Once thought to be closely related to myriapods (centipedes), they are now under their own class Symphyla. This is a tiny, pale centipede-like creature with long antennae. 15 body segments, and 11 to 12 pairs of legs on which it moves very rapidly. Length 5 to 8mm.
The Garden Symphylan is very well adapted to life in the soil, and may go down to a depth of more than 50cm. Population levels in cultivated land may be as much as 100 to 600 individulas per square metre. The adults may live for up to several years, and will go through various moulting stages. There are several different species and close scrutiny of the specimen is required for correct identification. They feed on dead and decaying plant material, and also on the roots and tubers of young seedlings, which can become quite a serious pest to gardeners and farmers.
They are seen all year round. Found in a variety of habitats, including gardens and greenhouses. Found in soil, leaf litter and under stones and logs. A common and widespread species throughout Britain.
Photograph of Garden Symphylan (Scutigerella immaculata) taken February 2014, rear garden, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2014. Camera used Nikon D3200, with 18-55mm lens.