Giant Centipede (Scolopendromorpha) Most bites are from the Giant Centipedes (Scolopendromorpha). House centipede (Scutigeromorpha) The leggy and incredibly fast House Centipede (Scutigeromorpha).

Centipedes are fast-moving predators and are capable of giving a nasty bite from their poison claws. Centipedes have just one pair of legs per body segment. Curiously, all adult centipedes have an odd number of leg pairs.

People sometimes confuse centipedes and millipedes but the two groups are fairly easy to distinguish. In contrast to centipedes, millipedes are slow-moving vegetarians and cannot bite people. Millipedes usually have two pairs of legs per body segment. When a centipede is disturbed it moves rapidly, but a millipede curls its body into a flat spiral or ball.

The centipede's poison claws are a modified pair of legs - the first pair, right under the head. The long end-legs are often spiny and some centipedes brandish them when threatened, but they cannot bite or sting. Most bites are from one order of centipedes, the Giant Centipedes (Scolopendromorpha). These centipedes are the large, scary types usually found under rocks and logs, but sometimes wander into our houses. Bites cause minor to severe pain.

Other common centipedes include the leggy and incredibly fast House Centipedes, the worm-like Earth Centipedes and the small fast-moving Stone Centipedes.


To identify an Australian centipede the best resource is CSIRO's Centipedes of Australia.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.