Millipedes are red, brown, black or coppery coloured with wormlike segments each having at least 2 pairs of legs for each segment. (not to be confused with centipedes that have only one pair of legs per segment).
Millipede(left)-Florida Agriculture, A group of millipedes (right)-J. Kalisch, UNL
Centipede (left)-University of Nebraska, Centipedes (right)-Techcom
They are about 1.5cm long and are usually found coiled up like a spring when disturbed. Centipedes are a little longer. There are over 6,000 species found worldwide.
Desert Milipede in Arizona(left)-Young Entomologists Society, Red millipede (right)-William W. Bushing
Habitat and Lifecycle
Both are found everywhere throughout North America and many other countries. They tend to favour damp areas and in moist crevices. If millipedes are found in your house don’t worry too much as they do NO damage and they will die as they have nowhere to reproduce. If centipedes are found in you house, they can live up to 5 years. Both overwinter in the soil and emerge in the spring and their eggs are a little bit sticky and are laid in small clusters in the soil.
Millipede (left)-University of Delaware , Milliped group (right)-UC Riverside
Diet and Damage
Most species of millipedes feed on organic materials and other rotting garden debris. Millipedes are not often a pest but they have been know to eat beans, cabbage, carrots, corn, potatoes, strawberries and turnips. They sever seedlings, eat roots and burrow into fruits. There are some millipedes that are predators of other soil insects. If they are not attacking your plants I would just leave them as they work wonders in your compost breaking down organic material. I would suggest moving them into your compost pile rather than kill them. I have found no indications that centipedes cause plant damage. Millipedes have been known to eat small bugs, cockroaches, flies and a few other bugs in your house. My advice…..don’t kill these guys.
How To Control Centipedes & Millipedes
- Plant GuardianTM Houseplant Insecticidal Soap
Drench the soil or area where they are with insecticidal soap. My homemade recipe that is also effective: 1 or 2 tablespoons of any dish soap to one quart of water. Spray directly on the bugs.
- Clean up Garden Debris
Keep your garden free of debris since this is an excellent breeding environment for them. Anywhere that is constantly moist should be controlled.
- Hand Pick
This isn’t an easy task since they do most of their damage at night. dig lightly around the soil….you’ll see them if they are present.
- *Here’s a true cute story about getting rid of millipedes:
One day when I was in the garden at 5 am… my elderly neighbour came running out of her house in her best curlers and house dress screaming! I thought maybe her husband was after her or some other major emergency. NO….it was an infestation of millipedes in her kitchen! Nothing bad there I told her. I went over to her house and swept them into the dust pan and dropped them in hot soapy water. I inspected around the foundation of her home outside and found that she had left all her weeds in a pile right beside her rain barrel. As soon as we cleaned up this mess, she never had another scare like that again LOL. She was truly thankful and baked me a lovely apple pie