Quick facts

Common name(s): common centipede, brown centipede, stone centipede

Scientific name: Lithobius forficatus

Family: Lithobiidae

Habitat: woodland, grassland, farmland, gardens, toads

Predators: birds, mammals, toads

Origin: native

What do common centipedes look like?

Common centipedes have long, thin, brownish-red bodies with large antennae. Despite its name, it does not have 100 legs; instead it has just 15 pairs of legs. It has elongated back legs that almost resemble a second pair of antennae.

Measuring up to 3cm in length, this is one of the largest centipede species in the UK.

What do common centipedes eat?

Common centipedes are predators, eating a range of insects and invertebrates. Spiders, slugs, worms and flies may all be on the menu. The centipede catches its prey using specially-adapted front legs. These legs have evolved to resemble fangs and contain venom that allows the centipede to overpower its prey.

Centipedes are a gardener’s friend, feeding on slugs and other species considered pests.

Did you know?

Common centipedes can walk backwards almost as quickly as they can walk forwards.

Where do common centipedes live?

An adaptable species, common centipedes can be found across the UK in a variety of habitats including woodland, grassland and gardens. They will spend the day hidden within the soil or dark places such as under stones, dead wood and bark. Once night falls, they will emerge to hunt for prey.

Common centipede on a snowdrop

Credit: Andrew Darrington / Alamy Stock Photo

Signs and spotting tips

Your best chance of seeing a common centipede is to look underneath stones and dead wood. If you have a compost heap in your garden, there is a good chance centipedes may be living within.

Threats and conservation

Like most invertebrates, little is known about the population status of common centipedes, but the species is not thought to be under threat.