Pest Problems

Millipede vs Centipede – What’s the Difference?

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? Should you be worried? Are they venomous? And just how many legs do they actually have?

If you want to learn all about these creepy crawlies, then this is the post for you!

Table of Contents:

So, if you:

  • Are seeing long-bodied creatures with many legs;
  • Want to identify them;
  • Are looking for the difference between a centipede and a millipede,

Then look no further! This article has all the information you need.

What is the difference between centipedes and millipedes?

While they do share some similarities, centipedes and millipedes are actually quite different. We will go over their specific characteristics in this post, but first, let’s take a look at how they differ from one another.

Most often than not, you can tell these two apart just by their looks. Centipedes have flat bodies, one pair of legs per body segment, and their legs point outwards, away from their body. Millipedes, on the other hand, 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, however, eat mostly decaying plant matter and won’t be seen eating a smaller bug.

And last but not least, let’s talk about toxicity. While centipedes are poisonous, their bite isn’t generally dangerous to humans and can produce a reaction similar to a wasp sting. It can cause an allergic reaction in some people, though. Millipedes are harmless, and they won’t bite, but they do produce a sticky substance to deter predators, which can be smelly and could stain the skin.

Now that we’ve covered how centipedes and millipedes differ, it’s time to go over how they’re alike. So…

What are the similarities between centipedes and millipedes?

Both millipedes and centipedes are arthropods, and not insects, though they often get called that by mistake. Insects only have three body segments, while centipedes and millipedes have many, many more. They belong to the group Myriapoda, which translates to “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. Both of them grow by shedding their external skeletons. Every time they moult in their youth, they add new segments to their bodies, as well as new pairs of legs.

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.

Characteristics of centipedes and millipedes

So, now you know the similarities and the 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!

What is a centipede?

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.

What does a centipede look like?

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.

How many legs does a centipede have?

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.

What do centipedes eat?

Centipedes are carnivores. They are predators that hunt for prey and kill their victims by injecting them with their venom. They eat mostly smaller bugs.

Where do centipedes live?

While centipedes prefer living in moist, protected outdoor environments, you can find them in nearly every type of environment on land. Their preferred habitat is logs, leaves, bark and under stones.

They can, however, be found in arid conditions, as well. Some deserts are home to some of the largest species of centipedes.

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.

What is a millipede?

A millipede is an arthropod of the class Diplopoda. They are rigid and move pretty slowly. They like burrowing, too.

What does a millipede look like?

Millipedes look similar to centipedes. However, there are some differences. They have a subcylindrical shape. Their antennae are significantly shorter. They are black or brown in colour and can have red or orange markings.

Millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment, except for the first three, which only have one pair each. Their legs point down towards the ground. Some species hatch with all of the legs they will have, while others add segments and legs to their bodies over their lifetime, and stop after they reach a certain number.

Fully grown millipedes can range anywhere from 0.30 cm to around 27-30 cm.

How many legs does a millipede have?

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.

What do millipedes eat?

Millipedes are primarily detritivores, meaning they feed mostly on decaying organic matter, such as leaves. They can sometimes eat the leaves and roots of plant seedlings.

Where do millipedes live?

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 there is nothing to 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.

Are centipedes and millipedes poisonous?

As we’ve mentioned already, most centipedes are venomous predators that use their poison to attack and kill their prey. To do that, they use the modified legs on their first segment. They can use them to defend themselves, too. 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.

Centipedes do sometimes bite people. Young children and people with allergies should seek medical assistance if a centipede bites them.

Millipedes are not venomous. 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, as well as stain 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.

Are you having pest infestation issues?

If you’ve found centipedes in your home and want to get rid of them, don’t worry! You can always call the professionals! At Fantastic Services, we offer expert pest treatments that are sure to rid your home of those pesky crawling creatures. So, be it centipedes, cockroaches, silverfish or any pest you can think of – we can take care of them all! So, what are you waiting for? Rid your home of the intruders today!

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  • Both centipedes and millipedes are arthropods of the Myriapoda group.
  • Centipedes are flat-bodied and have one pair of legs per body segment, while millipedes are subcylindrical and each body segment has two leg pairs.
  • Centipedes are carnivores, and millipedes eat mostly decaying plant matter.
  • Centipedes are venomous, but millipedes are not.
  • Centipedes are fast and scurry away when discovered, while millipedes are more rigid and roll up into a ball as a defence mechanism.


Was this article helpful? Do you now understand the difference between centipedes and millipedes? Tell us down in the comments!

Image source: Shutterstock / Sarah2, leawtogoblack

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