Contrary to belief, centipedes and millipedes are not considered “insects”; rather, they are classified as “arthropods.” In fact, true insects are deemed to have no more than six legs; whereas, centipedes and millipedes exhibit many. Same concepts for centipedes and millipedes also apply to spiders and tarantulas, as they are not insects, but instead, varying species of “arachnids”. Unlike other arthropods, centipedes lack shells, while millipedes are more worm-like in appearance. A variety of colors are displayed by centipedes, including dark or reddish brown, tan, light-yellow, and red. On the other hand, millipedes also come in assorted varieties of colors, including brown, black, gray, and pink. Different regions of the world feature varying shapes, sizes, and colors of both centipedes and millipedes, as these multiple-legged creatures often times become invading household pests.
As far as “bigger is better,” centipedes and millipedes generally range anywhere from 1- 1 2 inches or more in length. Furthermore, centipedes are “carnivorous” (insect and meat eating), while millipedes are “herbivorous” (plant eating) creatures. However, some species of millipedes are “omnivorous” which means they consume either animals or plants. If one can get past the pitter-patter of many legs, then centipedes act in similarity to Venus flytrap plants feasting on invading insects.
Neither centipedes, nor millipedes have 100 or 1,000 legs, as this old wives’ tale has been handed down throughout the generations. Interchangeably, both centipedes and millipedes are often referred to as “thousand leggers,” while centipedes can also be dubbed, “hundred leggers.” For more fascinating information regarding differences between centipedes and millipedes, please view diagrams on following website: www.insects.about.com/od/identifyaninsect/a/centiormilli.htm.
It is easy to understand why people frequently confuse centipedes with millipedes, and vice versa. One common denominator that is shared by centipedes and millipedes, includes the following: They both belong to the family of “phylum Arthropoda” and lay their eggs in soil; however, not much more connects them in likeness. By all means, centipedes and millipedes are not insects or arachnids, as they each belong to their own class of species. For instance, centipedes belong to “Chilopoda,” while millipedes are categorized as “Diplopoda.” In Greek, cheilos means “lip” and poda stands for “foot.” Diplopoda means “double foot” in Greek language, so by adding like terms together, it can be easily equated that centipedes and millipedes remarkably vary in their characteristics. Once a person recognizes the true differences in centipedes and millipedes, no longer will these arthropods become a debatable source of confusion.
To a small extent, centipedes can inject venom into their bites; however, the poison is not at a dangerous level to cause humans any deadly harm. On the other hand, millipedes have no venom. As arthropods, centipedes are considered “predatory,” while millipedes are “prey.” Very seldom do centipedes and millipedes attack humans, yet when they do, their bites can become quite painful. All in all, if any of the two are aggressive toward humans, the centipedes win hands down.
The differences between centipedes and millipedes are further discussed in the next following sections, in order to better understand these arthropod creatures. When in a biology class, it is crucial that a student can accurately differentiate between centipedes and millipedes, despite both having over six legs. An instructor would not be pleased to hear his/her student refer to centipedes and millipedes as “insects,” when in fact, they belong to another classification.
Centipedes lay their eggs during spring and summer, as they can live as long as five or six years in almost any environment. In tropical climates, centipedes are born year round, as opposed to certain seasons. Typically, female centipedes lay at least 35 or more eggs in the soil. In contrast, some centipede species are born with a complete set of body segments and legs, while others must wait until maturity to gain such features.
Scientists estimate at least 3,000 centipede species exist throughout the world, as this can be upward to 8,000. Contrary to belief, centipedes can fruitfully exist in colder, Arctic climates, while millipedes cannot survive frigid polar regions. The centipedes’ most desired climates entail damp, dark areas, which are preferably under stones, leaf mulches, or logs. Inside homes, centipedes are usually found in basements, closets, crawl spaces, or any other favorable habitats. In addition, centipedes are nocturnal creatures that hunt smaller insects or any other arthropods, after which they inject fatal venom into their prey.
When centipedes land upon human flesh, their bites resemble that of bee stings, while their legs can also scratch. There is no association with rotting flesh, once centipedes come in contact with skin, as this myth has been around for generations. The next time a centipede decides to take residence in one’s home, such fears and old wives’ tales are unfounded. Centipedes taking residence inside homes are grayish-yellow in body and have three stripes running down their backs, as they are also called “house centipedes.”
Unsurprisingly, house centipedes are on the list of humans’ unwelcome guests, as they are usually 1 to 1-1/2 inches in length and sport very long antennae. What is more is the fact that each of a house centipede’s fifteen pairs of legs have bands of white, while they vary from their counterparts by sporting a rounded head and a pair of large, gleaming eyes. Fleeing house centipedes hold their bodies straight by hooking the plates together on their upper sides, while also capable of reproducing offspring indoors and outdoors. The damper the home, the quicker centipedes are attracted, as their favorite places include sub-floor areas or basements. Other enticing habitats include cellars, closets, and bathrooms, as centipedes can basically co-exist with mold and fungi.
One only has to think about “damp and water” when surmising where centipedes will lurk inside a home, as showers, baths, sinks, and toilet bowls are no exceptions to this rule. The walls are centipedes’ preferred hunting grounds for prey, as they literally go through all “leaps and bounds” to accomplish their missions, even if it includes making a crash landing onto humans. Although centipedes are not poisonous, try telling humans to ignore centipedes playing “Leap Frog” across their ceilings, onto their walls, and perhaps, into their beds, while at the same token, hoping these creatures do not put their best legs forward into undesirable places. As old cliches go, “There is no rest for the wicked,” while dreading the moment when a centipede is “Going to take one small step for man (or woman), one giant leap for mankind (or womankind),” as famously quoted by late astronaut, Neil Armstrong in 1969. Damp, moist, and humid environments pave the way for thriving centipedes to dwell inside and outside of homes, as they are often times more annoyances than hindrances.
The average life span of millipedes is two to seven years. Spring is peak time for millipedes to lay their eggs, as they are at least 1- 2 or more inches in length. Female millipedes are said to produce as many as 300 eggs in one batch, after they are laid in the soil as several small clusters of 20 to 100 eggs. Year round millipede reproduction also mimics that of centipedes in tropical climates; however, millipedes cannot survive much colder regions on Earth. It takes about three weeks for tiny millipede larvae to hatch, as they are first born with only three legs. The more millipedes grow, the faster they molt at least seven to ten times, as additional body segments and legs emerge.
In the United States, there are an estimated 1,000 species of millipedes lurking in almost every imaginable environment. Unlike centipedes, millipedes have one pair of shorter antennae on their heads and two pairs of legs on each body segment. Although people refer to millipedes as “thousand leggers,” in truth, they only harbor 60 to 400 legs and are more “worm-like” in appearance. Unappealingly, millipedes can imitate “stink bugs” after emitting foul odors when handled or disturbed. If a person encountering a millipede is spared the stench, he/she will only view this creature curling up into a coil like a “boll weevil” (A small, grayish, long-snouted beetle classified as Anthonomus grandis).
A majority of the millipede population feast on damp, decaying vegetation and leaf litter, while other species may attack roots and lower leaves of flourishing plants. The soil is the main habitat of millipedes, which is where they prefer living for the rest of their lives. As adults, millipedes spend their winters in soil, debris, and leaf litter lying under trees. For example, one generation of millipedes per year is believed to reside in Oklahoma.
Following in the footsteps of centipedes, millipedes can occasionally set up residence in people’s homes. However, millipedes have much shorter survival rates inside homes, since they usually die from starvation and dry conditions. On some occasions, millipedes can invade homes in large numbers and end up migrating in an uphill direction, due to lack of food, or their habitats becoming either too dry or wet. During heavy droughts, millipedes tend to migrate at increasing rates, which are usually in late spring or early fall. Heavy rains and floods will force millipedes into the shelter of homes, as they can also seek refuge in wooded areas filled with lasting remnants of decaying vegetation. Furthermore, millipedes can be found drowned and floating in swimming pools, due to their migrated concentrations.
Light beckons millipedes, which is the very reason they are attracted to lighted swimming pools, patios, driveways, and industrial areas. Both millipedes and centipedes pose no threat to humans after they invade homes. In addition, millipedes do not bite, sting, contaminate foods, eat fibers, or cause structural damage. At the same token, centipedes share common characteristics with millipedes, except when it comes to biting humans.
Centipede and Millipede Control
Rarely is there a need to control centipede and millipede populations, unless they become numerous to the point of creating nuisances inside a home. Nevertheless, bear in mind that millipedes are damaging to indoor and outdoor plants, while centipedes have different menu preferences. Like other unwanted pests, reducing or totally eliminating centipedes’ and millipedes’ food supplies, including other household pests, can go a long way toward keeping these arthropods at bay. Airing and drying out moist places around the home, or going outside and removing rotting wood, decaying vegetables, grass, and leaves also discourages centipede and millipede infestations.
With all said and done, it is time for everyone to enjoy the warm, sunny spring and summer days, while centipedes and millipedes can be detoured elsewhere. Unfortunately, controlling centipedes and millipedes is the first step in preventing them from leaping into one’s comfort zone.
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