Centipedes in Hawaii: I Was Stung Today

Here’s a picture of the culprit. I was making the bed today and felt something large crawling on me. After a loud yelp and shake of my leg, this 7″ long centipede fell off me and quickly made its way across the room.

The centipede managed to sting me in the process. This Aloha hurts!

We’re careful to use insecticidal spray at the perimeter of the house every few months in case one of these guys walks in. In our tropical environment, however, it’s still possible for something like this to happen.

I always tell friends visiting the islands to check their bed linens at night for any unwelcome guests. This is especially true when staying in a private home or small B&B.

How a centipede stings:

Centipede venom is injected by a pair of sharp, specialized, hollow legs located just behind the head, which are attached to muscular venom glands. The sting is considered comparable to that of a wasp.

What should you do if you get stung?

Wash the area first then apply ice to reduce swelling (although others suggest a hot compress, which didn’t work for me). Take ibuprofen for pain and apply a topical antibiotic cream, followed by cortisone cream (if needed for itching). Most stings are self-resolving.

Where you’ll find centipedes:

These nocturnal, carnivorous arthropods are usually found outdoors in moist areas, under leaves, stones, bark and compost. When disturbed, centipedes run away quickly.

In a house, condo or even the occasional hotel room, they will conceal themselves in things like bed linens, shoes, laundry baskets, boxes and damp towels/clothing left on bathroom floors. They aren’t aggressive towards people, but will sting when threatened.

If anyone else is a member of the “Stung by a Centipede Club,” feel free to share your experience.

16 Comments

  1. Linda (3 years ago)

    What is the best way to kill the creeps?

    • Jeff (3 years ago)

      Hi Linda,

      Repeated pounding with something hard like a shoe, brick or whatever works best (and is the least cruel). They are not easy to kill.

      Aloha, Jeff

  2. Brenda (4 years ago)

    My kids just woke me up in a panic, and they discovered a 6 inch centipede, man those things are ugly… we killed it (of course it put up a fight) and Now the kids dont want to go to bed its 2 a.m. Hopefully I wont ever be a member of the club, thats one Hawaiian experience that I dont need to have =)

  3. Derek (4 years ago)

    I joined the SBACC last year. I visited the Big Island and worked in a garden clearing brush. When I left for the mainland I placed my gardening clothes in a plastic bag. One week later at 3 Am in the morning I was awoken by something moving across my neck and shoulder heading down my left arm, when I realized something was crawling on me I felt the pain of a bite on my upper arm. When I got the light on It was a 7″ centipede. It had to have been in my gardening clothes and I brought it back in my baggage. Could not go back to sleep for the rest of the night!

  4. debbie (4 years ago)

    I’m not a member, but….. we had one in our condo that we stayed at in Kauai. It was about 8 inches long and really fat! It was in the over flow drain in the bathroom sink. He came crawling out when my husband was brushing his teeth. Thank goodness it wasn’t me that found it!

  5. Joey (4 years ago)

    Just joined the SBACC last night. Sleeping in my condo I was stung on my upper left arm. After going into the bathroom my wife lifted the covers and pillows to find a 4 inch centipede crawling in the bef which we were able to catch. Not sure what to do with him yet Painful, but the swelling and pain subsided within a day.

    • Rob (4 years ago)

      Ouch Leif and Joey! I so relate (and still have my scars as proof).

      Aloha,

      Rob

  6. Leif Hansen (4 years ago)

    I’m now a SBACC member. I was wearing flips, walking in through the gate of our rental house in Puako, and it was totally dark. All of sudden -YOW!!!-my poor daughter (6 yrs old) and wife were wondering what the heck happened. My firstthought was a bee sting…then the pain kept increasing 2×3 times what I remember a bee sting being like, and then I examined the puncture and saw two holes…one really small, the other seemed bigger, almost sidewise or something. It’s been 45 minutes now (was doing research when I found this) and then pain has gone form a ’7′ or ’8′ to a 3 or 4…distraction helps. Took some ibuprofen and hopefully that will keep in soon. Thanks for your info. Cheers, -Leif

  7. girasoli (5 years ago)

    Knock on wood, I have not been stung by a centipede however I found a huge one in my car in May. I freaked out and would not get back into my car until it was gone. I wrote about it on my blog but could not bring myself to post a photo as they are so disgusting! The comments from friends on the mainland compared them to earwigs or little millipedes. After a second post with links to photos, they got the picture. They are so creepy! I also used to find them in my classroom all the time when I taught in Ewa. The custodians were on call for me.

    I just discovered your blog through Pauline’s blog. Great blog!!

  8. Matt (5 years ago)

    I wasn’t stung, but i was surprised! At first i thought it was a snake. I walked outside about a half hour ago in the garage to smoke and heard something stirring around. Well it wasn’t Saint Nick! That thing was one of those red ones and it was about 7 or 8 inches long. I still got goose bumps. I live in Eva Beach, Hawaii. I am Army Strong but that ugly little worm made me scream like a girl too!

  9. Jeff (5 years ago)

    Hey Brian,

    Sorry to hear that. Hopefully it won’t be too bad. Ice seemed to help the pain a lot. If you’re like me, the Benadryl will knock you out for a while, after which it should be feeling a lot better. Let us know how it goes okay.

    Aloha, Jeff

  10. brian (5 years ago)

    Owwee! I just got stung today july 27thm raking up shrub in the yard,had no shoes for protection. All of a sudden I felt this sting! Looked down and this big sucker the size that you mentioned made it’s way across the yard. The first thing I did,I put vinegar to kill what ever had left. Than I cleaned the wound with alcohol and peroxide. I still have an Ice pack cause it’s stinging I also took benadryl.called my physician and all what I did was okay.

  11. Angie (6 years ago)

    YIKES! Can’t say we’ve been stung but we’ve seen ‘em and it gives ya the heebie jeebies for sure! We always check the shoes and linens for pests and lil geckos. :)

  12. Rob (6 years ago)

    Sheila and Shauna: I’m glad you’re not card carrying members of the “SBACC” too! A friend of ours had a small blue centipede in his swim trunks. It stung him but I’ll spare you the details. Let’s just say he’s our unofficial club president.

  13. Shauna (6 years ago)

    I also am not a member of the SBACC, but I have a friend whose son is in the Army and stationed in Hawaii where my son is also stationed. When her son first moved to Hawaii with his family, one of these centipedes crawled out from under the couch, and this strong “Army of One” soldier jumped up on a chair and screamed like a girl! His wife had to come in from another room to save him! I still laugh when I think about this story! When I visited last year, I wasn’t *fortunate* to see a centipede, but we did see some giant cockroaches (ewww!), a praying mantis, and a cute little gecko!

  14. Sheila (6 years ago)

    Ouch! I’m not a member of the SBACC, fortunately, but I’ll be more careful to check for them in the future.