The Differences Between Centipedes and Millipedes



It isn’t difficult at all to tell the difference between a centipede and a millipede. They don’t look the same, they don’t have the same traits, and they don’t have the same habits. People shouldn’t let themselves become confused by them.

Centipede and millipede; even the names are extremely misleading. Still, these creatures aren’t at all difficult to tell apart.

The first thing that should be addressed is the misleading part about the common names. Centipedes don’t have a hundred legs, and millipedes don’t have a thousand, as the names imply. Centipedes usually have about 20 pairs of legs and millipedes often have somewhat more than this. The first clue for identification, then, is that millipedes have more legs, normally.

The bodies of both are distinctly segmented. However, centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment, while millipedes have two pairs of legs per segment. A millipede’s legs are also shorter and some centipedes have very long legs. Despite this, centipedes tend to become larger than millipedes.

Most centipedes are also somewhat flattened in appearance, looking from top to bottom, while millipedes are usually more rounded. This can sometimes be an identifier even at a distance.

Although there can be wide variations in the color, the most common coloration for each is also normally different. Centipedes are often light in color, often ranging from yellow to light brown and some species can be quite colorful. These can have extremely long legs. They can be quite beautiful, as much so as is possible for a segmented, worm-like creature. Millipedes, on the other hand, are usually dark in color and are usually much shinier.



Part of the reason for the difference in coloration has to do with how each lives. Centipedes are very active predators, and they can be voracious feeders, especially on troublesome insects. For this reason, centipedes are also usually venomous. Since they move in and out of shadow, darkness, and light, a lighter color provides better camouflage than darker colors would, both for their prey of insects, arachnids and other small creatures, and also for protecting them from animals that would eat them.

Millipedes normally eat vegetation, either growing or plant matter that is decaying. Since they don’t need to be as active, they spend a large amount of their time in darkness, such as in leaf litter, under bark and pieces of wood, inside rotten logs, under rocks and in other dark places. Dark coloration is thus more protective than lighter coloration would be, for the creature.

If a centipede is exposed while in its hiding place, the normal reaction for the animal is to move as rapidly as possible in order to escape. This is in keeping with being an active predator.



Millipedes will often try to curl up, a lot like wood lice or pill bugs do, though they aren’t able to curl up tightly. The shell of the back still affords some protection against birds and animals that would eat them. Millipedes usually don’t move very rapidly because of their short legs, so this defensive move is better for their survival than attempting to escape.

Centipedes are also much more likely to be found out hunting during the day and can be found at night as well. Millipedes are seldom found foraging during the day, at least in the open.

Before thinking that centipedes are harmful creatures, however, people should remember that they prey on many of the common pests of the house and garden. They are venomous, however the poison is primarily used to subdue prey.

Millipedes aren’t very harmful either, seldom causing any substantial damage, even to plants.

It isn’t hard to tell the difference between centipedes and millipedes, and they actually only look superficially similar. Both are interesting to observe, and their traits are worthy to know.




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