. They can be pests causing damage to crops and flowers. Females are excellent mothers, caring for their eggs, watching over their offspring until their second molt. It takes five molts to reach adult size.

3. Silverfish

Silverfish. Image by Mary K. Hanson via inaturalist

Silverfish are small and wingless insects, belonging to the Zygentoma order. They are light gray to silver color with a fish-like appearance when moving.  They can grow to 25mm in length with an abdomen that tapers at the back, which gives the Silverfish its fish appearance.

They have long antennae and move with a wiggle motion. They are able to regenerate their antennae and terminal filaments within four weeks if lost. They avoid light and are fast to escape.

4. Firebrats


Firebrats can grow to 1.5cm and are small hexapods. They prefer high temperatures with humidity, often found near boilers or furnaces. They feed on starches and carbohydrates, including dog foods, book bindings, and flour.

They are common outdoors, where you may find them hidden under a rock or some leaf litter. While they are harmless, they are considered pests when they get indoors. They can cause damage to paper goods, stain clothing, and contaminate food.

5. Pseudocentipedes


This is often referred to as a garden centipede, but it is a soil-dwelling arthropod, resembling a centipede. They are small and non-venomous, fast-moving, and can be found up to fifty centimeters under the ground.

They have no pigmentation and can grow to 10mm in length with two divided body sections. They have long segmented antennae, which they use to sense vibrations. The abdomen comprises up to twenty-four segments.

They live deep in the soil, under decaying wood or stones, and always in moist areas. Some are considered crop pests, especially pineapples and sugar cane.

6. Pauropods


Pauropods are small millipede-like arthropods, comprising around eight hundred and thirty species. They live in leaf mold and in the soil. They look similar to centipedes. Due to their living hidden under the soil or leaf litter, they are seldom observed.

7. Woodlice

Woodlice. Image by Alexis via inaturalist

Woodlice is a crustacean, usually found in old wood. They were the first marine isopods and go under a number of different names. They have flattened bodies, which are segmented, and seven pairs of jointed legs.

There are more than three thousand nine hundred species of woodlice in the world. They have adapted to terrestrial life and can be found from deserts to marine zones. They are a widely studied species for their nutrient recycling and behavior.

They are also popular terrarium pets with varied colors and conglobating abilities. They have a hard exoskeleton, which they shed as they grow.

Females keep the fertilized eggs under their abdomen, which has overlapping plates with five pairs of legs. They are believed to have a very unpleasant taste.

8. Pill Bugs

Pill Bug

Pill bugs are sometimes referred to as roly polies and are often confused with centipedes. They need a high moisture content to survive, often found hiding under debris and seldom out in the open. Pill and Sow bugs are both completely harmless to humans, eating dead plant material.


Before you stand on an innocent centipede moving through your home, or an insect you think is a centipede, remember that they are usually managing your pests. Centipedes and other insects are often unwelcome visitors in the home, but they kill those bugs you really don’t want in the house, such as spiders.

Being active hunters, they don’t cause damage or harm to humans. While they may appear scary with all their legs, centipedes are harmless, simply hunting for their next meal.