Millipedes vs. Centipedes: What’s the Difference?

Neither carry disease or cause damage, but that doesn't mean they're welcome in your home.

Millipedes Vs CentipedesGetty Images (2)

Creepy-crawlies, gross, insect invaders. No matter what you call them, centipedes and millipedes are guests no one invited to your home. While neither carry disease or cause damage, there are ways to keep them out of your home.

Centipedes vs. Millipedes

Centipedes come in a variety of sizes. The bodies of some species are as small as 1/4 inch in length, whereas others, such as the giant desert centipede, can reach a length of eight inches. Their body is made up of segments, each with a pair of legs. Poison claws on their front pair of legs are used to paralyze prey. Centipedes are generally dark brown, yellowish or reddish in color, and they feast on small insects, spiders and earthworms. They live in dark, moist areas such as under sticks and rocks, along with basements and bathrooms.

Millipedes can be up to 1-1/2-inches long and have two pairs of legs on each body segment. They are brown to black, and like to eat organic materials and some young plants. While still fast, millipedes are generally smaller than centipedes. They live in wet areas such as damp basements and bathrooms, and in landscaping such as leaves and mulch.

How to Keep Centipedes and Millipedes Away

If you regularly find centipedes or millipedes in your house, the first thing to do is find their home. Since both live in moist areas, you may have a moisture problem. Remove any organic material within a few feet of your home, such as mulch, ground cover and wood chips. Store firewood away from your home as this can be a breeding ground. Make sure all windows and doors are sealed.

While I recommend not killing house centipedes since they are known to eat other unwelcome pests in and around your home. If centipedes and millipedes give you the creeps, you can get rid of them with an insecticide applied around the foundation of your home. Alternatively, if they have made it inside, sweep or vacuum them up.

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Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.