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Living in Hawaii: How to Survive the Big Centipedes

An enthusiastic writer, Pamela has been writing on HubPages since 2010.


How to Handle Hawaiian Centipedes

In Hawaii, big centipedes are just a fact of life. That said, not many of us are born with the ability to casually pick them up. Some of us have nightmares about centipedes. Some of us have overcome our fears pretty well. Still, I don't want to get within ten feet of one.

While it's unlikely that you'll encounter one of these giant centipedes at a hotel, if you've recently moved to Hawaii or stay at an Airbnb on one of the islands, it's important to understand how to handle these pests.

This article explores my experiences with these terrifying creatures and how my family and I handle them. Below is everything you need to know about these gigantic Hawaiian centipedes and how to eliminate them.

Surviving Giant Centipedes in Hawaii

When you live in Hawaii, it doesn't always seem like paradise. Sure, if you stay in the hotels or condos that are designed specifically for vacationers, then you're pretty safe. I've never heard of anyone encountering centipedes or other nightmare material in their living quarters while vacationing here.

The vacation properties are maintained to be bug-free. However, out in the real Hawaiian Islands, not all of us can afford monthly home and yard sprayings. Others don't want to live with the consequences of breathing in and touching pesticides on a daily and continuous basis. Some days, I feel like I'm a hero just to have survived another day in "paradise."

What Kinds of Centipedes Live in Hawaii?

SpeciesInfo Poisonous/venomous?

Scolopendra Subspinipes

The Vietnamese centipede is by far the largest centipede that will make itself a pest in your home. This centipede can be over 20 cm long.


Lethobius Sp.

t has as many as 23 pairs of stubby pale legs, and is around 2 inches in length. You're likely to find this centipede in moist environments.


Mecistocephalus Maxillaris

It is yellow, with a dark red head, and does not have the comb-like appearance of the common house centipede.


How to Kill These Bugs

Why not just stomp on the centipede, you ask? Unless you are very heavy, that rarely kills one. They are made of steel armor. They are built to last. That's why everyone has the Maui Built stickers on their vehicles out here. These tropical centipedes are big and strong. Some of them grow to be 12 inches long and almost one inch in width.

I used to say, "If we ever find a centipede in our living area, that will be it; we'll have to leave these islands." But when I see my brave little grandchildren taking these creatures in stride and being able to fall asleep at night when they have just finished witnessing the execution of a translucent 10-inch long centipede, I think to myself, I've got to regain my perspective. Centipedes can't hurt me. (Yes, they can.) They were here first. (So what?) I love living near my family, and I'm not going to let the centipedes be a deterrent. I'm bigger than them. (Okay.) This is my internal battle every time I see one lurking around my yard.

My daughter, Priscilla, can kill a centipede with a butcher knife or scissors all by herself. She is an adult with children who are looking to her for protection. If her husband, Daniel, is home when one of these fast-slithering creatures from hell enters the family domain, she grabs the biggest knife she can find and hands it to him. Daniel then has the honor of hacking the thing in half. Then he cuts it in quarters.

What You Can Use to Kill Centipedes

ProductWhat It DoesPrice

Aqueon Aquarium Silicone Sealant

Water proof caulk that stops moisture from entering or exiting. Also seals off small holes that insects could enter through.


Victor M256 Poison-Free Insect Magnet Traps

A classic adhesive trap aimed at eliminating silverfish, cockroaches, ants, centipedes and other parasites. Apart from the adhesive tape, the pheromone bait is used.


Ortho 0196710 Home Defense MAX Insect Killer Spray

Spray as a barrier. It is supposed to kill the arthropods rather quickly and then it goes on to serve as a repellent for a few months.


Safer Brand 51702 Diatomaceous Earth

Made of recycled algae. They can eat them, inhale them or just walk over them – in any case diatomaceous earth will harm them and dehydrate their bodies.


This is a medium-sized centipede.  It is about 7 inches long.  I have definitely seen them 11 inches long on Oahu.

This is a medium-sized centipede. It is about 7 inches long. I have definitely seen them 11 inches long on Oahu.

How to Eliminate Centipedes Naturally

MethodWhy It Works

Keep your house dry.

Centipedes dry out and die if they don't stay in a moist environment. Clean up basements, closets, or any other damp areas.

Get rid of other small household pests.

The centipedes will have nothing to eat, and will hopefully die or move in with the neighbors.

Reduce clutter, inside the house and out.

Clutter can trap moisture. It can also provide a cool space that mimics a rock.

Close off entrance points.

This will keep the bugs from entering your home in the first place. Seal any cracks in concrete foundations, and caulk spaces around doors and windows.


What Do These Bugs Eat?

Centipedes eat insects and small animals. They detect their prey through their antennae, and they paralyze their prey with their venom so they can dine more easily.

Where Can You Find a Centipede in Your House?

Centipedes like to hide under cement. I know how they get into one's living room when it seems impossible for them to do it. A friend of mine told me this, "When it rains, they get themselves under the sliding patio door when it is opened for a minute or less.

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Then, when they are good and ready, maybe that night or the next day, they climb off the bottom of the sliding door into the living quarters to wreak havoc." They love to do that. They figure, if they have to leave this world, they may as well go out party-style.

Where Do These Bugs Normally Live?

Centipedes usually live outside, but the House Centipede can be found inside as well. Centipedes usually live outdoors in damp areas such as under leaves, stones, boards, tree bark, or in mulch around outdoor plantings. If they are around the foundation of the house, they may wander inside.

Centipedes Fight to the Finish: A Real-Life Story

Just the other night Priscilla and I were talking on the telephone. Her husband was at work. All of a sudden, Priscilla screamed. I could hear her breathing fast. She was panic-stricken for about two minutes. "Priscilla, Priscilla?" I asked. I had heard her say the word "centipede," so I knew it wasn't a human intruder.

Finally, she came back on the line. She said there had been a centipede in the kitchen. She hadn't seen it and had accidentally stepped on it but, luckily, she got her foot free before the thing attacked.

She grabbed the kitchen tongs and picked the creature up, got it outside, and hacked it up. I am glad she took it outside to do this because, recently, I heard that the scent of a cut-up centipede brings more centipedes to the area.

Centipedes don't stop moving just because you cut them up. They fight to the end. They look like they are coming to get you! That's because they are coming to get you! Their pinchers are still pinching for several minutes after the body is lying in pieces, writhing on the floor.

Daniel has pestered a sliced-up centipede after the execution and, by poking a pencil at the pinchers, has found that a centipede can keep up the attack mode for six minutes after being sliced into four pieces. This is information that, hopefully, you will never need.

And as I mentioned, my daughter is capable of carrying out the execution on a centipede herself. She does not back away (or stand on the table and scream for help) if her husband is not home when the centipede is discovered in their condo.

She says it actually gives her a feeling of confidence to know that she is now capable of doing this herself (whenever necessary). I will never know that feeling of confidence, but that's okay. Hopefully, you will.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Thank you for writing this. Thinking I was just being paranoid about turning on the light at night when I go to the bathroom, I decided not to this time. I just stepped on a fat, red 6 inch centipede? I actually felt its hairy feeling under my foot!

Answer: I feel for ya. That was one of my biggest fears. (Moved to Arizona and they're here, too, but smaller -- usually.) I'm glad you survived it and that it didn't pinch you or hurt you.

© 2010 Pamela Dapples


Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on December 06, 2020:

I can hardly believe you survived the whole ordeal mentally -- I mean watching the head and the body separately stay alive for days and even having initially planned to do an art project with it! That would put some of us temporarily, at least, in a downward dive. Sounds like you would make a good entomologist.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on December 06, 2020:

I'm sorry I have been away and am now back. Just saw this comment that you left months ago. I am glad you didn't have any pain the next day. By the way, I didn't know there are blue ones.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on December 06, 2020:

My heart goes out to you. You are one brave person. I'm sorry I took so long to see this comment.

Moth on June 13, 2020:

One time I cut a centipede's head off because I wanted the body for an art project - and quickly figured out that no, that doesn't work. They're indestructible. The head died after a few days but the body stayed alive for weeks until I finally killed it with alchohol... Once I kept a blue one for a pet, held it and everything, I've never been bit but seen them all the time. They give me the creeps.

whistleb on April 27, 2020:

What I havent heard is how to keep them from getting in your home.

I am experimenting with powdered carpet cleaner around door entrances for one. Boric acid is probably effective.

I got bit by a small blue one and I made a poultice out of meat tenderizer and left it on overnight, Next day , no pain, almost no itching,No swelling, but a quite dark bruise in the antecubital area where the bite was. Just wanted to share. BLTC.

Moral Man on April 01, 2020:

Centipedes are one of the reasons I dont travel to tropical locations. These evil bastards are bad tempered and their venom is painful beyond imagining. The pain lasts anywhere from a few days to weeks. It can also cause serious sickness or systemic reactions.

My favorite Hawaiian island is Molokai. Kauai, Maui, and Oahu are nice, but the Big Island is plagued ny the active volcano, vog, and acid rain. Cane spiders, widow spiders, recluse spiders, Scorpions, and mosquitoes also cause misery and fear, so Centipedes arent the only scourge on these islands.

Where are the large Centipedes most abundant on the Hawaiian islands, and where are they most rare on these islands? Is there any spot on Molokai where there arent any Centipedes? Is there any spot on any of the Hawaiian islands where there arent any centipedes? Where are the safest and most pleasant locations in the Hawaiian islands with the least amount of vermin? I want to hike and camp without being in constant fear of dangerous, unfriendly animals being in every hole, nook, cranny, bush, and tree. Even sitting on a log or sitting on the ground is dangerous as centipedes, spiders, and scorpions could be lurking. These pests are everywhere, even inside houses and hotels. I want to visit Hawaii for its gorgeous scenery, lovely songbirds, and tropical fruits. Instead I have to be on constant guard of being attacked by some venomous arthropod or disease causing, blood sucking mosquitoe, or I have to worry about breathing the vog. Its very distressing and depressing and it makes me angry.

Jonathan on December 10, 2018:

Friend of mine was bitten on the arse by a cane centipede while sitting on a log while visiting Hawaii. Upon his return to Los Angeles, he could not put any weight on his butt. Imagine that? lol! he said it was the most painful thing he'd ever experienced. proceeded to squeeze puss out of the bite wound for the next two days.

Malia on August 07, 2018:

Know thy enemy I Always say. I looked up how these @#$^ come around......I live in hawaii and got bitten twice. Once on my patio at night smoking a cigarrette and once going into my bathroom. (At night). They love corners and crevises.....and it doesnt help living next to bushes and brush. Oh, did I mention our community sprinklers go off big time? UUGH! THEY love'd think they would have enough to eat outside of peoples! They find their way in our houses here. Best bet is smash their darn heads first if your fast enough...@#$%& are prety quick. Lol

bestimmt on June 11, 2018:

These things are the spawn of satan. If there's one thing I could make extinct, these things would be it.

Mmm on April 15, 2018:

We are staying at Aulani and I got bite by a centipede. It hurt so bad. My kids and I watched it go into the pool after it attacked me. It’s been 3 hours and my foot still hurts. My foot even feels numb. It was the painfulest bite I’ve ever felt. The pain was worst than delivering a baby. It still hurts

DerwoodDakine on April 07, 2018:

The horror, the horror,... the horror. There is nothing that invokes such a Darwinian flight or fight instinct than having a big Hawaii centipede appear in your home. Heavy rains as I write this and just terminated one in my kitchen the other day.

One day I stepped on one at the beach park under a tree and man that hurt - I just froze like a statue in extreme pain.

I was home barefoot and reading on line about them - hadn't had any in my house for a year or two. Just an hour after my foot was bitten I was home looking at gory centipede pictures in my bedroom while barefoot, my swollen foot had an odd tingle - I looked down to see huge centipede next to my foot. OMG!! It seems like the pheromones from my first bit sent out the alert to others. I quickly terminated it and spent the night not blinking with an arsenal of weapons and a mine field of glue traps around my bed and the baseboard so they couldn't get above me. Now I am no wimp, but when it comes to these monsters all bets are off. Everyone I know that lives in Maui hates these things. I gladly kill every one of them with extreme prejudice! Hawaiin's say that burning them will keep others away. Some insect experts are in agreement that that could work.

nsm on May 27, 2016:

Am reading this horribly scary stories because less than an hour ago, one huge, I don't know how long it was, centipede creature was crawling up my jeans pants. Thank GOD, I shook my pants and it fell off just right below my feets. Talk scared, I have never bee so scared! For a minute I didn't know what to do, for once I froze, then I moved quickly and scooped the most ugly and scary creature into the trash can. Tied the trash bag tight. I hope it suffocates and dies!

Linda Robinson from Cicero, New York on May 23, 2016:

Hello Pamela wow loved this hub. You did such an extraordinary job with the your words and your photos. The hub was powerful, informative and extremely helpful and interesting. Bugs are not everyone's favorite. But before visiting Hawaii what incredible things to know and be watchful of. So nice meeting you, glad to be following you. Linda

acatslady on May 17, 2016:

I live in the north-shore of Kauai and my husband found our first live centipede last night. About 6". He trapped it in a bug catcher trap we have and I wanted to kill it but he took it and released it into the greenery outside by the pool. We get our townhouse treated for pests inside every quarter and the condo assoc. treats outside as well but this is 5th one I've seen. They are usually dead or dying inside (3) and one was live outside our front door. We relocated him. One of the dead ones was found in the drain by the hot water tank in a closet. I don't see why people here are so scared of them, although I would freak if one dropped onto the bed with me.

iain on November 07, 2015:

There is no reason to hack centipedes into pieces, you know. And I speak from my experience of living for years in Manoa. Using the tongs is an excellent idea - get them outside , drop them far away from where your family hangs out, then just leave them be. And I speak as someone who happily allows Black Widows to live on his porch here in Los Angeles. I told them "don't bother me and I won't bother you." The truce works.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on March 04, 2015:

I'm glad you were able to move. Having a cat is always good. The cat might not want to mess with these critters, but you can see immediately from the cat's posture and face when a centipede has entered the room.

t41flyer from Rio Rancho, New Mexico on March 04, 2015:

We have these bastards in New Mexico too. I found four of them. -All in our home. We moved to a new home since.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on December 08, 2014:

That is awful! I am glad you survived the horrible ordeal. I know there are many readers who are against cutting these guys in half. Personally, I would never have the courage anyway to do so, but when it comes down to one's own sense of survival and ability to cope with life, I think one has to do whatever one can do.

Darkwing on December 01, 2014:

Thank you. Your page has been informative. I have been in Hawaii for almost ten years and been dealing with these things since I got here. Most of the time I don't see them outside. I always find them inside. I found one the other night when it fell off the ceiling and onto my bed. Thank God I wasn't in bed when it happened. I cut it in half with scissors and it wandered away. I thought it was dead then, however, I was wrong. I found it the next day crawling around by my computer. It was worse for wear but still alive and kicking. I cut it into more pieces and sent it flying outside. Thankfully, this is the first one I have found in this house. They like to climb, but they aren't too great at it. I think one of the cats probably brought it in. To say the least, I was surprised when it went SPLAT on the bed. If they stay out of my realm, I will be happy to leave them alone. Now I know that carb cleaner will take them out FAST, I'm going to get me Armored car of the bug world. Ugh. Thanks and I hope you don't come across any more. Aloha

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on July 15, 2014:

Your poor wife! I wouldn't get over it for a lifetime. I know it's important to always check our shoes before we put them on -- on the Hawaiian Islands and also here in Arizona. But we're human and we forget.

Eric on July 12, 2014:

Here on the big island now. My wife just put her shoe on and started screaming something was biting her. She tore here shoe off and out dropped an 8 in centipede. Ugly bastards. It looks like you just have to wait it out.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on June 24, 2014:

My heart goes out to YOU. Isn't there any way you can move? There are lots of areas, blocks of streets here and there, that don't have any problems with centipedes there on Oahu. (Unless you dig up the sidewalk. Apparently, they like to live under sidewalks.) I can understand when you say you are 'rather paranoid' at this point. But consider yourself a hero. The fact that you stayed in that same residence and slept in the same bed, makes you one. You overcame your fears and just kept on going. You really are a hero, but now -- if I were you -- I'd move. Or at the very least get a pesticide company man in there today to spray your whole place and all around the perimeter of the house.

PJ on June 24, 2014:

I live in a ground-floor studio on a forested hillside in Kaneohe. I have been stung twice by centipedes in my bed while sleeping. Both have resulted in serious reactions. The first time was on my left upper arm. I dreamed of pain, then awoke in pain, then could see the visible wound where I was slightly bleeding. I found the centipede on my mattress between the head of my bed and the wall. Sprayed it with alcohol, but it ended up disappearing behind a baseboard. I hope it died back there. The bite burned, swelled, and got very red that night, then went down the next morning. I saw my doctor 5 days later on a routine appointment and the bite was still there, but just looked like a small, hard, round area. The very next day it exploded into an even more burning, swollen, red area that involved my entire upper arm. My local clinic ignored my repeated calls for help, so I went to the ER instead. About a year later, same thing. Dreamed of pain, woke up in pain, knew what it was right away. This time it was on the little finger side of my right hand. Again found the centipede between my bed and the wall. Then it disappeared into my bedclothes, so in the middle of the night, I had to strip the entire bed down to find it. Killed it with more alcohol. (I need to buy 98% alcohol, as I'm told that kills faster than the regular 70%.) By the next morning, my entire hand was so swollen that I could not use my fingers and could not bend my wrist. So back to the ER. Since then I have made every attempt to make sure my bed is at least a foot away from any other object and that my bedclothes don't come near the floor. Last night I left some clothes on a chair, intending to wear them the next morning. This morning I picked them up and threw them on my bed, then took a shower. Came out, picked up my blouse, and there's a centipede crawling on my bed right under where I picked it up. I don't know if it was already on my bed or if it was already in the blouse. I hope the latter. Killed it with alcohol. But I am rather paranoid at this point. Besides the centipedes that actually stung me and the one this morning, there have been assorted others in my room that I was able to see and kill before they did any damage. Hard to have any mercy for creatures like this. I will sometimes catch a roach and let it go somewhere away from my house, but a centipede gets killed on sight.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on April 27, 2013:

What a nightmare of a time you endured! That's the worst experience with these creatures I've ever heard -- and I've heard quite a few.

Regarding your concern for your cat when you move to Maui, cats have a really good sense of what is dangerous and what is not. My cat flung a centipede -- from the correct end -- several times before I could get to her the first time I let her outside to explore. She stared at it first and decided what was what and then flung the thing. During the next five years we lived there, I let her out in the yard (six foot fencing) all the time and she showed no further interest in them.

Sorry I took so long to reply. I wasn't on here for awhile due to other activities having to take up my time. I don't see any hubs on here written by you yet. I hope you might share some of your writings with us.

Thanks for commenting.

Mike in Dallas on April 09, 2013:

Am moving to Maui in a few years, but have a scary story about my first visit a dozen years ago. Arrived on Maui Christmas night and found our way to our rented cabin in Haiku. We were tired and hungry from the trip, but it was late, so we got undressed and went to bed. The next morning, I got up and dressed in the waterproof pants and top I had left on the floor. We ate a quick breakfast and headed out for a trip to the top of Haleakala. About a third of the way up, I looked over at my partner and said, wow, I think I got stung by something. My leg was just on fire. I thought it must have just been a bad ant bite. Instead of getting out of the car and undressing right there, I assumed I had killed the ant by pressing on my pants. When we got to the top, it still hurt, but we decided to go for a short hike. It was very cold and windy so I went around to the back of a rock formation and leaned against it. At that moment, I felt a "whap", right on my behind. I knew at that moment something was in my pants! I went racing down to the ranger station, and went in and told them what happened. They put me in the office and told me to take off my pants. When I did, a 10" long centipede came tumbling out and racing towards the wall. It had been hiding between the mesh insert in the pants and me. We all gasped and the ranger started to beat it with a shoe. I let out a cry and shook my pants again and yet another one came out. This one was dead. I must have killed it when I leaned against the rock. So, I had two bites in about an hours time. The rangers became very concerned because we were so far from medical help. They followed us down the volcano until we were near the bottom and we pulled over and let them know it seemed I was going to be OK. Hurt for the next day, then no problem.

I have seen only one other on my trips, but am concerned about when we move there. We are bringing our cat that is most definitely an outdoor boy and loves to chase bugs. Very scary to think one of these could kill him.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on January 12, 2013:

Gators and boas and centipedes. I wonder which one I'd be brave enough to face head on if I absolutely had to. I shouldn't have said that. Now it will probably happen in my night dreams.

Thanks for reading and commenting, dragonflyfla.

Pamela Dapples (author) from Arizona. on January 12, 2013:

I had no idea that wolf spiders could get so big. My son-in-law killed one in their garage in Arizona and it turned out it was carrying a lot of baby spiders on board. Once he realized, it was too late. Baby wolf spiders everywhere -- ready to grow up quick and haunt the lady of the house. Tree roaches with claws? Wow. I'm scratching Texas off my list of places to see. But I sure do love the Texas drawl. Thanks for stopping by and reading, Au fait.