Centipede vs Millipede: Uncovering Key Differences for the Curious Mind

When exploring the world of creepy-crawlies, two creatures that often cause confusion are centipedes and millipedes. Although they might seem similar at first glance, these arthropods exhibit distinct characteristics and behaviors. Understanding their differences is essential for identifying and appreciating their unique biology.

Centipedes possess a flat, segmented body with one pair of legs per segment. They are carnivorous and equipped with venomous glands, enabling them to catch their prey effectively. On the other hand, millipedes have a more rounded body with two pairs of legs for each segment. They are decomposers that mainly feed on decaying organic matter like plants.

In terms of mobility, centipedes are generally faster and more agile, while millipedes move slowly and even curl up when disturbed. One key visual difference lies in their legs – centipedes have long, visible legs, while millipedes have shorter ones tucked under their body that are not so noticeable.

Basic Differences Between Centipedes and Millipedes

Body Structure and Segments

Number of Legs

  • Centipedes: Each body segment has a single pair of legs, and the total number of legs can vary from 10 to 100 or more.
  • Millipedes: They have two pairs of short legs on each body segment, and their legs are tucked under the body, making them difficult to see.

Antennae and Vision

  • Centipedes: They have long, sensitive antennae and better vision, which aids in their active hunting behavior.
  • Millipedes: Their antennae are shorter, and they primarily rely on touch and smell for navigation.

Color and Size

  • Centipedes: They are usually brownish, grayish-yellow, or feature three dark stripes and range from 1 to 12 inches in length or more.
  • Millipedes: They come in shades of brown, tan, or gray, and adults are typically 1-2 inches long.
Feature Centipede Millipede
Body Structure Flattened and elongated with fewer segments Rounded with hard external skeleton and more segments
Number of Legs One pair per body segment Two pairs per body segment
Antennae/Vision Long antennae, better vision Short antennae, rely on touch and smell
Color/Size Brownish, grayish-yellow, 1-12 inches long Brown, tan, gray, 1-2 inches long

Habitats and Behavior

Preferred Environments

Centipedes:

  • Prefer moist and dark environments
  • Commonly found under logs, rocks, and leaf litter

Millipedes:

  • Thrive in damp and dark habitats
  • Typically found in soil, decaying plant matter, and under logs

Movement and Speed

Centipedes:

  • Move quickly with long, flexible legs
  • Predatory, rely on speed to catch prey

Millipedes:

  • Move slowly using short legs
  • Scavengers, do not require speed for feeding

Predatory vs. Scavenger Habits

Centipedes:

  • Predatory arthropods
  • Feed on insects and other invertebrates

Millipedes:

  • Scavengers or Detritivores
  • Feed primarily on decaying plant matter

Common Home Invaders

Centipedes:

  • Fast, able to crawl up walls and ceilings
  • Sometimes found in bathrooms due to moisture

Millipedes:

  • Slow, mainly found at ground level
  • Rarely invade homes, but occasionally drawn to damp areas
Property Centipedes Millipedes
Environment Dark, moist Damp, dark
Speed Fast-moving Slow
Movement Crawling Crawling
Feeding Predatory Scavenger
Home Invader Occasionally Rarely

Using brief paragraphs, tables, and lists, we provided a summary of the differences between centipedes and millipedes. Their preference in environments, movement and speed, feeding habits, and the likelihood of being found in a home were key points of comparison.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Centipede Diet

Centipedes are carnivorous creatures, mainly feeding on other invertebrates. Their diet includes:

  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Earthworms

These predators use their venomous bite to immobilize their prey, making it easier for them to feast upon. Centipedes typically hunt at night, using their sensitive antennae to locate their next meal.

Millipede Diet

Millipedes play a vital role in breaking down organic matter in their environment. Their diet mainly consists of:

  • Decaying plant matter
  • Leaves
  • Dead wood

Millipedes are more of scavengers than hunters, as they don’t rely on venom to procure their food. They help in recycling nutrients, promoting a healthy ecosystem. They are slow movers and are most active at night, hiding under rocks and logs during the day.

Comparison table:

Feature Centipedes Millipedes
Diet Carnivorous, feeding on invertebrates Decaying plant matter and leaves
Hunting Venomous bite to immobilize prey Scavengers, no venom
Activity Nocturnal hunters Nocturnal scavengers

In summary, centipedes and millipedes differ significantly in their diet and feeding habits. Centipedes are predators with venomous bites, feeding on other invertebrates, while millipedes help decompose organic matter and contribute to a healthy ecosystem.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Eggs and Birth

Centipedes and millipedes have different reproductive strategies. Female centipedes lay around 10 to 50 eggs in small holes or crevices in moist environments, while millipedes lay between 20 and 300 eggs depending on the species.

  • Centipedes: 10-50 eggs
  • Millipedes: 20-300 eggs

Development Stages

Both centipedes and millipedes undergo molting, growing, and shedding their exoskeletons in stages throughout their life.

Centipedes:

  • Centipedes hatch as underdeveloped versions of their adult selves.
  • After hatching, centipedes molt multiple times, gradually increasing the number of body segments and legs with each molt until they reach adulthood.

Millipedes:

  • Millipedes emerge with only a few segments and a small number of legs, gradually developing more segments and legs throughout their growth process.
  • As they mature, millipedes molt and add segments.

Comparison table:

Centipedes Millipedes
Egg Laying 10-50 eggs 20-300 eggs
Molting/Stages Underdeveloped form Few segments, few legs
Body Segments Increase with molt Increase with molt
Legs Increase with molt Increase with molt
Development Speed Faster Slower

In summary, centipedes and millipedes have distinguishable differences in their reproduction and life cycle stages. Centipedes lay fewer eggs, hatch in an underdeveloped form, and undergo multiple molts. Meanwhile, millipedes lay more eggs, emerge with fewer body segments and legs, and gradually develop more segments and legs as they molt and grow.

Venoms, Poisons, and Defense Mechanisms

Centipede Venom and Bite

Centipedes are predators that use venom to capture prey. Their venom is produced in glands located in their modified front legs, called forcipules. The venom is injected into their prey through a bite, which can be painful for humans and other animals.

Examples of Centipede Predators:

  • Insect predators
  • Small vertebrates
  • Birds

Here’s a brief comparison table between centipede bites and other common bites/stings:

Bite or Sting Pain Level Dangerous to Humans?
Centipede Moderate Rarely
Bee Moderate In some cases
Ant Mild Rarely

Millipede Secretions

Millipedes, on the other hand, are not venomous and have a different defense mechanism. They release chemicals in the form of secretions when they feel threatened. The secretions can be harmless or have different effects, depending on the species. Some may cause skin irritation or even temporary blindness if they come into contact with the eyes.

Examples of Millipede Secretions:

  • Hydrogen cyanide (toxic)
  • Quinones (irritating)
  • Benzaldehyde (noxious)

Pros and Cons of Millipede Secretions:

Pros:

  • Effective deterrent against predators
  • No biting or stinging involved

Cons:

  • Can cause irritation or temporary blindness if accidentally encountered

In conclusion, centipedes and millipedes have distinct defense mechanisms. Centipedes rely on venomous bites, while millipedes use chemical secretions to deter predators. Both strategies provide protection, but with different effects on the animals and humans they encounter.

Notable Species and Types

Amazonian Giant Centipede

The Amazonian Giant Centipede (Scolopendra gigantea) is one of the largest centipede species in the world, found primarily in South America. Some key features of this species include:

  • Length: up to 12 inches
  • Body segments: 21 to 23
  • Legs: One pair per body segment, totaling 42 to 46
  • Color: Reddish-brown with yellow legs

This centipede is known for its aggressive hunting behavior and painful venomous bite. They primarily feed on insects, spiders, and even small vertebrates like lizards.

Giant African Millipede

The Giant African Millipede (Archispirostreptus gigas) is one of the largest millipede species, native to Africa. Notable characteristics of this species are:

  • Length: up to 15 inches
  • Body segments: Around 100
  • Legs: Two pairs per body segment, totaling around 400
  • Color: Dark brown or black

Giant African Millipedes are known for their calm and slow behavior, mainly feeding on decaying plant material.

Comparison Table

Feature Amazonian Giant Centipede Giant African Millipede
Length Up to 12 inches Up to 15 inches
Body segments 21 to 23 Around 100
Legs per body segment One pair Two pairs
Total legs 42 to 46 Around 400
Color Reddish-brown, yellow legs Dark brown or black
Diet Insects, spiders, small vertebrates Decaying plant material

Similarities and Taxonomy

Phylum and Subphylum

Centipedes and millipedes both belong to the same phylum, Arthropoda, and the same subphylum, Myriapoda. This subphylum includes myriapods, which are characterized by their numerous legs and segmented bodies.

Shared Characteristics

Some shared characteristics between centipedes and millipedes include:

  • Both have elongated, segmented bodies
  • Presence of many legs (but differing number of legs per segment)
  • Generally found in moist habitats, such as under leaves or logs

Here is a comparison table highlighting the main differences and similarities:

Feature Centipedes Millipedes
Legs per segment 1 pair 2 pairs
Body shape Flattened Rounded
Speed Fast-moving Slow-moving
Defense Venomous Non-venomous, emit defensive toxins
Diet Carnivorous Detritivorous (feed on decaying organic matter)

While centipedes have a flattened body shape and move quickly, millipedes have a more rounded body shape and move slowly. Centipedes are carnivorous, using their venomous fangs to hunt prey, while millipedes are detritivorous, feeding on decaying organic matter. In terms of defense, millipedes curl up into a tight spiral and emit a foul-smelling toxin when threatened, while centipedes use their venom to deter predators.

Prevention and Control Measures

Keeping Centipedes and Millipedes Out of Your Home

To keep these arthropods at bay:

  • Maintain a clean and clutter-free environment.
  • Seal off entry points like cracks and gaps in doors, windows, and walls.
  • Remove excess moisture by using dehumidifiers or fixing leaky pipes.
  • Clear away leaf litter, rotting wood, or other organic material near your home.

Centipedes and millipedes are usually found in moist habitats under leaves, rotten logs, stones, and boards. Neither carry diseases that affect humans, animals, or plants. However, house centipedes can be a nuisance, as they possess poison glands.

Centipedes Millipedes
Faster moving Slower moving
Fewer legs, one pair per body segment More legs, two pairs per body segment
Carnivorous (feeds on other insects) Detritivores (feeds on decaying organic matter)
Possess poison glands Generally harmless

What to Do if You Find One Inside

If you find a centipede or millipede inside your home:

  1. Capture it using a jar and safely release it outside, away from the house.
  2. Vacuum any others you find to quickly remove them from your living space.
  3. Avoid crushing them, as they may leave stains.

Remember:

  • Centipedes and millipedes are not pests that cause damage to your home.
  • They are a natural part of the ecosystem and can even be beneficial by controlling other insects (centipedes) or breaking down organic material (millipedes).
  • Extermination is rarely necessary, and preventative measures should keep them out of your home.

Fun Facts and Additional Information

Unique Characteristics

  • Millipedes: These arthropods have two pairs of short legs on each body segment, a rounded body, and a hard external skeleton. Their legs are tucked under the body and difficult to see, and they feed on decaying organic matter. Millipedes are most active at night.

  • Centipedes: On the other hand, centipedes have only one pair of legs on each body segment. Depending on the species, centipedes can vary in length from one to 12 or more inches, with the total number of legs varying from 10 to 100 or more.

Record-Breaking Species

  • Illacme plenipes: Among millipedes, the species with the most legs is the Illacme plenipes, boasting up to 750 legs. This is a rare species found only in California.

Comparison Table

Characteristic Millipedes Centipedes
Legs Two pairs per body segment One pair per body segment
Body Shape Rounded Elongated
Diet Decaying organic matter Predatory on other insects and animals

Now you know some fun facts and characteristics of both millipedes and centipedes, such as their diversity in leg numbers, and how they differ in body shape and diet. Who would’ve thought that these fascinating creatures could even be related to lobsters? However, don’t be surprised if you find millipedes or centipedes hanging out in damp, dark places like garages – it’s their preferred habitat! Just remember, their redness doesn’t mean they’re dangerous; in fact, neither centipedes nor millipedes carry diseases harmful to humans, animals, or plants.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

We were in Dierks, AR near the Lower Saline River in the Ouachita Mountains and pretty close to the southeast border of Oklahoma. We lifted up a kayak only to find this extremely fast moving critter resembling a centipede. However, it was approximately 6-8 inches long and the body was black with yellow legs and red antennas. We chased it around on the ground and a friend got it on video, but the critter started raising it’s body off the ground and almost bouncing around like it was mad. None of us had ever seen anything like it. And here is some more information on the area: we saw the largest tarantula ever in AR in this area and the river we were on is really full of sulphur from the decaying plants. I understand this is due to the lake only being drawn down twice a year and the soil on the bottom containing the sulphur gets stirred. So my conclusion on these large bugs is that maybe it has something to do with the water. Again, though, I am really curious as to what the centipede look alike might be. If we are able to get the video on computer and download an image, I will make sure it is sent to you.
Thanks, Renee Wilson, CPA
Loan Review Officer
Bank of the Ozarks

Dear Renee,
Oklahoma has centipedes the size you saw. Since you are so close, you may be within the range of the species. I haven’t found much information on them except that they are large and have a poisonous bite. I don’t think the water has much to do with the size of the tarantula and centipede you found. Please send the photo if you are able. We would love to see it.

Letter 2 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Bugman, I found what I have identified as a centipede but im not sure what kind. I found it on a lady’s porch. It is about 6" long and about the width of a mans index finger, or mine anyways. Color is dark brown and has two sets of legs for each body segment. I live on the coast of North Carolina and have never seen a centipede anywhere close to this size. Is this native to this area?…is it even native to the U.S.? I can take some pictures of it and send them in if this would help or if you are interested in seeing it.
Thank you

Dear Erik,
Please send the photos. There is a large desert centipede known as Scolopendra heros. S. heros has three subspecies. The S. heros "family" are the only centipedes in the continental United
States that can attain lengths larger than 8 inches. They are normally reported from desert areas especially Oklahoma and Texas, but they are also kept as pets by people. Perhaps your
specimen escaped or perhaps the range is much greater than expected. We would very much like to see a photo. For your information, centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment, and millipedes have two pairs per segment.
Daniel

Letter 3 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Hi there,
This thing wasn’t in my home thank goodness. I was staying in a hostel in Toronto a couple weeks ago. When i arrived at the hostel way earlier than standard checkin time, they let me settle into a room anyhow because it was completely empty. they had cleaned it the day before and so there was no one staying in there at the time. Later that day another girl moved into the room, and she told me that she had been staying in there a couple days earlier, but had been moved out so they could clean the room because she had been getting weird rashy-looking bite marks all over her arms and legs. she showed me – just large red patches. no one else in the room had been bitten/stung/affected, but they decided to clean the room anyhow. a few days later, i was changing in the room one morning when something moving caught my eye. I glanced at the floor to see something dash out from the general area of a pile of luggage and run across the floor in front of me. i was stunned for a moment watching this bizarre thing and then, not having anything with which to really catch it, i tried to grab at a shoe to give it a whack (i’m not much for killing bugs though, but i didn’t feel i had much in the way of options just then). before I could get it though, it ran underneath a pile of luggage under a girl’s bunk. and she was sleeping in it at the time, so I didnt think it would be very good of me to go through her luggage, have her wake up and smack me thinking I was stealing something. The thing was never seen again during my stay. My first impression of it was that it looked like a translucent brown shrimpish thing. kind of like root beer candy, that sort of translucent brown. it was quick, it had something clawlike off the front. I didnt get an accurate leg count unfortunately… it had a small tail that was sticking out the back of it. like a shrimp. and it was certainly a couple inches long. I described this thing to a few people in toronto, and more than one of them said ‘oh that’s a silverfish!’ I’ve seen silverfish before, theyre tiny and silver and fishlike. but these people insist silverfish in toronto look like brown shrimp things. i dont know if that’s just a common torontonian nickname or what. My dad seems to think it might have been some kind of scorpion, which I guess half fits the description. I was looking at photos of pseudoscorpions and thought perhaps that was it, until i saw that those guys are much much smaller than the critter i saw. my beast looked a bit thinner and longer as well. Also, being a hostel, people come from all over the world. This bug could have i suppose hitched a ride from anywhere on earth..?! Any thoughts on what this might have been? I’m just really really curious. The hostel might like to know what’s creeping around in their rooms as well. Thanks for your help!
Andy Scheffler

Dear Andy,
What an awesome letter. I hope I can help. I’m guessing house centipede. Very quick, transluscent, about 30 legs. We get lots of questions about this one. They are predatory, eating small insects, and not dangerous to people. No way it caused the girl’s rash.

Letter 4 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

this centipede was found on a trail at the Rancho Mission Viejo Land Conservancy reserve about 5 miles off the 5 Freeway down Ortega Highway. Got a Latin name?
Thanks···.

The multicolored centipede is the common name for Scolopendra polymorpha. Here is some information from the website
http://www.goldenphoenixexotica.com/cent.html
Scolopendra polymorpha This Scolopendra polymorpha is a local Arizona species. Polymorpha is Latin for ‘many form’ and it lives up to its name. We have seen these entirely yellow, orange, blue, and any gradation in between. In December of 2000 we spotted a baby blue polymorpha with bluish black bars within the Phoenix city limits. We were recently pleased to see a specimen at the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute about seven inches long and about as big around as a finger. We keep these on soil just damp enough to change the color. A bit of sand in the soil mix is ideal. Keep the substrate shallow if you wish to easily view your centipedes. These creatures are voracious predators that inject venom with forelegs which have been modified to function as fangs. They thrive on a diet of crickets or cockroaches that have been fed nutritiously. Humidity is easily supplied by daily misting. Even a very small polymorpha is capable of administering a bite capable of causing sharp discomfort. Pain arising from the bite of larger polymorpha may well be proportionate, and additional effects remain unknown. Handling is therefore NOT recommended. The picture to the left above is one of the low desert forms. Those to the right are high desert forms. The rightmost centipede is coiled around a clutch of eggs. She will continue to hold her young in this manner until dispersal.

Letter 5 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

I’m hoping you can help me out with a bug identification. We live in York, PA, in a brick house that’s about 150 years old. We have these "creatures" that emerge in various places… I’ve seen them in the basement laundry room– usually when I pick something up off the floor– but also in the living room and dining room, scurrying across the floors or up the walls. They look kind of like the silverfish drawing, but they are longer and thinner, probably a little less than a half inch wide. They range in size from 2-3 inches long, but once I swear I saw one that was at least 4 inches long one time in the basement. They are gray in color, very flat, very fast, with lots of legs, but they don’t seem to have the tentacles off the front and back like the silverfish drawing. I wish could get a picture of one– unfortunately when I see one I’m so darn startled that I end up crushing it to an unidentifiable pulp!!! Any help available? Tricia

Dear Tricia,
You have house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata). They are harmless, and actually eat other tiny pests that enter your house. We have some nice photos on our site www.whatsthatbug.com which you can view by clicking the centipede button.

Letter 6 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Dear Bugman,
While working late one night in a soundstage in Long Beach area, my collegues and I were startled to find this creature crawling across the floor (and right thriugh our shot, no less!). Most of us had never seen such a thing, although I’ve come across them from time to time. I had always thought they were Silverfish, but the others disagreed. the body was about 4 to 5 centimeters long, and it moved remarkebly fast when provoked.

Please help us!

thank you,

Tomas Arceo


Dear Tomas Arceo,

This is one of our commonest What’s That Bug? identifications. It is a house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata. Thanks for the great photo. They are active, fast, and eat other intruders, hence they are beneficial and should not be harmed. Silverfish are another matter, and should be
eradicated.

Letter 7 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

I have been searching the web to see if I could find out what these weird, ugly bugs are that we have seen in our house. Alex wrote to you on 6/2/02 and describe the exact things we have. These bugs were NOT on the links you had attached. We live in Raleigh, NC. The bugs are FAST! I mean you see them and then they are gone. I thought is was some form of millipede or centipede, but I haven’t been able to close enough to one to find out. They have MORE than 8 legs and the legs are at least two jointed because they hold the bug up off the ground like a spider more than a centipede or millipede. They are between 2 and 4 inches long. The legs are slender and black and I honestly haven’t seen too much of the body except that it is thin, almost like it is only there to attach the legs. Thanks for any help you can give us.

Dear Liana,
I have contacted our local Museum of Natural History, and the entomologist I spoke with is also stumped. However, he did foreward this contact person in your area who might be able to assist in your identification. The really confusing part of your description is the size of your creature. 4-5 inches is huge, not for the tropics, but for the continental U.S. at least. The only possibility I have if your description is accurate, is that somehow you have acquired an exotic import that is happy with its new environment, and that is reproducing and moving with you from house to house, perhaps when you pack. Has either you or your roommate been to the Amazon, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Tropical Asia? Something fitting your description could originate in any of those places. Please keep us informed if you ever get a proper identification, or better yet, send us a photo of the creature if possible. You might also want to write to www.cryptozoology.com because those folk specialize in strange sightings. Here is the reply I got from Brian at the Natural History Museum:

Hi Daniel
Thanks for sending the letters. There is a guy in North Carolina who specializes in Millipedes named Rowland Shelley. He’s at the North Carolina State Museum (at least as of 1998) P.O.Box 27647, Raleigh 27611. Unfortunately I don’t have a phone number or e-mail but perhaps a website for this college will list his number(s) or someone there can forward these messages to him, etc… That’s all I could come up with for now! GOOD LUCK!! Brian Harris ___________________________________
Brian P. Harris
Entomology Section
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Letter 8 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Years ago, I came across a black centipede with yellow legs, about 6 to 8 inches long. I live in N.E. Oklahoma. I have only seen 1 or 2 since then. How common are these?

Dear Curious About Centipedes in Oklahoma,
Due to the general lack of cooperation from the chilopods, the class of invertebrates known as centipedes, there has been no formal census or headcount in recent years. Oklahoma does seem to be a breeding ground for the large centipede that you describe as there are hundreds of www links to be found, albeit, none with comprehensive information. Rock climbers in Chandler Park, Oklahoma, are warned to "Beware of poison ivy and the dreaded foot long centipedes which like to take refuge in the thousands of pockets found here. They are poisonous" and the author has personally seen one chewing on a large field mouse. I have also found information that claims they eat young rattlesnakes.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

We were in Dierks, AR near the Lower Saline River in the Ouachita Mountains and pretty close to the southeast border of Oklahoma. We lifted up a kayak only to find this extremely fast moving critter resembling a centipede. However, it was approximately 6-8 inches long and the body was black with yellow legs and red antennas. We chased it around on the ground and a friend got it on video, but the critter started raising it’s body off the ground and almost bouncing around like it was mad. None of us had ever seen anything like it. And here is some more information on the area: we saw the largest tarantula ever in AR in this area and the river we were on is really full of sulphur from the decaying plants. I understand this is due to the lake only being drawn down twice a year and the soil on the bottom containing the sulphur gets stirred. So my conclusion on these large bugs is that maybe it has something to do with the water. Again, though, I am really curious as to what the centipede look alike might be. If we are able to get the video on computer and download an image, I will make sure it is sent to you.
Thanks, Renee Wilson, CPA
Loan Review Officer
Bank of the Ozarks

Dear Renee,
Oklahoma has centipedes the size you saw. Since you are so close, you may be within the range of the species. I haven’t found much information on them except that they are large and have a poisonous bite. I don’t think the water has much to do with the size of the tarantula and centipede you found. Please send the photo if you are able. We would love to see it.

Letter 2 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Bugman, I found what I have identified as a centipede but im not sure what kind. I found it on a lady’s porch. It is about 6" long and about the width of a mans index finger, or mine anyways. Color is dark brown and has two sets of legs for each body segment. I live on the coast of North Carolina and have never seen a centipede anywhere close to this size. Is this native to this area?…is it even native to the U.S.? I can take some pictures of it and send them in if this would help or if you are interested in seeing it.
Thank you

Dear Erik,
Please send the photos. There is a large desert centipede known as Scolopendra heros. S. heros has three subspecies. The S. heros "family" are the only centipedes in the continental United
States that can attain lengths larger than 8 inches. They are normally reported from desert areas especially Oklahoma and Texas, but they are also kept as pets by people. Perhaps your
specimen escaped or perhaps the range is much greater than expected. We would very much like to see a photo. For your information, centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment, and millipedes have two pairs per segment.
Daniel

Letter 3 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Hi there,
This thing wasn’t in my home thank goodness. I was staying in a hostel in Toronto a couple weeks ago. When i arrived at the hostel way earlier than standard checkin time, they let me settle into a room anyhow because it was completely empty. they had cleaned it the day before and so there was no one staying in there at the time. Later that day another girl moved into the room, and she told me that she had been staying in there a couple days earlier, but had been moved out so they could clean the room because she had been getting weird rashy-looking bite marks all over her arms and legs. she showed me – just large red patches. no one else in the room had been bitten/stung/affected, but they decided to clean the room anyhow. a few days later, i was changing in the room one morning when something moving caught my eye. I glanced at the floor to see something dash out from the general area of a pile of luggage and run across the floor in front of me. i was stunned for a moment watching this bizarre thing and then, not having anything with which to really catch it, i tried to grab at a shoe to give it a whack (i’m not much for killing bugs though, but i didn’t feel i had much in the way of options just then). before I could get it though, it ran underneath a pile of luggage under a girl’s bunk. and she was sleeping in it at the time, so I didnt think it would be very good of me to go through her luggage, have her wake up and smack me thinking I was stealing something. The thing was never seen again during my stay. My first impression of it was that it looked like a translucent brown shrimpish thing. kind of like root beer candy, that sort of translucent brown. it was quick, it had something clawlike off the front. I didnt get an accurate leg count unfortunately… it had a small tail that was sticking out the back of it. like a shrimp. and it was certainly a couple inches long. I described this thing to a few people in toronto, and more than one of them said ‘oh that’s a silverfish!’ I’ve seen silverfish before, theyre tiny and silver and fishlike. but these people insist silverfish in toronto look like brown shrimp things. i dont know if that’s just a common torontonian nickname or what. My dad seems to think it might have been some kind of scorpion, which I guess half fits the description. I was looking at photos of pseudoscorpions and thought perhaps that was it, until i saw that those guys are much much smaller than the critter i saw. my beast looked a bit thinner and longer as well. Also, being a hostel, people come from all over the world. This bug could have i suppose hitched a ride from anywhere on earth..?! Any thoughts on what this might have been? I’m just really really curious. The hostel might like to know what’s creeping around in their rooms as well. Thanks for your help!
Andy Scheffler

Dear Andy,
What an awesome letter. I hope I can help. I’m guessing house centipede. Very quick, transluscent, about 30 legs. We get lots of questions about this one. They are predatory, eating small insects, and not dangerous to people. No way it caused the girl’s rash.

Letter 4 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

this centipede was found on a trail at the Rancho Mission Viejo Land Conservancy reserve about 5 miles off the 5 Freeway down Ortega Highway. Got a Latin name?
Thanks···.

The multicolored centipede is the common name for Scolopendra polymorpha. Here is some information from the website
http://www.goldenphoenixexotica.com/cent.html
Scolopendra polymorpha This Scolopendra polymorpha is a local Arizona species. Polymorpha is Latin for ‘many form’ and it lives up to its name. We have seen these entirely yellow, orange, blue, and any gradation in between. In December of 2000 we spotted a baby blue polymorpha with bluish black bars within the Phoenix city limits. We were recently pleased to see a specimen at the Sonoran Arthropod Studies Institute about seven inches long and about as big around as a finger. We keep these on soil just damp enough to change the color. A bit of sand in the soil mix is ideal. Keep the substrate shallow if you wish to easily view your centipedes. These creatures are voracious predators that inject venom with forelegs which have been modified to function as fangs. They thrive on a diet of crickets or cockroaches that have been fed nutritiously. Humidity is easily supplied by daily misting. Even a very small polymorpha is capable of administering a bite capable of causing sharp discomfort. Pain arising from the bite of larger polymorpha may well be proportionate, and additional effects remain unknown. Handling is therefore NOT recommended. The picture to the left above is one of the low desert forms. Those to the right are high desert forms. The rightmost centipede is coiled around a clutch of eggs. She will continue to hold her young in this manner until dispersal.

Letter 5 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

I’m hoping you can help me out with a bug identification. We live in York, PA, in a brick house that’s about 150 years old. We have these "creatures" that emerge in various places… I’ve seen them in the basement laundry room– usually when I pick something up off the floor– but also in the living room and dining room, scurrying across the floors or up the walls. They look kind of like the silverfish drawing, but they are longer and thinner, probably a little less than a half inch wide. They range in size from 2-3 inches long, but once I swear I saw one that was at least 4 inches long one time in the basement. They are gray in color, very flat, very fast, with lots of legs, but they don’t seem to have the tentacles off the front and back like the silverfish drawing. I wish could get a picture of one– unfortunately when I see one I’m so darn startled that I end up crushing it to an unidentifiable pulp!!! Any help available? Tricia

Dear Tricia,
You have house centipedes (Scutigera coleoptrata). They are harmless, and actually eat other tiny pests that enter your house. We have some nice photos on our site www.whatsthatbug.com which you can view by clicking the centipede button.

Letter 6 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Dear Bugman,
While working late one night in a soundstage in Long Beach area, my collegues and I were startled to find this creature crawling across the floor (and right thriugh our shot, no less!). Most of us had never seen such a thing, although I’ve come across them from time to time. I had always thought they were Silverfish, but the others disagreed. the body was about 4 to 5 centimeters long, and it moved remarkebly fast when provoked.

Please help us!

thank you,

Tomas Arceo


Dear Tomas Arceo,

This is one of our commonest What’s That Bug? identifications. It is a house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrata. Thanks for the great photo. They are active, fast, and eat other intruders, hence they are beneficial and should not be harmed. Silverfish are another matter, and should be
eradicated.

Letter 7 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

I have been searching the web to see if I could find out what these weird, ugly bugs are that we have seen in our house. Alex wrote to you on 6/2/02 and describe the exact things we have. These bugs were NOT on the links you had attached. We live in Raleigh, NC. The bugs are FAST! I mean you see them and then they are gone. I thought is was some form of millipede or centipede, but I haven’t been able to close enough to one to find out. They have MORE than 8 legs and the legs are at least two jointed because they hold the bug up off the ground like a spider more than a centipede or millipede. They are between 2 and 4 inches long. The legs are slender and black and I honestly haven’t seen too much of the body except that it is thin, almost like it is only there to attach the legs. Thanks for any help you can give us.

Dear Liana,
I have contacted our local Museum of Natural History, and the entomologist I spoke with is also stumped. However, he did foreward this contact person in your area who might be able to assist in your identification. The really confusing part of your description is the size of your creature. 4-5 inches is huge, not for the tropics, but for the continental U.S. at least. The only possibility I have if your description is accurate, is that somehow you have acquired an exotic import that is happy with its new environment, and that is reproducing and moving with you from house to house, perhaps when you pack. Has either you or your roommate been to the Amazon, Sub-Saharan Africa, or Tropical Asia? Something fitting your description could originate in any of those places. Please keep us informed if you ever get a proper identification, or better yet, send us a photo of the creature if possible. You might also want to write to www.cryptozoology.com because those folk specialize in strange sightings. Here is the reply I got from Brian at the Natural History Museum:

Hi Daniel
Thanks for sending the letters. There is a guy in North Carolina who specializes in Millipedes named Rowland Shelley. He’s at the North Carolina State Museum (at least as of 1998) P.O.Box 27647, Raleigh 27611. Unfortunately I don’t have a phone number or e-mail but perhaps a website for this college will list his number(s) or someone there can forward these messages to him, etc… That’s all I could come up with for now! GOOD LUCK!! Brian Harris ___________________________________
Brian P. Harris
Entomology Section
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Letter 8 – Centipedes and Millipedes

 

Years ago, I came across a black centipede with yellow legs, about 6 to 8 inches long. I live in N.E. Oklahoma. I have only seen 1 or 2 since then. How common are these?

Dear Curious About Centipedes in Oklahoma,
Due to the general lack of cooperation from the chilopods, the class of invertebrates known as centipedes, there has been no formal census or headcount in recent years. Oklahoma does seem to be a breeding ground for the large centipede that you describe as there are hundreds of www links to be found, albeit, none with comprehensive information. Rock climbers in Chandler Park, Oklahoma, are warned to "Beware of poison ivy and the dreaded foot long centipedes which like to take refuge in the thousands of pockets found here. They are poisonous" and the author has personally seen one chewing on a large field mouse. I have also found information that claims they eat young rattlesnakes.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

Leave a Comment