Both the silverfish and house centipede can be alarming sights, even if you are familiar with them. Both have an appearance that can be described as “creepy” and can be quite the household nuisance. While there are quite a few differences between the two, sometimes people may confuse these pests. Keep reading to find out more about the centipede vs. silverfish.


The centipede

Centipedes are part of the Chilopoda class and are not actually insects. As you may already know, insects are well-known for having only six legs. Centipedes may have many body segments, so depending on the species, they can have up to 177 pairs of legs (with the average being around 35). While that is definitely a lot of legs, it’s not quite as many as the millipede which has two pairs of legs per body segment. Despite common belief, centipedes do not have quite 1,000 legs but can have up to around 750. Most centipedes have a pair of modified claws behind their head that can be venomous.

House centipedes are one specific species of centipede known to become quite the nuisance—sometimes requiring professional treatment. It is the only centipede commonly found in human dwellings. The house centipede may be even more alarming than other species of centipede. On either side of its body it has long spindly legs, usually around 15 pairs. Older centipedes will have more legs. These legs differ from many other species of centipede in that they’re much longer and straighter; most centipedes have shorter, hook-like legs. The house centipede also has the ability to move very quickly, and will often move around in a darting nature. This coupled with the appearance of all its legs is enough to make most people wish they hadn’t seen them.

While you might think that the house centipede only lives indoors based on their name, they can actually be outdoors as well. Indoors, there are a few places that house centipedes are known to inhabit. Generally, they like dark and moist spots of the house, like basements, damp closets, and in bathrooms. This preference of location brings to mind another pest: silverfish.

The silverfish 

Like the house centipede, silverfish are also found in the bathroom. This is because the silverfish feeds on fungal molds and organic matter. Silverfish may also be found in attics, basements, and crawl spaces. Silverfish are known to cause damage to items they eat, such as wallpaper, book bindings, and other natural fabrics. They eat these things because they prefer a diet with a high starch content which is found in the adhesives and fillers associated with these materials.

Besides where they live indoors, another similarity between house centipedes and silverfish is that both can be very quick movers. Though silverfish and house centipedes may occupy some of the same areas indoors, there are quite a few differences between the two. For one, the silverfish is an insect unlike the centipede, and has the traditional six legs. Listed below are some other physical differences between the centipede and the silverfish:

  1. Silverfish won’t grow quite as long as house centipedes, with an average length of half an inch to one inch. House centipedes, on the other hand, can gr ow to be about an inch and a half in length
  2. Silverfish are a shiny gray or silver, while house centipedes are a grayish-yellow
  3. Silverfish are uniform in color throughout their body, while house centipedes have dark longitudinal stripes, as well as bands on their legs

Unfortunately, the silverfish is one pest that is notoriously difficult to get rid of. If you suspect you are dealing with silverfish in your home, don’t wait to contact Terminix. Whether you’re dealing with pesky silverfish or creepy house centipedes, Terminix can help.