This species of millipede looks rather similar to a woodlouse, and this can often lead to some confusion in identification. Its common name refers to its habit of rolling into a tight ball to protect itself from predation and to prevent itself from drying out. It is greyish-brown to blackish in colour, with about 11 tight-fitting calcareous plates running down its body. It has numerous legs.
It feeds on various rotting plant material, and helps to recycle soil nutrients.
A common and widespread species throughout Britain, except the far north where it is absent
Lithobius (Lithobius) variegatus – This is a fairly large centipede growing up to 30 mm (1 1/4 in) long. It hides during the day under bark, stones, rotting logs or decaying vegetation, emerging at night to hunt other invertebrates by injecting them with venom. Found mainly in rural areas in woodland and moorland.
4 images here portaying this millipede. Growing up to a length of 25 mm (1 in), it has rows of dark spots along its sides. It spends part of its life cycle living in leaf litter, and the rest in rotting wood. Feeding on dead plant matter, it helps with recycling to great effect. It is fairly common and widespread throughout Britain, and is found in woodland and gardens. Double-click images to enlarge.
Peer under a plant pot or container and have a close look and you will reveal a new dimension which belong to these. This is a millipede, and the bands on the segments have a bronze kind of sheen to them. I am amazed at how individually articulate all those legs just are.
Lithobius (Sigibius) microps – This is one of the so called ‘stone centipedes’, but this is quite a small one at around 10 mm (3/8 in) long. They are very fast moving and never stop still so I have had to contain this one and snap it with the camera set at high speed to try and freeze it. Like all centipedes it has poison claws which it uses to inject venom into its prey to kill it.
If you turn over a stone or a rock, or lift a paving slab in your garden, like I did here, you may find one of these long, yellow/orange centipedes living underneath it. Because they never keep still and are constantly looking for a way to lose itself under something or by burrowing in the earth once exposed, I have had to photograph it in a small crock dish. Because of its movements I have had to use a very fast shutter speed combined with flash to virtually ‘freeze’ it.
It has been dubbed the ‘Western Yellow Centipede’, and it also went by the synonym Haplophilus subterraneus. It belongs to a group called Geophilomorpha, the so-called ‘earth centipedes’. They are also sometimes referred to as ‘wire centipedes’ or ‘wireworms’, and you can see why because of their long length and thin appearance. The is Britain’s longest centipede and it can grow up to 70mm (almost 3in) long. If you took the trouble to count the leg segments in the image directly above you would count 81 of them, which adds up to 162 legs. They can have between 77 and 83 leg segments, which is a diagnostic feature of this species. Another key feature which helps identify it are the numerous small coxal pores on the last leg bearing section as can be seen in the image directly below.
You can find these animals all year round in various habitats, but especially in urban environments like parks and gardens. Take a look under rocks and stones, paving slabs, small logs, in leaf litter and under moss, amongst other places, and you may come across it. they are common and widespread up to southern Scotland.
Above and below images shows close-ups of the head of Stigmatogaster subterranea. In the image below it has wiggled itself over so you can clearly see the poison claws. They are predatory animals, which will hunt other invertebrates, but will also nibble on the roots of your plants.
Thanks to Craig Slawson of the Staffordshire Ecological Record for confirming identification.
This is one of the first creepy-crawlies I was fascinated by when I was a boy.
Also called the ‘Garden Centipede’, this is a glossy brown centipede with 15 pairs of legs, 2 on each segment. The back legs are longer than the others which are used to capture prey. Behind the head is a pair of venom claws which they use to attack prey, injecting poison and paralysing them. Can be confused with Lithobius variegatus. Length 30mm.
It feeds on insects and other invertebrates. It can live for up to 6 years.
Seen all year round. Found in various habitats, including woodland, grassland and gardens. Often found sheltering in garden sheds, garages or other outbuildings. Discovered in leaf-litter, or under rocks, stones and logs. A common and widespread species throughout.
This millipede is creamy white or pale yellow and has small red spots down its side on each segment. These spots are the animal’s repellent glands. Its body has around 60 segments. Length 15mm.
It feeds on the roots of various crops, including cereal crops and potatoes, and can be quite a serious pest.
Seen all year round, but more frequent in spring and autumn. It mainly lives in cultivated soil, but it can also be found in gardens and woodland. A common and widespread species throughout Britain, but scarcer in the far north.
This species of millipede looks rather similar to a woodlouse, and this can often lead to some confusion in identification. Its common name refers to its habit of rolling into a tight ball to protect itself from predation, and to prevent itself from drying out. It is greyish-brown to blackish in colour, with about 11 tight-fitting calcareous plates running down its body. It has numerous legs. Can be confused with the Pill Woodlouse (Armadillidium vulgare). Length 13 to 15mm.
They mature when they are around 3 years old, and can live for up to 7 years. It feeds on various rotting plant material, and helps to recycle soil nutrients.
Seen all year round. Found in woodlands, grasslands, hedgerows and gardens, often found under logs or stones, and amongst leaf litter. It tends to be more active at night. A common and widespread species throughout Britain, except the far north where it is absent.
Photographs taken April 2014, local wood, found under log, Staffordshire.