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Millipede vs Centipede – What’s the Difference?
- Published: Aug 25/2020
- Last update: May 26/2023
- 7min read
- Views: 6,158
You may have seen a many-legged creature scutter away under a rock at some point. “Oh, a centipede!” you say to yourself. You could be wrong, though. Have you ever wondered what the difference between centipedes and millipedes is? What are the chances of finding one inside your house? Can millipedes hurt you? Are centipedes poisonous? How many legs does a centipede have?
So, if you:
Then look no further! This article has all the information you need.
Centipedes have flat bodies, one pair of legs per body segment, and their legs point outwards, away from their body. Millipedes have a subcylindrical shape and two pairs of legs per body segment. Also, their legs point down to the ground.
Another way you can tell a centipede from a millipede is by their behaviour. If you discover a creature with lots of legs and it scurries away, then it’s a centipede. If it stays still and curls up into a ball, then it’s a millipede. Centipedes are fast and flexible, while millipedes are more rigid and move slowly.
While you can find a centipede in most environments, millipedes prefer moist habitats and won’t generally be seen in dry places.
Another difference between centipedes and millipedes is their diet – centipedes are carnivorous predators that hunt for food. Millipedes eat mostly decaying plant matter and won’t be seen eating a smaller bug.
Millipedes and centipedes are not insects, though they often get called that by mistake. Insects only have three body segments, while centipedes and millipedes have many more. They belong to the group arthropods Myriapoda, meaning “countless feet”. They are invertebrates, meaning they don’t have backbones. Both of their bodies consist of one pair of antennae, a head, a segmented body (trunk), and many legs.
Both centipedes and millipedes breathe through little holes, or spiracles, on the sides of their bodies. They also have no direct reproductive organs. Their vision is poor to practically nonexistent, meaning they rely on other senses, such as the feeling of vibrations.
Behaviour-wise, centipedes and millipedes are most active at night, so it’s rare to see them out and about during the day. You can find both of them on every continent except Antarctica, and they live exclusively on land. However, one species of giant centipede has been found to swim.
So, now you know the similarities and differences between centipedes and millipedes. If you want to know a little more, keep on reading! We will now cover more specifics about each of these creepy crawlies’ characteristics. Let’s get right to it!
A centipede is an arthropod that belongs to the class Chilopoda. They are terrestrial and nocturnal creatures. They are quite flexible and are known for their quick speed.
A centipede bite can be very painful, especially if the centipede is large. It is usually not dangerous or fatal when centipedes bite you, but the venom they inject can hurt you.
A centipede bite is enough to kill small prey but is usually not life-threatening to humans unless there are severe allergies. Mostly, the reaction is similar to the effect of a wasp sting. People with allergies should seek medical assistance if a centipede bites them.
Centipedes have elongated flattened bodies. They are golden or chestnut brown in colour. Their bodies are segmented, and they have long antennae on their head.
Each body segment has only one pair of legs. Their legs spread outwards, away from the body. Centipedes have modified front legs that resemble mouthparts. Their tips have venomous claws called forcipules. The last pair of centipede legs trails behind their bodies.
Since they are carnivorous predators, they have large jaws, which they use to kill their prey.
Depending on the species, centipedes can grow from 1 cm to 30 cm long.
While their name suggests that they have 100 legs, that is not entirely true. A fully grown centipede can have anywhere from 15 to over 350 pairs of legs. Additionally, centipedes always have an odd number of leg pairs. So, technically, no species can have exactly 100 legs.
Centipedes are carnivores. As predators, centipedes eat a variety of insects and invertebrates. They eat mostly smaller bugs.
The house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata, is the only species that lives and reproduces in people’s homes. It can often be found in damp spaces, such as basements, kitchens and bathrooms.
They can, however, be found in arid conditions, as well. Some deserts are home to some of the largest species of centipedes.
Millipedes are arthropods with two pairs of jointed legs on most body segments. A millipede has a flattened body and between 20 and 100 segments.
A millipede is not poisonous or dangerous to humans. They employ defensive tactics when they feel they are being attacked instead. Their defensive glands produce a stinky secretion that deters predators. They will also curl up into a ball to protect themselves.
While this liquid is not dangerous, it can irritate the skin and eyes if it comes in contact with them and stains the skin. So, if you ever handle a millipede, make sure to wash your hands afterwards thoroughly.
Some people are allergic to the millipede’s defensive secretion and should seek medical help if an allergic reaction occurs.
A millipede looks like a small earthworm but has many pairs of legs. The appearance of millipedes is similar to that of centipedes. A difference is that their antennae are shorter, and their shape is sub-cylindrical. In addition to their black or brown colour, millipedes may also have red or orange markings.
Millipedes’ name suggests that they have 1000 legs. This is never the case, however. They rarely exceed 400 feet, with the record holder having 750. No known species has 1000 feet.
The main food source for millipedes is decaying plant matter and associated fungal growth.
Millipedes prefer moist environments. You can often find them in forests, in rotting logs, and under leaves and stones. Millipedes lack a waxy layer on their external skeletons, so nothing can help them retain water. This makes damp spaces their preferred habitat.
Some species, however, can be found in deserts or grasslands. They don’t reside in people’s homes.
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Image source: Shutterstock / Sarah2, leawtogoblack