House Centipedes vs. Silverfish

July 5, 2023

House centipedes and silverfish are two common pests that can cause distress in households. Understanding their key differences is essential for effective pest control. In this article, we will explore the distinct characteristics of house centipedes and silverfish and their behaviour and provide strategies to manage infestations.

Understanding House Centipedes and Silverfish

House centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata) and silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) are insects commonly found in homes. While they may appear similar initially, several key differences set them apart.

House Centipedes

  • House centipedes are elongated and have a segmented body.
  • They can grow up to 1 to 1.5 inches long.
  • House centipedes have a unique appearance, with long antennae and numerous legs.
  • They possess around 15 pairs of legs, resulting in 30 legs.
  • House centipedes move rapidly and have a distinctive way of running, resembling the movements of a spider.
  • These nocturnal creatures seek out dark and damp areas such as basements, bathrooms, and crawl spaces.


  • Silverfish have a fish-like shape and are covered in silvery-grey scales.
  • They measure around 0.5 to 1 inch in length.
  • Silverfish have a characteristic appendage at the rear, resembling a fish's tail, which aids in their movement.
  • They have six legs, unlike the numerous legs of house centipedes.
  • Silverfish are also nocturnal and prefer warm and humid environments, such as attics, closets, and areas with stored books or natural fibres.
House centipede

Key Differences between House Centipedes and Silverfish

  • Physical Appearance: House centipedes have long, slender bodies with dark bands running across their lighter-coloured exoskeleton. Their legs are noticeably longer than their body. In contrast, silverfish have a flattened body covered in silvery-grey scales. They have a distinct fish-like shape with long antennae and three long, tail-like appendages at their rear.
  • Number of Legs: House centipedes have an impressive number of legs, with approximately 15 pairs, totalling around 30 legs. This abundance of legs allows them to move swiftly. On the other hand, silverfish possess only six legs.
  • Antennae: House centipedes have long, segmented antennae, while silverfish have shorter antennae that are not segmented.
  • Behaviour and Habitat: House centipedes are predatory and feed on other insects, spiders, and small arthropods. They are considered beneficial in controlling pest populations. Silverfish, conversely, are omnivorous, feeding on carbohydrates, sugars, and natural fibres found in books, clothing, and other household items.

Both house centipedes and silverfish are skilled runners, but house centipedes are exceptionally fast and agile, resembling the movements of a spider. Silverfish move in a fish-like manner, using their tail-like appendages for propulsion.

Ways to Tell the Difference: House Centipede or Silverfish?

Identifying whether you're dealing with a house centipede or a silverfish is crucial for effective pest management. Here are a few key indicators:

  • Physical Appearance: Observe the body shape and the presence of long antennae and numerous legs. House centipedes have a slender bodies with dark bands, while silverfish have a fish-like shape with silvery-grey scales.
  • Movement: Pay attention to how the creature moves. House centipedes move swiftly, resembling quick, spider-like movements. Silverfish, on the other hand, move in a fish-like manner, using their tail-like appendages for propulsion.
  • Habitat Preference: Take note of the preferred habitats of these pests. House centipedes are commonly found in dark and damp areas such as basements, bathrooms, and crawl spaces. They seek out these environments to feed on other insects and arthropods. On the contrary, silverfish thrive in warm and humid areas, including attics, closets, and spaces with stored books, papers, or natural fibres.
  • Feeding Habits: Observe their feeding habits. House centipedes are active predators, preying on other insects, spiders, and small arthropods. They play a beneficial role in controlling the population of other pests. Silverfish, conversely, have a varied diet that includes carbohydrates, sugars, and natural fibres. They often target starchy materials like books, clothing, and wallpaper.

Considering these factors, you can differentiate between a house centipede and a silverfish, allowing you to implement targeted pest control measures.

Silverfish Insect

Pest Control for House Centipedes and Silverfish

When it comes to managing house centipedes and silverfish infestations, prevention is key. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Maintain a Clean and Dry Environment: Both house centipedes and silverfish thrive in moist environments. Ensure your home is well-ventilated and free from excess humidity to deter them. Fix any leaks or moisture issues promptly, and use dehumidifiers if necessary. Keep your living spaces clean and clutter-free, reducing potential hiding spots and food sources.
  • Seal Entry Points: Inspect your home for any gaps or cracks that may serve as entry points for pests. Seal these openings using caulk, weatherstripping, or other appropriate materials. Pay special attention to areas where pipes, cables, or wires enter the house.
  • Eliminate Food Sources: Remove potential food sources that attract silverfish, such as stored books, papers, or clothing made of natural fibres. Store these items properly in sealed containers or plastic bags. Additionally, ensure proper sanitation in the kitchen, keeping food tightly sealed and cleaning up spills promptly.
  • Reduce Hiding Places: Clear clutter in storage areas, closets, and basements to minimize hiding spots for both pests. Regularly vacuum carpets and sweep floors to remove any potential food particles or debris.
  • Natural Remedies: Consider using natural repellents such as cedar chips, citrus peels, or dried lavender or mint sachets. These scents can deter house centipedes and silverfish.
  • Professional Assistance: If infestations persist or become overwhelming, seeking professional pest control services is recommended. Experienced technicians can assess the extent of the infestation and implement targeted treatments to eliminate house centipedes and silverfish effectively.

Maintaining a clean, dry, and clutter-free environment is crucial in preventing and controlling these pests. By being proactive and implementing appropriate pest control measures, you can successfully manage house centipede and silverfish infestations in your home.


Distinguishing between house centipedes and silverfish is crucial for effective pest control. By understanding their physical characteristics, behaviour, and habitat preferences, you can accurately identify the pest and take appropriate measures to address the infestation. Whether it's a house centipede or a silverfish, practising preventive strategies, sealing entry points, and maintaining a clean and dry environment will help minimize their presence in your home.

If you're uncertain about the infestation or require professional assistance, it's advisable to consult a pest control service. Their expertise and knowledge will ensure a thorough assessment and effective treatment, allowing you to regain control of your home and eliminate these pests promptly.

Early intervention and proactive pest management are key to maintaining a pest-free living environment. By staying vigilant and implementing the necessary measures, you can keep house centipedes, silverfish, and other pests at bay, creating a comfortable and pest-free home for you and your family.

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