House centipedes move rapidly, often stopping and starting abruptly using their 15 pairs of legs. The behavior is startling to most people and certain to elicit screams from my daughter. A few tidbits of their biology are discussed in a previous post.
Centipedes are predators on other small animals, mostly arthropods. The first pair of true legs in centipedes are modified into a pair of venom injecting structures for handling prey called the forcipules (= tiny forceps). These legs, immediately behind the head are short, extend under the mouth opening and are adapted to puncturing and holding prey. On the tip of each leg is a venom claw. The forcipules are sharp, sclerotized and can penetrate most prey. They contain the opening of the venom gland duct. Centipedes can inject paralytic venoms.Dugon and colleagues recently published* a comparison of forcipules with detailed electron micrographs. They included the house centipeded, Scutigera coleoptrata. Most centipedes are capable of injecting venom into people who handle them. However, the forcipules of the house centipede are typically not capable of puncturing the human skin and injecting venom. House centipedes startle people but stings are rare. Larger centipedes can and do sting people. The stings are described as painful, but not usually life-threatening.
*Arthropod Structure & Development 41 (2012) 231-243