No, it isn’t true that millipedes really have 1,000 legs. But they do have quite a few. They are different from centipedes. The main difference is that millipedes have 2 legs on each side of their body segments, but centipedes only have one.
This millipede has a lot of names including Yellow-spotted, Clown, Almond-scented, and Cyanide. The first two names are pretty obvious from its colors and patterns. The last two come from this millipede’s natural defense- it emits a fluid that has enough poison to kill insects. It doesn’t eat insects, though, but instead eats dead leaves. This is actually very important for the health of the forest. Dave Ingram has a good post about this on his Natural History Blog.
After I dug up a few buttercup weeds in my backyard, a couple of other types of millipedes appeared. This one might be a Greenhouse Millipede according to Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America by Arthur V. Evans. It was brought to the U.S. from Japan and now is here to stay.
I’m not sure what kind of millipede this is, but like the others it eats dead plants. Just like vultures, millipedes help us take out the natural trash.