There are 57 species of centipede in Great Britain, and 64 species of millipede. 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.
Class Chilopoda – Centipedes
Class Diplopoda – Millipedes
Class Symphyla – Symphylans
Many thanks to Warren Maguire and Steve Gregory for their expert assistance in identifying and reconfirming species.
For further reference see the links and literature below:
The AIDGAP publication Key to the identification of British Centipedes is also a very good reference guide.