Though the word millipede comes from the Latin for ‘thousand feet’, the Common flat-backed millipede (Polydesmus angustus) only usually has between 40 and 70 feet, and no species of millipede has more than 750. I guess whoever originally named them got tired of counting!
Growing up to 25mm long, this little creature is actually the largest and most common millipede in Britain, though it’s seen more frequently in England and Wales. Just like the woodlice it’s with here, it prefers damp shaded places, perhaps under logs, stones or bark, or amongst leaf litter, in woods and on farm lands but also in the home garden. Although it has many many legs, it actually moves quite slowly so, rather than running away from perceived danger, it secretes an unpleasant chemical from pores along its body to deter predators.
The millipede’s favourite foods include fungi and dead vegetation, and it is a useful recycler of nutrients back into the soil. This little millipede gets its name from its broad body armour which makes its body look rather flat and helps it push its way into narrow crevices under bark or beneath stones.