Subpylum Myriapoda: The Centipedes & Millipedes

Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus

Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus discovered in suburban garden.
20th June 2020. © Peter Hillman

Variegated Centipede Lithobius variegatus

Variegated Centipede (Lithobius variegatus) discovered in local woodland.
28th September 2020. © Peter Hillman

So what is the difference between a millipede and a centipede? A millipede has 2 pairs of legs per body segment where as a centipede has 1 pair. Millipedes feed on decaying plant material and are important recyclers in an ecosystem, where as centipedes are carnivorous which kill their prey with venomous claws.

Centipedes, millipedes and symphylans all come under Myriopoda which translates to ‘many-feet’. Although the impression of these invertebrates is that they possess thousands of feet, they of course do not. One species of millipede has 750 legs, but most have less than 50. Centipedes generally have  between 15 and 101 pairs of legs, although some beyond the UK can have as many as 181. The symphylans, also called garden centipedes, are similar to centipedes but are smaller and whitish, and are often found in greenhouses as well as in soil.

There are 57 species of centipede in Great Britain, and 64 species of millipede.

Class Chilopoda: Centipedes

Family Himantariidae

Western Yellow Centipede Haplophilus subterraneus

Western Yellow Centipede
(Haplophilus subterraneus)

Family Schendylidae

Schendyla nemorensis

Schendyla nemorensis

Family Lithobiidae

Brown Centipede
(Lithobius (Lithobius) forficatus)

Lithobius (Sigibius) microps

Least Lithobius
Lithobius (Sigibius) microps

Garden Lithobius Lithobius melanops

Garden Lithobius
(Lithobius (Lithobius) melanops)

Variegated Centipede Lithobius variegatus

Variegated Centipede
(Lithobius (Lithobius) variegatus)

Family Cryptopidae

Cryptops sp

Cryptops sp.

Class Diplopoda: Millipedes

Family Julidae

Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus

Cylindroiulus caeruleocinctus

White-legged Millipede Tachypodoiulus niger

White-legged Snake Millipede
(Tachypodoiulus niger)

Blunt-tailed Snake Millipede Cylindroiulus punctatus

Blunt-tailed Snake Millipede
(Cylindroiulus punctatus)

Cylindroiulus sp. juvenile

Cylindroiulus sp.

Striped Millipede Ommatoiulus sabulosus

Striped Millipede
(Ommatoiulus sabulosus)

Family Glomeridae

Pill Millipede (Glomeris marginata)

Pill Millipede
(Glomeris marginata)

Class Symphyla: Symphylans

Family Scutigerellidae

Scutigerella agg.

Scutigerella agg.

For further reference and with help and thanks for confirming identifcation of some challenging species see the links below.

British Myriapod and Isopod Group (BMIG) – Promoting the study of Centipedes, Millipedes and Woodlice in Britain and Ireland. It aims to actively develop identification, training and recording relevant to improving the knowledge and conservation of centipedes, millipedes, pauropods & symphylans (the Myriapoda) and woodlice & waterlice (the Isopoda) found in Britain and Ireland. The group is responsible for three National Recording Schemes, one each for centipedes, millipedes and woodlice & waterlice.

Facebook Isopods and Myriapods of Britain and Ireland Group – It is for anyone interested in the study of Isopods (marine, freshwater and terrestrial) and Myriapods (Centipedes and Millipedes) in Britain and Ireland. Post your photos, ID questions, news etc.

iRecord – iRecord is a website for sharing wildlife observations, including associated photos – you can register quickly and for free. Once you’ve registered, you can add your own biological records for other to see, and you can see what has been recorded by others. The goal of iRecord is to make it easier for wildlife sightings to be collated, checked by experts and made available to support research and decision-making at local and national levels.

NBN Atlas – The NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas is an online tool that provides a platform to engage, educate and inform people about the natural world. It will help improve biodiversity knowledge, open up research possibilities and change the way environmental management is carried out in the UK.