Centipedes in Hawaii: Types, Identification & Facts

Hawaii isn’t known for too many dangerous animals that live outside of the water. Even owning a snake is illegal here. However, Hawaii is known for its centipedes. Many centipedes are venomous. Centipedes here can bite.

Centipedes are some of the most common pests in Hawaii.

They are commonly found around homes, inside homes, and in other residential buildings.

Centipedes are accommodated to the warm Hawaii climate. Many types of centipedes look to make their way inside the house.

High humidity in the bathrooms or the damp conditions in certain areas of the house tends to attract most centipedes.

Types of Centipedes in Hawaii

Three main centipede species are found in Hawaii.

  • Scolopendra – venomous
  • Lethobius – safe
  • Mecistocephalus – safe

Most centipedes in Hawaii aren’t dangerous. It’s individuals of the Scolopendra species that are venomous and feared in the state.

3 main species of centipedes have been identified in Hawaii. Only one of them is venomous.

1. Hawaiian centipede

Hawaiian centipede

Scientific name: Scolopendra subspinipes.

Common name: Chinese red-headed centipede, jungle centipede, orange-legged centipede, red-headed centipede, Hawaiian centipede, Vietnamese centipede.

The Hawaiian centipede is also known as the Chinese red-headed centipede or the Vietnamese centipede. Its habitat is widespread on almost all continents, particularly in tropical and sub-tropical climates.

While it has many names, the Scolopendra subspecies is also a large species that is easily identifiable. It grows to a maximum length of almost 8 inches.

The centipede is recognized by 22 body sections. Each of these sections has 2 legs.

This is the largest centipede in Hawaii which also gives it the nickname of ‘giant’.

The species is known for its venomous bites. Severe reactions and even death aren’t reported in Hawaii for these species but they are reported elsewhere.

2. Red-headed Centipede

Red-headed Centipede

Scientific name: Scolopendra Morsitans.

Common name: Tanzanian blue ringleg, red-headed centipede.

These centipedes (Scolopendra Morsitans) are shorter than Scolopendra subspinipes, but they still have 17 segments.

8 eyes are found in these centipedes which helps them see better. These centipedes eat small spiders and other small insects.

Studied in captivity, the Red-headed Centipede has also shown interest in eating small vertebrates such as mice. Their bit isn’t venomous to humans on the other hand.

3. Otostigmus scaber

Otostigmus scaber
Otostigmus scaber. Image by Yan Cai via inaturalist

This species is part of the Scolopendridae family distributed across the world. It can be recognized by its all-black body.

The species grows in high humidity habitats across Hawaii. Further identification is possible by body section count. The centipede has 22 sections

Where Will I Find Centipedes in Hawaii?

Centipedes are invertebrates that live outdoors, particularly in areas with high moisture. The high Hawaii heat sometimes makes them seek refuge in shaded areas.

Decaying wood

Decaying damp wood is an ideal location for centipedes. Pieces of wood laying around the backyard are ideal spots for centipedes to hide behind. This area beneath decaying wood is rarely dry providing the right cool humid space for centipedes to live in.

Piles of leaves

Large piles of leaves are ideal for centipedes. These offer a shaded spot for centipedes to hide in. Hawaii pest controllers often recommend clearing all piles of leaves to get rid of centipedes.

On the lawn

Centipedes are often found on frequently-watered lawns. These are humid soft environments, perfect for centipedes to cool off in.

In mulch

Garden mulch is among the ideal places for centipedes to find high humidity. Mulch maintains an almost constant soil humidity around flowers and vegetables in the garden.

Inside the house

Centipedes also make their way inside the house. They are attracted to heat during the night and to moisture in the bathroom in general.

What Eats Centipedes in Hawaii?

Centipedes have plenty of natural predators. In Hawaii, this includes the first types of animals that are found around homes such as chickens. Birds and toads are also known for eating centipedes.

While young, centipedes face a growing number of natural predators. These include ants.

Bird eating a centipede

Are Centipedes in Hawaii Dangerous?

Scolopendra subspinipes or the Hawaiian Centipede represents the sole dangerous centipede in Hawaii. Localized pain is the most common symptom following its bite. Other centipede species in Hawaii aren’t dangerous

Centipede Bite

The Hawaiian Centipede (also known as the Vietnamese Centipede and the Red-headed centipede) is known for its painful bite.

Most severe bite cases of these species have been noted outside Hawaii. However, less severe bites are frequent even in Hawaii.


The first symptoms of a Hawaiian centipede bite include local pain. This pain can be of short or long duration. It typically comes with irritation or skin redness.

Necrosis is another symptom of Hawaiian centipede bite.

Mortality is rare following a Hawaiian centipede bite. However, a few cases have been reported.

Studies show the venom of the centipede is insufficient to kill an adult. However, there’s a possibility that multiple bites from this species can kill a human.


Medication is normally administered to victims of this centipede. While hospitalization might not be needed, doctors prescribe either antihistamines or anti-inflammatory medication as a treatment.

How to Get Rid of Centipedes in Hawaii?

Hawaii is a popular tourist destination. But centipedes can make their way in hotels as well as homes. They can be removed and an action plan can also keep them away.

Remove centipedes by hand

Most centipedes can be removed by hand. Since Scolopendra can be venomous it’s best to avoid catching them directly with the hands.

Using a broom or a stick can help get centipedes out of the house without touching them directly. Using protective gloves is also recommended as centipedes can’t bite through.

All removed centipedes can go in the trash. They need to be placed in a sealed garbage bag first as they can easily make their way out.

Centipede on hands

Use a vacuum cleaner

Vacuum cleaners are very good solutions to quickly remove centipedes when found inside the house. Frequent home cleaning has been shown to reduce centipedes and insects that attract centipedes.

The vacuum cleaner bag needs to be removed and trashed when vacuuming a centipede as it will survive inside the vacuum cleaner.

Consider a sticky trap

Sticky traps are used for a large series of home pests such as ants, spiders, and mice. They can also be used to clear existing centipedes.

If you see centipedes around your home that you can’t immediately remove it’s best to add sticky traps to catch them.

Shaded areas or areas with high humidity such as bathrooms and basements are the best places to install sticky traps in.

Centipede Prevention in Hawaii

The easiest way to get rid of centipedes in Hawaii is to call a pest control professional. Otherwise, the following methods are useful when trying to remove centipedes from the house or the yard.

Use traps

Various pest traps can be used inside the house to keep centipedes away. Since Hawaii is known for its tropical weather it’s best to use these traps throughout the year.

Sticky traps, as well as bait traps, can work for large and small centipedes. It’s best to remove centipedes in a plastic bag once caught.

Use sprays

Pest sprays are efficient only when frequently used. This means you need to spray it in areas with high humidity such as the windows of the bathroom which may attract centipedes.

Seal doors and windows

Cracks around doors and windows are common areas for centipedes to crawl through into the house. These areas need to be sealed to avoid all types of pests getting into the house.

Centipedes crawl on ground level the easiest. This is the reason why the bottom parts of the doors need to be properly sealed first.

Seal cracks in the walls

Cracks in walls also need to be properly sealed. Centipedes can make their way into a home around doors and windows.

They can also make their way inside the house through the walls. Centipedes have even been found in attics

Keeping the outdoor area free of centipedes in Hawaii

Centipedes are mostly found outdoors in Hawaii. They are seen in parks and gardens frequently. Keeping the outdoor area around the house clean is the best method of reducing centipede numbers.

Remove piles of leaves from around the house

Piles of leaves are one of the most common habitats for Hawaiian centipedes. These areas are moist and shaded which means they provide the ideal space for centipedes.

Mating often occurs in piles of leaves. The female often releases pheromones to attract males to areas such as piles of leaves.

Males produce silk which they use to make a pad to lay sperm on. Females then use this silk pad to reproduce. This often happens in piles of leaves or under mulch.

Clear rotting wood

Rotting wood is known for retaining rainwater. Its moist fibers attract many centipedes.

Rotting wood needs to be cleared from around the house. Fallen tree branches and rotten wood of the deck also need to be cleared.

Reduce indoor humidity levels

In-house humidity is known for acting as a magnet for caterpillars. High indoor humidity is specific to Hawaiian homes.

Dehumidifiers are the best solution to reduce humidity inside the house. Frequently opening windows to reduce the humidity that comes from cooking is also recommended.

Add a physical barrier between the soil and much

Many caterpillars in Hawaii are found under mulch. This is where they find high humidity soil.

Mulch is frequently used in gardening. Adding mulch is common for decorating flowers around the house as they help them stay better hydrated.

However, high soil moisture also attracts centipedes. This is why many Hawaiian pest controllers recommend adding a net or any other physical barrier between the soil and mulch.

Such measures prevent centipedes from freely moving around the yard.

Use insecticide around the house

Insecticide is successfully used to control home pests such as centipedes. Frequent application is recommended for the insecticide to work.

At the same time, insecticide needs to be applied numerous times, especially after heavy rain.

Insecticide is a chemical solution to keeping centipedes away and it requires caution during and after application.

Get rid of other insects

Applying insecticides also get rid of other insects. Centipedes are attracted to insects such as spiders around the house.

Insecticides reduce the number of insects around the house which also reduces the chances of centipedes showing up in residential areas.

Reduce clutter

Clutter inside the house tends to trap moisture. The more clutter you have the less efficient a humidifier becomes.

It’s best to throw out all the clutter inside of the house. A clear clean home is often properly dehumidified by a good dehumidifier.

Keep the doors shut more often

The warm Hawaiian weather is what makes tourists and residents’ live doors and windows open frequently.

This is a common practice even during the night. Centipedes can easily make their way inside of the house if you live the doors open.

Using an air conditioner to cool off can be a good option to keep doors and windows closed more often.

Don’t sit on logs without a quick visual assessment

Centipede bites are common in Hawaii. Logs are sometimes used as simple outdoor chairs. People often sit on logs to relax but they get bitten by centipedes.

It’s best to assess whether a log has any centipedes on it before sitting. It’s often worth partially lifting the log as well as centipedes tend to crawl under logs for moisture.


Centipedes are very common in Hawaii. Since they can bite, they are a problem both for locals and for tourists.

The good part is there are only a few centipede species in Hawaii. The bad part is one of them (Scolopendra subspecies) is venomous.

High levels of moisture both inside and outside of the house are the primary habitat for these centipedes. They are attracted to warmth and moisture.

They can be found in piles of leaves and under logs outside. Centipedes are often attracted to moisture inside the bathroom or under the deck. Indoor preventive measures include reducing humidity levels and sealing doors or windows. Outdoor prevention measures include clearing all piles of leaves and clutter.

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