Most people are not very familiar with millipedes. We don't tend to keep them as pets, and because they have more legs than any mammal, we are all too quick to fear them. Millipedes belong to the phylum Arthropoda. Other members of this phylum are insects, spiders and crabs. Like all arthropods, millipedes have an exoskeleton, making them feel hard to the touch. Millipedes are sometimes confused with centipedes, but there are a number of important differences to keep in mind. Millipedes do not have a venomous bite and have two pairs of legs on most body segments, while centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment and usually inject venom with their bite. So if you encounter millipedes in the yard, you can now distinguish the millipede from the pale-colored house centipede you might find in your basement. Millipedes are important organisms for the health of forests and other habitats. They feed on last year's leaves, cycling the nutrients and enriching the soil. Next time you see a millipede, remember the important job they do.
We want to demonstrate that millipedes are wonderfully diverse and fascinating animals, and we hope to support millipede enthusiasts around the world. Both the Introduction and the Identification Key are available in several languages, with more translations planned in the future.