Garden centipedes are one species of an estimated 8,000 centipede species worldwide. While they prefer moist, humid garden areas, they also occasionally enter homes. Inside a home they're often considered pests. In the garden, however, their consumption of insects, including destructive garden insects, makes them beneficial. Garden centipedes don't spread diseases that infect plants, people or animals.
Centipedes have the nickname “100-leggers,” but adult garden centipedes actually have 30 legs. Because they have numerous body segments rather than just three segments, they aren't considered insects. Centipedes belong to the Arthropod class, which includes insects. Although they share some characteristics with insects, such as no backbone and a jointed body and legs, they're distantly related to crustaceans.
Fully grown garden centipedes are about two inches long and a brown-red color. Garden centipedes have forcipules, or poison claws, which they use to grab prey and inject venom. The venom paralyzes their prey that often consists of insects and spiders. The risk of a bite is very low because the forcipules of a garden centipede are too weak to pierce through human skin. If a bite does occur, the result is similar to a bee sting unless there is an extreme reaction to the venom.
Garden centipedes are mostly nocturnal. They mature in 2 to 3 years and can live for up to 6 years. Adults spend the winter burrowed in moist, isolated areas.