centipedes in Hawaii
photo credit: Scolopendra heros Centipede 15 cm by Len Worthington on Flickr

I don’t want centipedes in my house so I do everything I can to avoid them and get rid of them when I see them. When we moved to Hawaii one of the top priorities was pest control. I did not want spiders, roaches or centipedes inside my house and I was willing to do whatever it took or pay whatever amount I needed to pay to make sure that happened.

The best way to get rid of centipedes in the house and avoid bites when living in Hawaii is through preventative pest control. If you have centipedes in your house already you will want to find and clean up any damp locations where they may like to hide and then seal the entry point.

I’m Afraid of Centipedes!

I’m going to shoot straight with you. Bugs scare me. I feel like I am a pretty strong and confident man but I hate bugs. I know it is an irrational fear and most of the bugs I encounter, including centipedes, are not much to worry about but I still don’t like them.

After moving from a warm (ok…scorching hot) climate in Phoenix to Colorado I was happy to be done with a lot of the bugs. With the cold winters we experience in Colorado bugs rarely were an issue and normally small, harmless spiders were all we had to worry about.

But, with our move back to a warmer, and tropical location bugs were going to be an issue.

Do Centipedes Even Bite?

The first time I saw a centipede in Hawaii I screamed like a girl and ran away. I found my wife and told her she needed to take care of it! Ok, well not quite but it probably wasn’t too far from that. But ultimately I ended up killing it and taking care of the problem.

Seriously, though I wondered what harm they would do. Does it hurt? How long does the pain last? Are kids more at risk than adults? What about our pets like dogs or cats? All of these things were what I wanted to find out. Here’s what I uncovered:

In Hawaii there are three major types of centipedes:

  • Scolopendra
  • Lethobius
  • Mecistocephalus

They even have scary looking names!

But here’s the thing…of these three types of centipedes only one of them actually bites. The others just look scary.

Beware of the Scolopendra Centipede that Bites

Scolopendra Centipede Bites
photo credit: Scolopendra subspinipes by Daderot on Wikimedia Commons

Scolopendra centipedes are the only species of centipede in Hawaii that bite so you’ll want to know what they look like so you can take notice when you see one.

One good thing (or bad depending on how you look at it) is that they are big! The smallest of their kind is normally about 4 inches in length but can grow to be 12 inches or longer. Why is this a good thing? Because you can see them!

When a 12 inch centipede starts crawling along the floor, or wall, it will be hard to not notice it. And this is a good thing so you can avoid being bitten by one.

What a Centipede Bite Feel Like

The good news is, I don’t know! And my goal is to never find out!!

But that wouldn’t make for a very good article, right? I turned to a few sources to provide you with some good information about centipede bites here in Hawaii.

I’ve talked with a few people who live here and have been bitten by one. They describe it is a painful but short-lived pain. Normally the pain lasts less than 24 hours and stays localized to the spot of the bite. Unlike scorpions where the venom enters the bloodstream and can move throughout the body, centipede bites seem to have pain in just the spot of the bite.

From my research online (here and here) I found that normally the bite mark turns red and swollen and are comparable in pain to a bee sting. There are those that are allergic and therefore have a much worse reaction that could require medical treatment.

Pain, swelling, fever, nausea, and itching are all symptoms of a centipede bite that can last for as little as a couple hours to a couple of days.

Although I still never want to get bit by a centipede I am happy to learn that it doesn’t sound all that bad.

Kids, Dogs & Cats

I have to admit as I created this section it seemed a bit strange to me to put kids in the same group as dogs and cats but I’m going with it anyway. Not that I think kids belong in the same classification but they are a special consideration of how to handle centipede bites.

Children, as you might expect, are at higher risk than adults when being bitten by a centipede. The symptoms of the bite are about the same as with adults with pain, swelling and redness at the bite. As long as the pain starts to subside and goes away within a day or two there is nothing really to be too concerned about. If the bite mark seems to get worse or the pain does not weaken it may be best to seek medical attention.

Dogs & cats are our furry friends who are also at risk of being bitten. If they do just know the reaction they will have is similar to the reaction you would have. A bit of pain that lasts for a short period of time and then goes away. There is little to worry about unless they happen to have an allergy.

Getting Rid of Centipedes in the House

spray for bugs regularly in Hawaii

After all that talk of centipede bites I have the creepy crawlies! I am on high alert looking around to make sure I don’t see one. But the good news is that I rarely see centipedes and that’s for good reason. I take preventative measures.

One of the joys of living in Hawaii is the indoor-outdoor living. We rarely close our doors and windows so we can enjoy the perfect temperatures, hear the sounds of nature and get those amazing cross-breezes. Which means more opportunity for bugs to get inside.

Let me share a quick story with you.

Marla & I were sitting outside on the lanai having a morning cup of coffee when I looked over towards the sliding door to the house when I noticed a bug. It was a pretty big bug but I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I thought it was probably a spider.

When I was done with my coffee I decided I would take care of it…in other words kill it! Well, the bug had other ideas. I grabbed one of my flip-flops and approached the bug. What I thought was a spider was a centipede!! It was all rolled up into a spiral making it look like a spider. I didn’t have any pesticide other than an ant and roach spray. It was going to have to work. With the spray in one hand and my flip-flop in the other I took a strong stance, built up my courage, sprayed it and WACKED IT!

Ha…it did nothing other than piss him off. He unspiraled himself and started running for it. He hit the edge of the wall where the sliding door was and fell to the ground…next to my feet! You can hear that high pitched scream now, right? Yeah, he wasn’t the only one scared. I was scared too! Dancing around on my feet to avoid him I kept spraying and kept wacking!

No good. He got away by slithering through a tiny gap in the screen doors going back into the space where the pocket doors go. Great! Now we had a live centipede that could clearly get inside our house. The absolute last thing we wanted. Now we were on high alert for a few days but didn’t end up seeing him again. And it is probably because of the bug spray we used to make sure of it.

The Best Pesticide

When we moved to Hawaii we had a to do list including moving in, getting organized, getting groceries, etc. You know, all the normal stuff people take care of when they move. The top of our list? Pest control. As I said, I hate bugs! It was literally the first thing we did. Actually, it was being done before we even arrived.

cy-kick pesticide for living in HawaiiMark, a friend of ours, looked over our home between the time we closed on the purchase and moving in. Part of that included him spraying for bugs. He offered and we did not refuse.  Thank you Mark!  When we moved in I was sure to ask him about the bug spray he used so I could make sure to continue spraying so we didn’t have a bug problem.

Here it is: Cy-Kick CS sold in a concentrate.

I use this stuff regularly as a perimeter spray inside and out. We rarely see any bugs inside because of these frequent and regular pesticide treatments.

If you hate bugs but love Hawaii as much as I do, then this will be your friend!

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Eric Mo

    Good article. Fun to read and useful. Thank you.

    1. Scott Wynn

      Thanks Eric! Glad you enjoyed it and got some good info at the same time.

    2. Driverjoe

      Aloha: My wife and I lived on Naval Mag LuaLuaLei in Nanakuli, our house was built in the 30’s. Loaded with centipedes. We hired a pest control company who used Diazinon and Malathion monthly. The first couple times we had to leave the house for at least 3 days because it was so infested. The exterminator, a very brave local guy, took 2 gallon zip lock bags of centipedes from the cool, dark, damp crawl space under that old house. He actually went in there! That’s brave! Eventually, by monthly pest control, removal of banana and mango close to the house, and a lot of caulk, we got them under control. It was a battle in that remote area of Oahu, we never got rid of them, but it was rare to see them. We hated all the chemicals, that’s another negative but…Anyway, we were moving to Maui, but decided for the safety of our pets and now children, we moved back to the mainland. We always miss Hawaii, very relaxed place to live but you gotta deal with bugs and with that comes chemicals etc… Aloha all you reading this, Gods Blessing to you and your Ohana🌴

      1. Holly

        When you said you moved back to the mainland for the health and safety of your kids, are you referring to centipedes? Or other things too?

  2. Greg

    Thanks for the read, I was bit by one about 3-weeks ago, he was hiding in the rubber seal of my car door, when I went to unbuckle our 2-year old, he got me on the shin…it’s like a bee sting, not terribly painful but it does throb and burn pretty consistently afterwards for about 8-hours strong. It itched some for about a week and now it’s just a small scab on my leg. They are super creepy and it hurts a little bit but it’s nothing excruciating or unbearable (for an adult). I’m sure it would be very painful for a child. I used to be afraid of them as well but once I was bit, it actually helped over come some of that anxiety. They are just nasty looking and I don’t want one crawling on me. All an all, spraying regularly is the best option. I’m going to check out the spray you recommended, thanks!

    1. Scott Wynn

      Thanks for sharing. They hide in the craziest places and can fit in jus about any small spot. Glad to hear the pain wasn’t too bad.

  3. Kayla McElhannon

    A chlorine bomb is recommended for killing and keeping a car spider free. Does anyone know if it would have the same effect on centipedes?

    1. Nursj0nes

      What is a chlorine bomb??

  4. Darlin D. Aviles

    Thank you so much. I have not seen any centipedes i have pulled apart the mattress and box spring but my daughter woke up this morning with 3 bites on her feet and her toes. I don’t have anything. I bought a spray and plan on buying rubbing alcohol.

  5. Matt Kleman

    I bought the spray without question. I’ve been here like three weeks and have already seen how the bx stuff doesn’t work. And I had a centi-bastard roll up on me a couple days ago, nope.

  6. Steve

    Hawaii looks so beautiful and so inviting to live there but if I was to start having problems with centipedes in the house, then I’m gonna hit the road as soon as possible and get the hell out of there. How could you ever get a good nights sleep with those things crawling around ? Sometimes nature really really sucks !

    1. Calling Kona Home

      If you spray regularly there is a very low chance you’ll see one alive inside. We’ve been here over 2 years now and have not seen a live centipede in the house since we started spraying regularly.

  7. Lana

    What do you mean regularly? Once a month?

    1. Calling Kona Home

      At first yes. Once we sprayed about once a month for a year I found we could reduce that to every other month or quarterly.

  8. Arthur

    We live on Kaua’i and have a service that comes once a quarter and sprays since we’re both older and can’t easily get everywhere we need to. I also have a couple of strategically placed bottles of Ortho Home Defense. It doesn’t kill them instantly but they stop moving in less than 60 seconds and die in a few minutes. I usually cover them with a fly swatter during that time. The other thing to be aware of is the carapace on the big one is very sturdy! A sandal or fly swatter in your hand will only piss it off! Keep the spray handy and be ready to mash it with something hard and sturdy. Cut that sucker into four pieces and wait for them to all stop moving when you poke it before depositing it in the trash. Also, on the pet side – if you have indoor cats, pay attention when they start batting something around! Our cats have cornered a couple of centipedes and sat there waiting for me to take care of it. They seem to be good at avoiding getting bitten and won’t eat one. The context on our two though is they were both feral and we domesticated them so they may be a bit smarter on this topic than normal cats. Lastly, I kill all centipedes when I run into them on our property outdoors as well. I usually have a shovel or a cutting tool in hand and steel ALWAYS WINS when wielded properly (think Vikings or Mongols with a sword!). I chalk it up to population control and don’t worry too much about my karma!

    1. Calling Kona Home

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I don’t blame you for killing every one you see. I do the same thing!

  9. Jana

    I’m visiting Kauai. There was a centipede in the couch this morning. It looked like one of the plastic ones my granddaughters (who love bugs! Yuck!) have. I asked my 9 year old grandson and he said nope and took off for his room! I tried to catch it in a cup but it slithered down between the couch cushions! My 11 year old daughter got a cup of water and some tings. She said they catch them with the tongs and drown them! I guess this works? All three grandkids are in their rooms. None of us want to sit on the couch! And yes, I screamed!!

    1. Calling Kona Home

      I don’t blame you for not wanting to sit on that couch!!

  10. Jana

    To clarify my last comment. On the couch. And granddaughters in Georgia!

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