Flat-backed Millipede

Flat-backed Millipede ©northeastwildlife.co.uk

Flat-backed Millipede

Scientific name: Polydesmus angustus
Found in compost heaps and under stones in gardens, the Flat-backed Millipede is a common minibeast. Despite its name, it only has about 40 legs. It is an important recycler of nutrients, feeding on decaying matter.

Species information

Statistics

Length: 2.4cm

Conservation status

Common.

When to see

January to December

About

There are a number of millipede species in the UK; one familiar group includes the Flat-backed Millipede, which can be found under rocks and in compost heaps in the garden, as well as in rotting trees in woodland. Millipedes are very long, many-segmented invertebrates that live in the soil, under rocks, or under the bark of trees. They are vegetarians, eating mildew and decaying vegetation, and perform a useful nutrient-recycling function in various habitats. They are very slow-moving creatures, but can excrete almond-smelling fluids (cyanide) from their sides if threatened.

How to identify

The Flat-backed Millipede is orangey-brown with a long, flattened body that resembles a centipede. However, centipedes have only one pair of legs per segment of their body, whereas millipedes have two. There are many millipede species in the UK, which can be difficult to tell apart.

Distribution

Widespread.

Did you know?

The Flat-backed Millipede is relatively short for a millipede: it only has about 20 segments, which means just 40 legs.

How people can help

Our gardens are a vital resource for wildlife, providing corridors of green space between open countryside, allowing species to move about. In fact, the UK's gardens provide more space for nature than all the National Nature Reserves put together. So why not try planting native plants and trees to entice birds, mammals and invertebrates into your backyard? To find out more about encouraging wildlife into your garden, visit our Wild About Gardens website: a joint initiative with the RHS, there's plenty of facts and tips to get you started.