Earthworm vs Centipede (What’s the Difference?)

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It is unlikely you would mistake an earthworm for a centipede (you’ll more likely get a worm mixed up with a millipede!)

However, these two creatures share several interesting similarities. In this post we’ll look at the similarities and differences between the earthworm and the centipede.

Similarities Between Worms and Centipedes

Most forms of earthworms and centipedes, for example, enjoy living in areas with high levels of moisture.

Though centipedes are more at home above the ground and earthworms are more comfortable living under the ground in various depths.

Another similarity is the fact they are both highly beneficial to your garden.

Centipedes help reduce the population and even eliminate certain species of insect pests, while earthworms help improve soil quality. You could consider the centipede a form of natural pesticides!

Differences Between Earthworms and Centipedes

Now let’s look at some of the differences.

Centipedes: Have Legs, Will Walk

The first major difference between centipedes and earthworms is more or less explained by the name “centipedes”.

After all, centipedes mean, very literally “100 legs”. You may remember hearing this in school as centipedes have 100 and milipedes have 1000 legs.

In reality, the name suggests, depending on the specific species of centipedes, they can have anything between 15 and 177 pairs.

That’s between 30 and 354 single legs in total.

Centipedes are considered arthropods species (insect) which is a different phylum to worms (see next section).

Millipedes also belong to the same phylum as centipedes, but belong to the sub-class Diplopoda, while centipedes are part of the Chilopoda sub-class.

Worms: Have No Legs, Will Slither.

Earthworms, on the other hand, do not have any legs.

Instead, annelids, which are so-called because the word means “little rings”, have anything from 100 to 150 segments that resemble rings along their body.

Each of these rings is equipped with muscles and bristles and are used by earthworms from getting around.


Before we discuss the subject of how differently these two creatures reproduce and create life, it’s worth discussing first their genders.

Earthworms are hermaphrodites, which means they have both male and female sex organs.

Although their sex organs produce sperm and eggs, they do not need a mate for the reproduction process.

Instead, mating between earthworms occurs when two exchange sperm with one another to fertilize the eggs they are carrying.

The fertilized eggs are then passed through a very slimy tube to form cocoons. These are then deposited into the ground and eventually hatch into works.

For centipedes to reproduce they have to participate in a curious kind of courtship, since there is the matter of male and female centipedes.

The way they do it often depends on the species.

For some forms of centipedes, the male weaves a pad full of sperm and then attracts the attention of a female by performing an eye-catching dance.

While dancing the male centipede bumps the back legs of the female centipede using his antennae.

Some types of centipedes give live birth to their young, whereas some do it the more traditional way by laying eggs.

Dietary Differences

There are also differences when it comes to the diet of centipedes and earthworms.

Centipedes are carnivores and will eat other worms and insects, whereas earthworms eat dead plants, protozoa, fungi, bacteria, and other decomposing plant material like leaf litter.

Unfortunately for our earthworm friends, centipedes are one of their main predators.

Centipedes are equipped with very sharp and strong fangs attached to mighty jaws that they use to grab their prey and then inject them with venom from their poison glands.

The venom paralyses their prey, making it easier for them to eat.

Although centipedes have been known to bite us humans, the bites and the venom are not usually harmful, unless you have a specific allergy to the toxins. It’ll be a painful sting, though!


There are so many species of both worms and the centipede that this a question that is almost impossible to answer.

The typical species of both animals which you may commonly see (depending on where you live) actually grow to a similar length of between 5-7 inches.

Though there are much longer and shorter in both sub-species.

Now that we have covered the main similarities and differences between earthworms and centipedes, we wanted to offer some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Do centipedes eat earthworms?

Yes, as centipedes are carnivores, earthworms are considered tasty prey by centipedes.

In fact, if you keep earthworms, either as pets or for horticultural reasons, you need to be careful about centipedes getting into their enclosure.

In addition to earthworms, centipedes will kill and eat slugs, flies (including pesky fruit flies) and spiders.

So, although you need to be wary of handling them and wouldn’t want them near your earthworm farm, they are good pest control for your garden, flowerbeds and vegetable patches.

earthworms vs centipedes

Is a centipede a worm?

Although they are long and winding animals, centipedes are different, as we have seen from the information above, from worms.

Do centipedes kill worms?

Yes, centipedes can and will kill worms, as they are a good source of food for centipedes.

Do earthworms have legs?

Although the short answer is no, creatures that are classified as being earthworms don’t have actual legs, annelids stand out from other types and species of worms because they have something similar to legs.

They’re known as annelids, which literally means “little rings”.

This is why many people have often mistaken these worms for having legs.

The little rings that segment their body, as we explained earlier, are used to help them move through the soil and other terrains.

However, the earthworm also has bristles all over its body which helps create friction, grip and movement too.

There are around 150 of these segmented ring-link sections along earthworms bodies and they consist of muscle and bristles.


The world of bugs that live in your garden is a very interesting one.

Earthworms and centipedes may share a number of similarities, like their environment and places they like to dwell, but there are clearly more differences between the two types of creatures.

It is also important to remember that as earthworms are considered prey by centipedes that you would not want them mixing together. You especially wouldn’t want the latter getting into your worm bin!