Sunday, July 28, 2013

Household Bugs -- Centipede or Millipede?

Is This A Centipede or a Millipede?

Okay, we'll avoid the popular -- and generally wrong -- idea that a centipede has a hundred legs and a millipede has a thousand. Stop for a moment and think it out -- to possess a thousand legs, a millipede would have to be a couple of feet long. That's seriously creepy, and also seriously not in the real world. So there's not much to the idea that these animals are actually named for the precise number of legs each one has.

A millipede, all curled up and nowhere to go

On the other hand, the number of legs is a generally a pretty good way to distinguish between centipedes and millipedes: Millipedes have more. An even better way is to look at how fast the animal is moving: Millipedes are slower. You would think that more legs equals more speed, but it's the other way around. Another way to tell if it's a millipede: it's curled up. Millipedes curls up, especially when they die, so if your animal is all curled up it's probably a millipede.

So when a multi-legged beastie zooms across the floor of your basement, you can be pretty sure it's a centipede. And, as we have already established on this blog, centipedes do bite. But they also eat other bugs and their eggs, including cockroaches, so think before you freak out and try to kill that centipede (and good luck catching it, too).

            Whiskers contemplates a house centipede

Millipedes are also usually rounder, milder, and a lot slower. They don't bother anyone, and are so secretive that the only time you'll really see one is when you come across a dead curled-up one in the bottom of an old bucket or basement sink. Millipedes munch on the crud and dirt that builds up in any basement or crawl space, and most of them spend their whole lives outside.

There are thousands of kinds of centipedes, and even more kinds of millipedes. You'll never see them, because they live under things outside, and in forests, and in caves and jungles. The few that eve dare to enter your house aren't there to bother you -- they just want to eat a few of your other bugs and hide in a dark corner. So why not let them? Chances are those little crawlers are doing you more good than harm.

More Questions about Household Bugs? Click here for a ton of photos and information!

all images courtesy of wikimedia commons

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