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.
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. 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
Class Diplopoda: Millipedes
Class Symphyla: Symphylans
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.
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.