Wondering how to identify centipedes versus millipedes? It can be tough, since both centipedes and millipedes have long, segmented bodies and lots of legs. Also, both are truly shocking to find in your yard. It’s even scarier to come across one inside your house. Fortunately, there are several differences that make it easy to tell these creepy-crawlies apart.
It’s interesting to note that lots of people call both centipedes and millipedes insects, but this isn’t correct. They are actually arthropods. Insects have only six legs, while centipedes and millipedes have a lot more than that. As far as numbers of legs, their names are misleading: Centipede means “100 legs,” while millipede means “1,000 legs.” But the truth is that centipedes and millipedes have different numbers of legs depending on their species.
When you see one of these creatures crawling along, it can definitely look like it has a huge number of legs. Centipedes can have as few as 20 legs or as many as 350. Millipedes might have as few as 24 legs and as many as 750. Most types of millipedes have fewer than 100 legs, though.
When you’re trying to tell centipedes and millipedes apart, the first thing to look at is the placement of their legs. As you can see in the image above, centipedes have one pair of legs per body segment. Millipedes, on the other hand, have two pairs per segment. (This is part of why they look like they have far more legs than centipedes do.) Centipedes’ legs are longer, and they spread out and away from their bodies. Millipedes’ legs are shorter and point more downward.
Another difference between centipedes and millipedes is their antennae. Centipedes have two sets of long antennae. One set is attached to their heads, and the other is attached to the ends of their bodies. The anterior set actually looks a lot like another pair of legs pointing up at an angle from their bodies. Millipedes have only one set of short antennae, attached to their heads.
There are other differences between centipedes and millipedes that can help you tell them apart. One difference is in how they behave when they sense danger. A centipede will usually run away as fast as it can. A millipede, on the other hand, will usually roll up its body and wait for the danger to go away.
There are still more ways to tell centipedes and millipedes apart. Let’s take a closer look at them, including what to do if you start finding them in or around your home. Keep in mind that they are considered nuisance pests rather than destructive ones. This means they are annoying, but they don’t usually cause major problems. Still, most people do not want these creatures living in the house. Fortunately, there are ways to keep these pests away.
How to Identify a Centipede
Centipedes come in many different sizes and colors, depending on species. They might be yellow, tan, black, red, brown, or a combination of these colors. They might be as short as a half-inch long, or several inches long—or longer.
A house centipede, which is pictured above, is a smaller, tannish-brown variety that is common in American homes. It grows to about an inch long, though its long legs and antennae make it look bigger. House centipedes are very fast-moving and hard to catch when you spot them indoors. Some people confuse house centipedes with silverfish.
Unfortunately, there is a much larger and far more striking type of centipede in Texas and the southwest. The giant desert centipede, also known as the Texas redheaded centipede, has a long black body that can grow to eight inches or longer. Its head and first body segment are red, and its legs are yellow.
These centipedes are pretty scary looking, and they can also hurt people. Centipedes do sometimes bite, and they can inject venom. The larger the centipede, the stronger and therefore more painful the bite. Some people are even allergic to centipede venom.
Still, even larger centipedes like giant desert centipedes aren’t poisonous. They are far more likely to run away from you than to bite you. Many types of centipede, such as the house centipede, are actually considered to be beneficial. These creatures feed on spiders, cockroaches and other insects, so they can help to cut down on pests.
Centipedes don’t eat enough to be relied on for pest control, however. And most people don’t want them in their homes or yards, even if they do help to cut down on other pests. If you’re finding centipedes inside your house, it means two things: They found a way inside, and they found something good to eat once they got there.
Thus, the best ways to get rid of centipedes are to block them out of your home and get rid of what they eat. To block them out, make sure your exterior doors and windows close tightly. There should not be any gaps around them that could let pests inside. Any gaps or tears in your window or door screens should also be fixed.
These measures will also help to block out the pests that centipedes might feed on inside your home. If you have a pest problem inside, however, you may need to call on a pest control professional to help you get rid of them.
The other element that centipedes may be drawn to inside the home is moisture. These creatures need moisture to survive, so they sometimes venture inside during the dry heat of summer. Sometimes, an interior leak or AC issue can cause higher humidity indoors. This extra humidity can draw centipedes inside. Once any moisture or pest control issues are resolved inside the house, centipedes won’t be attracted to your home.
How to Identify a Millipede
Millipedes look somewhat like centipedes, but they are often smaller. Some millipedes are tiny—less than an eighth of an inch long. Other types can grow to many inches long. Millipedes don’t bite, and they are slow movers due to their shorter legs. This may be why they curl up their bodies in self-defense when they feel threatened rather than trying to run away.
Millipedes also have a different diet than centipedes. Instead of eating other insects, they feed on organic matter. They live in cool, dark, moist places with good access to decaying plants. Piles of mulch, dead leaves and underbrush are all prime spots for millipedes. Since these creatures need so much moisture and plant matter to survive, they usually don’t live long inside people’s houses.
Still, millipedes can get inside, especially in spring and early fall when they are most active. Keeping millipedes out of your home is similar to keeping centipedes out: You have to block them out and also eliminate what’s drawing them close in the first place.
Blocking millipedes out of your home involves fixing any gaps around windows, doors or screens that they might be getting through. Next, look for anything close to the house that could be harboring millipedes. Mulched beds, dead leaves or piles of firewood could all be hosting these creatures. Clearing them away from your house will help to keep millipedes away.
If you have a millipede problem, a licensed pest control specialist can help. A pro will find where the millipedes are living outside and where they’re getting in. A pro can recommend the best products and techniques for getting rid of these pests so you can breathe easy in your home once again.
ABC Can Treat Your Home for Creepy-Crawlies
Finding a centipede or a millipede is enough to send a shiver down anyone’s spine. If you’re uncomfortable with the population of these pests around your property, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. We will create a comprehensive pest control plan.