Centipedes are easy to spot by their elongated, worm-like body with their many pairs of legs. They can actually have anywhere from 15–177 pairs of legs with one pair per segment, depending on the species. Interestingly, centipedes always have an odd number of pairs of legs.
Centipedes typically overwinter outdoors in protected situations and lay their eggs during the summer, usually in or on the soil. Some have been known to produce 35 eggs over a period of days.
If handled roughly, some larger species can inflict a painful bite that can break human skin and cause pain and swelling, similar to a bee sting. The large Scolopendra can inflict a very painful bite and should be handled with great care.
Centipedes are found in areas of high moisture, such as loose bark, in rotting logs, under stones, in trash or piles of leaves and grass. When they invade homes, they are most commonly found in damp basements, crawlspaces, bathrooms or potted plants.
All centipedes have very poor eyesight and track their prey through the use of touch and smell. They are primarily carnivorous and obtain most of their moisture needs from their prey. Most house centipedes are nocturnal, and prey primarily on flies, spiders and sometimes plant tissue, causing injury to the plant.