One of our readers recently informed us that her toddler found a worm-like organism in their living room. She sent along a photograph and requested that we make an identification if possible. The photograph is a little blurry, but it captures the specimen pretty well. The creature possesses some characteristics that are typical of many of the species we write about… it is relatively long, thin, and light brown. However, this creature also has a ton of thin legs and two large antennae. We believe that this is a centipede!
Centipedes are arthropods, and they are sometimes mistaken for millipedes, which are also arthropods. Both millipedes and centipedes are segmented, have legs, and also have two antennae. While millipedes have two pairs of jointed legs per segment, centipedes only have one pair per segment. The word “centipede” means 100 legs, but this is a little misleading. Centipedes can have anywhere from 15-177 pairs of legs. There are thought to be about 8,000 different species of centipedes around the globe.
Centipedes are nocturnal, which means they hide during the day and are active at night. Our reader didn’t mention what time of day the specimen was found during, but if it was seen during the day then this is a pretty rare occurrence, since they are usually seen at night! They like dark, moist environments, so in a house they might gravitate towards the kitchen or basement. Although millipedes are sometimes mistaken for each other, their diets are distinct. Centipedes are carnivores that forage for worms, small insects, and spiders. Conversely, millipedes are herbivorous scavengers that eat wood and leaf litter.
To wrap up, one readers sent us a photo of a brown creature with many legs, which we identified as a centipede. She didn’t ask any other specific questions about the specimen her son discovered, but we are happy to provide other information upon request. We have also written many other posts about these arthropods, so she can also search our site to learn more!