We investigated if the commonly used aggregation of organisms into trophic guilds, such as detritivores and predators, in fact represent distinct trophic levels. Soil arthropods of a forest-meadow transect were ascribed a priori to trophic guilds (herbivores, detritivores, predators and necrovores), which are often used as an equivalent to trophic levels. We analysed natural variations in 15N/14N ratios of the animals in order to investigate the trophic similarity of organisms within (a priori defined) trophic guilds. Using trophic guilds as an equivalent to trophic level, the assumed stepwise enrichment of 15N by 3.4‰ per trophic level did not apply to detritivores; they were only enriched in 15N by on average 1.5‰ compared to litter materials. Predators on average were enriched in 15N by 3.5‰ compared to detritivores. Within detritvores and predators δ15N signatures varied markedly, indicating that these trophic guilds are dominated by generalist feeders which form a gradient of organisms feeding on different resources. The results indicate that commonly used trophic guilds, in particular detritivores and predators, do not represent trophic levels but consist of subguilds, i.e. subsets of organisms differing in resource utilization. In particular, in soil and litter food webs where trophic level omnivory is common, the use of distinct trophic levels may be inappropriate. Guilds of species delineated by natural variations of stable isotope ratios are assumed to more adequately represent the structure of litter and soil food webs allowing a more detailed understanding of their functioning.