What are millipedes? They belong to the
arthropod class Diplododa, which means double-footed. The reason is
simple: They have two legs per body segment. There are many
different types of millipedes, over 1,000 actually. They prefer to
live in moist places, such as under mulch, in flower beds, in
good-quality lawns and under wood. They feed on decaying organic
matter and occasionally on tender leaves or roots.
Millipedes lay eggs in the soil in
spring and summer months and usually overwinter as the adults that
we are seeing now. The big problem with millipedes is that they
migrate. Right now they may be migrating through your living room.
Nobody knows for sure why they migrate, but the best guesses involve
searching for food sources and seeking moisture.
Unlike centipedes, millipedes don't
bite or sting. They do give off a bad odor when disturbed or
smashed. Be careful crushing them on carpeting, as they can cause a
stain. If you're not sure whether you have millipedes or centipedes,
here are some differences: Centipedes have one leg per body segment,
while millipedes have two; centipedes normally have much longer legs
than millipedes; and centipedes move rapidly, while millipedes move
Now that we know a little about
millipedes, how do we get rid of them? Well, there isn't a simple
answer (or I'd be rich), but an integrated program gives the best
results. A program that uses both chemical and nonchemical methods
is usually most effective.
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Nonchemical controls aim at removing
the moist resting places. Dethatch your lawn to reduce that damp
thatch layer just above the soil surface, closely mow and edge the
lawn to allow it to dry quickly, remove debris that provides hiding
places, pull mulch away from the house, water grass in the early
morning, and keep leaves from piling up along the foundation.
If millipedes get inside the house, the
vacuum cleaner is probably the best control. It is nonchemical and
prevents stains from smashed millipedes. Other controls in the home
include sticky boards such as are used for mouse control, aerosol
sprays that are used for flying insects and baseboard spays used for
Outside the house, start with a
foundation spray of something such as propoxur, permethrin or Sevin.
Spray the foundation and the adjacent foot or so of soil and plants
or lawn. Make sure you treat doorways and other openings as well.
Since millipedes aren't insects to begin with, don't expect a
complete wipeout with a chemical spray program.
there are plenty of things to do in the back yard. The foundation
spray mentioned above will also help with cricket control. You can
still plant a fall crop of lettuce or spinach in the garden.
Sometimes spinach will even survive the winter and provide an early
crop for next spring. Harvest pumpkins and squash as they mature and
make sure to leave the stem attached. Check for grubs one last time
and apply a control if needed. Grub numbers in the area have been
impressive this year. And, finally, enjoy the fall.
Logan County Extension office]