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Centipede vs. Millipede Differences

Both centipedes and millipedes have segmented bodies and belong to the group Myriapoda. Both breathe through spiracles and have no direct copulatory organs. However, many differences exist between centipedes and millipedes.

Centipedes are terrestrial arthropods belonging to Class Chilopoda. Centipedes are flexible, dorsoventrally flattened arthropods. Millipedes belong to Class Diplopoda and are more rigid arthropods distinguishable by their subcylindrical shape. Centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment, while millipedes have two pairs.

While most centipedes are known for their speed, millipedes move slowly and burrow.

Differences in Diet

Centipedes and millipedes also vary in diet: centipedes are carnivores and millipedes are primarily detritivores. Centipedes are carnivorous and kill their prey by injecting them with venom. Millipedes feed primarily on decaying organic matter and they may eat the roots and leaves of seedling plants. Millipedes are ecologically esteemed as agents of microbial decomposition and soil nutrient cycles.

Centipedes have maxillipeds with which they attack prey. These are the venomous modified legs of the centipede's first segment and can be used in defense, as well. A centipede bite can kill small prey, but typically is not life threatening to humans. In the absence of stinging structures, millipedes employ defensive secretions in order to protect themselves from predators. These secretions are produced by their segmental defensive glands. A millipede will also curl its body as a defense mechanism.

While centipedes sometimes bite humans, it is rare that their venom will produce a severe reaction. However, small children and those with other insect allergies should be watched carefully following a centipede bite. In the event of bite-related medical concerns, a medical professional should be contacted at once.

Differences in Habitat

Centipedes and millipedes prefer moist, protected outdoor habitats such as rotting logs, leaves, bark and the undersides of stones.

What Are Centipedes and Millipedes Classified As?

Although they resemble insects, centipedes and millipedes both are classified as arthropods. Insects have three body segments. Centipedes and millipedes have many segments. Insects have three pair of legs but centipedes have one pair of legs on each body segment. Millipedes have two pair of legs per body segment.

If you have problems with millipedes or centipedes, consult a pest control professional.

Illustration of Common North American Millipede

Illustration of Common North American Millipede

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Centipede Illustration


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