7 Kinds of Centipedes & Millipedes Found in Minnesota!

Did you see a centipede in Minnesota?

Types of centipedes in Minnesota

Many people consider these strange creatures to be some sort of mutant worms, but luckily, they’re not. 🙂

In truth, millipedes and centipedes are much more closely related to marine animals like lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp. The biggest difference is that millipedes and centipedes are land dwellers.

Having them around your house is a huge benefit despite their creepy appearance. Centipedes eat silverfish, cockroaches, spiders, and other household insects; millipedes, on the other hand, ingest dead material they encounter, an important step in the food chain that helps keep us fed! They also carry no diseases affecting people, animals, or plants.

7 centipedes and millipedes found in Minnesota:

#1. Bumblebee Millipede

  • Anadenobolus monilicornis
Types of millipedes in Minnesota

Incredibly, the Bumblebee Millipede is a favorite pet among collectors! I can’t say it would be one I would keep – I prefer my dog. 🙂

Their name comes from the distinctive dark brown and yellow striped body sections, which gives them the appearance of an earthworm in a bee costume. Look for them in leaf litter, which is their favorite habitat. They eat the decomposing plant material found here.

This millipede in Minnesota is not native.

Instead, it came from the Caribbean and was transported here in ornamental plant shipments. Despite its large numbers, the Bumblebee Millipede doesn’t pose a threat to native plants or animals.

#2. Greenhouse Millipede

  • Oxidus gracilis
Common Minnesota millipedes

Greenhouse Millipedes are found all over Minnesota. They originated in Japan and were carried to the Americas and Eurasia during trading expeditions. They’re around 23mm (1 in) long.

These millipedes are different looking than many of their cousins. They’re largely black or brown on top, with white legs. However, instead of having a round, tubular body of plates that integrate smoothly, they appear rather bumpy.

Greenhouse Millipedes also have an interesting trick. Recall that millipedes are related to lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp, yet there are no water-dwelling millipedes because they lack gills. However, this species can retain a bubble of air around their spiracles and spend an extraordinary amount of time underwater.

Unlike other species, the Greenhouse Millipede doesn’t have eyes, instead relying on its antenna to find food, locate mates, and perform other essential functions. They give off a particularly noxious odor when threatened. They’re poisonous to predators, so very few things consume them. Luckily, they’re not dangerous to humans, provided you don’t eat a handful of them!

#3. Rusty Millipede

  • Trigoniulus corallinus
Common Minnesota centipedes

Rusty Millipedes are pinkish brown to brick red and larger than many millipede species. Because of these traits, they are easily mistaken for earthworms. The faint black stripes on its sides look like shadows, and the segments appear wormlike. Once you see their legs in action, however, you’ll know this is a millipede and no common worm.

This species has the honor of being the very first millipede to have its genome sequenced in 2015. This sequence was important in understanding the link between animals like lobsters, crabs, and millipedes and gave a much greater understanding of arthropods as a group!

Most millipedes, including Rusty Millipedes, get along very well with other species. They’re incredibly social (for a bug!) and rarely fight with each other as long as sufficient food and resources exist.

#4. Yellow-Legged Millipede

  • Pleuroloma flavipes

Also known as the North American Millipede and the Flat-backed Millipede.

Centipedes of Minnesota

Yellow-Legged Millipedes are sometimes called Wandering Cherry Millipedes because they often move en masse with thousands of individuals, looking like a cherry-colored mat undulating its way across the landscape.

The Yellow-Legged Millipede is common in the eastern Minnesota.

It can be found in various habitats, including under fallen branches, logs, and trees, but they avoid coniferous trees. Incredibly, they fluoresce brightly under UV light.

This species is a little more adventurous than most millipedes, often venturing into open land and fields. So if there is detritus to be consumed, they’ll be there, recycling our environmental waste and keeping our food chain running.

These are generally a medium reddish brown with yellow stripes running from edge to edge. Naturally, they have bright yellow legs as well.

#5. Brown Centipede

  • Lithobius forficatus
Millipedes of Minnesota

Brown Centipedes are 18-30 mm (0.7-1.1 in) long and dark reddish-brown, like a chestnut. They have very long antennae and a matching tail to confuse you as to which end is the front! Of course, the head appears bigger than any single body segment, so you can always tell; the exaggerated size comes from the oversized fangs next to the head. Those fangs deliver a venom that is highly poisonous (if you’re an insect).

Slugs, worms, spiders, and flies make up the bulk of this species’ diet. Its leg count will top out at 15 pairs when fully grown.

Brown Centipedes like to hunt in Minnesota at night and hide during the day. If they’re not doing you the courtesy of keeping your home pest free, they may be out in your garden doing the job there instead. They frequent compost heaps where other prey may be found or seek food on tree bark that provides a home to insects. They don’t eat plants, but they do eat things that eat your plants, lending the nickname “Gardener’s Friend.”

#6. House Centipede

  • Scutigera coleoptrata

This species is the most common centipede in homes in Minnesota!

They’re yellow-grey, with three stripes running down their backs. You might consider them racing stripes with how fast they can scoot along!

The legs are thick and powerful near the body but taper toward the ends, contributing greatly to their ability to zip after prey. Their antennae are extraordinarily long to help them sense their next meal. Incredibly, the two “decoy” antennae on their back end aren’t just there to fool predators; they’re actual antennae that function just like the front ones!

House Centipedes may look creepy, but they can be a useful houseguest. Their favorite foods include insects and spiders, but they’re fast enough to catch and eat houseflies and grasshoppers, too. In addition, they like damp environments, which is why basements and garages are so attractive to them.

Outside, you’ll find them in damp spaces that stay cool, such as woodpiles, rocky areas with good hiding places, prey-stalking lookout points, or piles of leaf litter. If you have a compost pile, they’ll be there!

#7. Soil Centipedes

  • Order: Geophilomorpha
Soil Centipedes aren’t a single species in Minnesota but a massive family with too many members to mention. Instead, it is more useful to note that leg pairs vary from 27 to 191 (54 to 382 individual legs) depending on the species.

Their coloring can range from white to reddish brown, and they’re slender to aid their movement through the soil. These creatures are a bit flatter than most centipedes. Since they spend most of their time underground, Soil Centipedes have no eyes.

They move through the soil like an earthworm, pushing the front of their body forward and dragging the back towards it before repeating the process. Their goal is to find insect larvae and earthworms to eat, and they use fangs like all centipedes do to capture their prey.

They can range in size from incredibly tiny to monstrously large. The smallest individuals are 1.9 cm (0.75 in), and the largest is 19 cm (7.48 in). Luckily, since they live in soil, you’re unlikely to find this type of centipede inside your home.

Soil Centipedes provide a huge benefit that you might not have thought of – managing soil quality! These bugs digest and release nutrients otherwise trapped in waste for years. Their burrowing also aerates the soil, like earthworms, which allows water, nutrients, and minerals to reach plant roots more effectively. So even though they’re creepy, we should be grateful they exist!

Which of these centipedes have you seen before in Minnesota?


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*To explore more of the centipedes and millipedes that have been found near you, check out iNaturalist!

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One Comment

  1. While camping in southern Minnesota my 3 year old daughter and I found a millipede in the forest floor. I put my hand in front of it and as it crawled on, it was as long as my middle finger and palm. It was as wide as my pinky finger with very short legs. You could barely see the legs below it’s body. The color was very dark gray, almost black. I passed it to my daughter’s hand and she was amazed to watch it crawl up her arm. I put it back where we found it and told her that he had to go back home to his family. It was the only millipede I’ve ever seen in Minnesota while camping, but it was amazingly large! I’ve often wondered how long it takes for one to get that big. I know this is a birdwatching site, but I wanted to share this.