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 … Read more

Flat-Backed Millipedes: All You Need To Know

This article will be your guide to everything you need to know about flat-backed millipedes. Flat-backed millipedes are of the order Polydesmida. They are named such because most of the species within the order have keels on each of their body segments. These flat structures are known as paranota and give them a flattened look. … Read more

Millipede: All You Need To Know

This article will be a short guide for everything that you might want to know about millipedes. With their numerous legs and segmented body, the millipedes often look like creatures straight out of a science fiction movie. It is no surprise that they have inspired a few ideas in the genre over the years. But … Read more

7 Millipede Predators: What Eats Millipedes?

Millipedes are the oldest creatures to have crawled the earth. But mother nature has a cycle, and for every creature, there must be a predator. So, what eats millipedes? Let’s find out. The slow-crawling critters you find in and around your house that can scare you just by being there are common millipedes. With more … Read more

How To Care For A Millipede? 4 Types of Millipedes That Make Great Pets

Are you planning to keep a millipede as a pet? Here is how to care for a millipede, including how to house, feed, breed, and take care of its health.

For nature lovers, millipedes make great low-maintenance pets. This is more so if you are looking for simple pets that don’t need too much involvement, cleaning, bathing, feeding, or exercising like dogs or cats, millipedes are a great choice.

Taking care of a millipede is easy since they mostly feed on dead and decaying plant matter.

If you are planning to get a millipede as a pet, this article will be worth your time. I guess you’re probably excited about your potential new pet, so why not dive right into it?

How To Care For A Millipede

Types of Millipedes for Pets

As you might be aware, it’s important to choose the right species when keeping any creature as a pet.

While there are over 12,000 species of millipedes, not all of them are equally suitable for keeping as pets.

Some species are also capable of secreting toxins that can cause irritation and make the skin burn or itch. Some of the best millipede species to keep as pets are as follows.

Bumblebee Millipedes

These brightly-colored millipedes look very beautiful, which makes them one of the most popular choices among those seeking to keep millipedes as pets.

Unlike others, their bodies have alternative stripes of bright green and black. Bumblebee millipedes are strong and hardy, which makes them easy to keep.

How To Care For A Millipede

Scarlet Millipedes

If you’re planning to keep millipedes in a vivarium, scarlet millipedes are a good choice. Their rusty red color contrasts very well against green environments.

Although originally native to Malaysia and Indonesia, they have now become very common in the US, especially in Florida.

Smokey Oak Millipedes

This species of millipedes is native to the southeastern part of the US. It can grow up to a length of four inches and mostly feeds on decaying matter.

Also known as the smokey ghost millipede, it’s of a dull grayish brown color with a touch of red at both ends.

Giant Millipedes

If you’re fascinated by large creepy crawlies, you may go for the giant millipede. However, you should keep in mind that these millipedes can grow up to 13 inches long with a diameter similar to a golf ball!

One of their subspecies, the giant African millipede, happens to be the world’s largest millipede (about 15 inches long).

You should consider getting giant millipedes only if you have enough space for a vivarium big enough to house them.

Giant millipedes are quite docile and tolerant of being handled. However, they might curl into a tight spiral and excrete a hydrogen cyanide-based chemical when frightened.

It’s always a good idea to wash your hands after handling a giant millipede.

How To Care For A Millipede

Housing

One of the best things about keeping millipedes as pets is that they don’t require very complicated or expensive housing.

Aquariums or other similar containers suffice for this purpose. Remember to choose a container size based on the number of millipedes you’re planning to keep inside it.

Generally speaking, the container should be at least thrice as long as all their lengths are combined.

What species you are choosing also matters when selecting the housing container since the sizes vary from one species to another.

If you’re planning to keep giant millipedes, you need a 10-to-15-gallon aquarium for just two of them.

Your millipede container should also be wide enough to provide them with adequate wiggle room.

While you need to make sure there aren’t any openings large enough for the millipedes to escape, always remember to leave tiny holes for ventilation.

Place the tank somewhere safe from loud noises and bright lights.

When decorating the interior, add objects that millipedes can use as hiding spots when scared, such as a plastic dome, small rocks, or a broken vase.

When housing millipedes of multiple species, make sure not to keep two different species in the same container, as they might fight for resources and dominance.

Substrate

Don’t forget to add a substrate to the container – it’s crucial for the survival of your millipedes.

The substrate provides them with food and moisture while acting as a surface they can dig into when needed.

You can always buy suitable substrates at pet shops that offer insect-oriented supplies. You can also make your own substrate by mixing soil, leaf litter, and wood.

A wet mix of bark and fresh moss can also work. Ideally, each substrate layer must be at least 5 inches thick.

You need to replenish the calcium content in the substrate using calcium supplements.

How To Care For A Millipede

Temperature and Humidity

When keeping millipedes as pets, it’s important to maintain the right temperature gradient and humidity level inside the container.

Remember, millipedes cannot survive in the absence of adequate moisture.

A temperature between 72°F and 78°F is ideal for most millipedes, though you can raise it as high as 85 degrees.

You can use a heating mat to fix the right temperature. The humidity levels should be between 60% and 70%, and the substrate has to be moist at all times.

You’ll have to mist the container with water to boost moisture levels at regular intervals.

Food and Water

Keeping your millipedes fed isn’t too hard since the substrate itself is a food source for them.

The decaying plant matter in the substrate should sate most of their hunger.

However, you should throw in bits of fruits and vegetables for variety. Apples, cucumbers, squash, lettuce, bananas, melons, and carrots are particularly good choices.

Remember to slide the fruits and veggies very thin, as millipedes have weak mouthparts.

They won’t always eat all the food, and there might be leftovers. Remove all the uneaten food every morning to prevent it from rotting.

Providing water for your millipedes isn’t much hassle, as they can drink directly from standing water.

Apart from misting regularly, also put a shallow water bowl in the container.

Put a small stone they can use to climb in and out so that they don’t fall into the water.

Make sure the water you provide isn’t chlorinated. Invertebrates are particularly sensitive to chlorine, and this applies to millipedes too.

How To Care For A Millipede

Taking Care & Common Health Problems

One of the challenges of keeping invertebrates like millipedes as pets are that we don’t know much about their health problems yet.

Even highly experienced veterinarians specializing in exotic animals cannot provide thorough care for millipedes.

Hence, you should focus on taking proper care of them to avoid health problems altogether.

Feeding a millipede properly and providing it with a suitable environment is usually enough to keep it happy and healthy.

A healthy millipede would eat regularly and always look round and full.

If you notice a lack of appetite in one of your millipedes or if its shell looks too dry, it’s probably unwell.

Other signs of health problems include lethargic behavior and the growth of fungus on their shell.

Dehydration can cause millipedes to grow shriveled and become lethargic, while fungi are visible as fuzzy white patches.

You may contact a veterinarian in these cases, but bear in mind that fungal infections might be lethal and usually occur when a millipede is already in poor health.

Millipedes share a symbiotic relationship with mites living on their shells. These mites help to keep them clean. However, some mites are parasitic, and therefore you might need to remove them.

Breeding

Millipedes reproduce in large numbers and multiply rather fast. However, it’s quite hard to identify their sex, which makes it difficult to pair them up for breeding.

You can check the seventh segment of their bodies for legs – males have a specialized pair of legs in this segment that they usually conceal in a pouch.

If you find the identification too hard, just get several millipedes and put them together. Some of them will most likely breed with the others.

Female millipedes build underground chambers to lay their eggs.

How To Care For A Millipede

Safety Precautions

Since millipedes are usually docile and harmless, they’re quite safe to keep. However, avoid startling or scaring them as it might cause them to secrete toxins.

Some species of millipedes can also spit out a dye that would take some time to fade from your skin.

Always wash your hands after handling millipedes to avoid ingesting their toxins unknowingly or touching your eyes with them.

If you allow children to handle millipedes, don’t leave them unsupervised while they’re at it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I keep a millipede as a pet?

Yes, millipedes make great pets for those who love creepy crawlies. If you’re afraid of millipedes and other critters, getting one can help you get over your fears.
If you have children at home, keeping a millipede as a pet will help grow their love for nature and animals in general.
However, make sure you get the right species. Some millipedes can throw toxic venom at you, and while you can still keep them as pets, you need to be careful around them.

Do millipedes need a water dish?

Millipedes consume most of the necessary moisture from their food and their environment through their skin.
However, sometimes the moisture amount isn’t adequate, and they need to drink water separately. This is why you should put a small, shallow dish of water in the container.

What is the lifespan of a millipede?

These arthropods have quite a long lifespan – an average millipede can live up to 11 years if you take good care of them.
You can help them live a long life by keeping them healthy and well-fed. Moreover, make sure that their tank is always at the right temperature and humidity levels.

What do millipedes eat indoors?

Millipedes mostly survive on decaying plant matter, which you can replicate indoors using substrate in the container.
Besides that, you should also provide them with small slices of fruit and veggies. Make sure your millipedes are getting a balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients.

Wrap Up

As long as you care for them properly, you can easily get them to live a healthy life and breed more baby millipedes.

As you can see, caring for a millipede is very simple. I hope reading this article has shown you the ropes of keeping a millipede as a pet and taking care of it.

Reader Emails

Over the years, readers have shared with us emails about millipedes and how they have taken care of them as pets. Read through below to learn from their experiences.

Letter 1 – Millipedes

 

Unknown Bug in VA
Bugman
I’ve seen these around in the past, but this year they are everywhere, and by the hundreds. I’ve attached some photos. Sorry for the size, but I wanted you to get as much detail as possible. Great site.
Peace.
Brad Barker

Hi Brad,
You have millipedes. These are distinguished from centipedes since they have two pairs of legs on each segment. They are relatively benign creatures that can get very numerous, as you well know, when it is warm and damp. They sometimes eat new seedlings, but mostly they eat decaying matter and help to break down debris.

Letter 2 – Millipedes

 

Bugs?
Hi,
I went hiking in feather falls near oraville in northern California on Sunday October 30th, 2007. I came upon a log cut off with tons of pinkesh red insects in a cluster on them. It was damp and starting to get dark outside at the time I found them. Got any idea of what they might be? Thanks,
Shawn J. Ledet

Hi Shawn,
This is a cluster of Millipedes. When we searched BugGuide for a species, we found images of Brachycybe lecontii with the description: “One frequently finds clusters with several sizes and age-classes under bark on decaying logs & stumps” that is credited to Dr. Rowland Shelley. The submissions to BugGuide came from Louisiana, Georgia and Tennessee, not the Pacific Northwest, so we did more research. There is reference on BugGuide that the species is covered in books on the Pacific Northwest.

Update: (01/20/2008) Millipede IDs
Here are ids. for the millipedes on the millipede page. Most are quite old; don’t people submit new ones more often than this? 10/30/07 . Cluster from Calif. They are probably Brachycybe rosea Murray (order Platydesmida: family Andrognathidae).
Rowland Shelley
North Carolina State Museum of Natural Science

Letter 3 – Millipedes NOT Mating

 

Common VA millipedes mating
Hi,
Tons of these have been crawling around my house lately. They were so small that I couldn’t tell how many legs-per-segment they had until we got this photo of a mating pair. They’re not as showy as many other bugs on the site, but they’re still pretty neat. Thanks,
Emily

Hi Emily,
Your photo has the distinction of being the only photo we have received of mating Millipedes.

Update: (01/20/2008) Millipede IDs
Here are ids. for the millipedes on the millipede page. Most are quite old; don’t people submit new ones more often than this? 6/26/06 Oxidus gracilis (Koch). They are not, however, mating as the posture is totally wrong; they would have to have ventral surfaces together to be mating.
Rowland Shelley
North Carolina State Museum of Natural Science

Letter 4 – Millipede from Canada: Tropical Import

 

indonesian millipede?
hi bugman,
I sent an email about a week ago and have seen a few updates on your site, but nothing about my little bug. I will attach pictures again, in case you didn’t get the first email, and if you did sorry to bug you…pardon the pun. he was found crawling across my dining room floor in december (-25 degrees Celsius outside). the best i have come to identifying him is that he is a millipede, not common to Canada, (at least I don’t think so). with some help from my biology teacher we figure he may be of the order chordeumida. He’s about two inches long, black and yellow banded, and has around 28 body segments, and pinkish legs. he greatly resembles the photo sent in in October, by Andre Boutin-Maloney, who also lives in Saskatchewan. I’ve got him set up in a terrarium with lots of humidity and veggies to eat, and he’s doing well, but I’d really like to know more specifically what type of pet it is I have taken in. thanks for any help you can offer,
Jamey Parker

Hi Jamey,
Sorry for the delay. One of our favorite sources for identification BugGuide, does not mention the order Chordeumida. Similar looking Millipedes are put in the order Spirobolida and BugGuide says there are about 35 species north of Mexico. We were never able to positively identify Andre’s Millipede and sadly, we are unable to give you anything more specific. Try a museum of natural history.

Update: (01/20/2008) Millipede IDs
1/11/06 . An introduced representative of the tropical family Rhinocricidae (Spirobolida), introduced to Canada where it cannot survive outdoors in winter.
Rowland Shelley
North Carolina State Museum of Natural Science

Letter 5 – Probably a Millipede

 

Is this a centipede larva?
Hi-
My 7 year old bug lover son, found 2 of these centipede-like creatures the other day. We have looked online and can’t find it anywhere. Can you help us? We live in Santa Cruz County, CA if that helps locate the species. It is the bug in the middle.
Kendra

Hi Kendra,
Your specimens look more like some species of millipede, but not a species we are able to identify.

Update: (01/20/2008) Millipede IDs
11/12/04 . Sta. Cruz Co., Calif. Xystocheir dissecta taibona Chamberlin (Polydesmida: Xystodesmidae)
Rowland Shelley
North Carolina State Museum of Natural Science

Letter 6 – 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 7 – Millipedes

 

Dear Mr. Marlos,
Having recently moved from an apartment on the mean sidewalks of Beverly Hills to a guest house in the rural splendor of Van Nuys, I have had plenty of opportunities to observe the local wildlife: Specifically in my new home. Just the other night, my cat (The Princess of Piss) directed my attention to my kitchen floor. Imagine my surprise when I found the object of her fascination crawling sluggishly across it: a long, black bug with multiple tiny legs. It looked like a cross between a cockroach and a caterpillar. Any idea what it could have been?

Yours in Insectia,
Susan Ehrlich


Hi Susie,
Just how long is long? In bug identification, size does matter. I am guessing that the long, black bug with multiple tiny legs was a millipede, which translates as “thousand feet” from Latin. Though a thousand is something of an exaggeration, they are in possession of many appendages, nevertheless, they move remarkably slowly, and sluggish is a very appropriate description. Several small species live in the Los Angeles basin, but two closely related species, Hiltonius pulchrus and Tylobolus claremontus, sometimes exceed three inches in length. A third species, Atopetholus californicus is slightly smaller. Millepedes are arthropods. Local species have shiny, cylindrical, segmented bodies that are black, dark grey or brown in color. When disturbed, millepedes will curl up like a watch spring. They often exude foul smelling fluids as a repelling defense mechanism. Some can even produce cyanide fumes. They prefer moist conditions and are prone to nocturnal wandering. They eat humus, rotting leaves and rotting wood, and are not a threat to life, limb nor property.

Dear What’s that Bug?
My house is being overrun by millipedes… they are 1 to 3 inches long and red to reddish brown in color. There are hundreds of them which I find crawling all over my counters, up and down my walls, and covering my floors. I was assuming that they were coming in through the cracks around windows and doors but I think they may be getting into my home through my A/C vents. I’ve been finding them in small rooms and closets that are nowhere near a door or window. Please help me rid my home of these and prevent further infestation!!!
—Amy

Dear Amy,
Where is your house? Do you live stateside, Southern California in particular, or in some faraway exotic place?
Millipedes belong to the class Diplopoda which means double footed, referring to the two close-set pairs of legs on each apparent segment (each segment actually consists of two coalesced true segments) of these worm-like arthropods. Millipedes prefer moist conditions, and they abound in damp litter and under rocks, logs, and loose bark, however, in their nocturnal wandering, they may wander into your cool, dark home, especially if the conditions outdoors are dry and hot. They are common after rains. Though they are harmless and nonaggressive, they have the ability to exude noxious fumes and fluids as a defense mechanism. The odor has been compared to iodine, quinine and chlorine, and some species are reputed to produce cyanide fumes. I would suggest a dehumifier for your home and shutting off the air conditioner, both of which will make your home less hospitable for the unwanted guests. One final thought: Certain years see a preponderance of certain species, whose life cycle peaks and then declines. This will go down in your diary as “the year of the millipedes,” and can perhaps fuel your literary endeavors. Make the most of a bad situation.
signed,
Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug?

Amy replies:
I live in central South Carolina. Very humid weather. My apartment is a bright dry place as opposed to the humid warm weather outside. That is the reason I was confused. Seems to me that these little guys would much prefer the weather outside to that of my home. I did notice a strange smell when I returned from my short vacation last week but It wasn’t all that horrible so I just chalked it up to the place being closed up for a few days. Hope my ‘year of the millipedes’ ends soon…
—Amy

Dear Amy,
Thank you for the further clarification. The fact that you live in humid South Carolina, a temperate rain forest, would help to explain why you have vast quantities of millipedes in your immediate vicinity to begin with. Sadly, not much is known about the biology of these interesting creatures. There is a tropical species, Oxidus gracilis, which goes by the common name Greenhouse Millipede. During the warm months, enormous swarms of them may develop in beds filled with potting soil, and it is possible that your infestation could be multiplying in your potted plants. The smell you noted could also have some bearing. As the critters eat decaying organic material, namely humus, rotting leaves, wood and bark, it is possible that wood used in the construction of your building could be providing them with a food source. Encyclopaedia Britannica states that “for some unexplained reason millipedes occasionally move in large numbers, sometimes even in broad daylight. On one occasion in Alsace a train was stopped because the dead and crushed bodies of migrating diplopods made the rails slippery.” On a humorous final note, the encyclopaedia also states that “no credence should be given to the occasional reports that millipedes have been found living parasitically in the human bowel.” Keep us posted as to the final outcome of your Year of the Millipede.
signed
Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug

Letter 8 – Millipede from Syria

 

strange worm
April 10, 2010
this is the second group of pics , from the mountains of tartous.
this worm produced a very disgusting smelly liquid,as i tried to poke it.
native people here call it “the mother of all snakes”.what is it?
thank you bug people…i have been very demanding lately.
WAEL
Tartous,Syria.Middle East

Millipede

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