What are millipedes? They belong to the arthropod class
Diplopoda, 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 slowly.
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
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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. That's one of the reasons we
tend to have so many millipedes this time of year. The crumbling
leaf material is an ideal cover and food source for millipedes. Use
of glue boards for mice will also catch an amazing number of
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 the
sticky boards, aerosol sprays that are used for flying insects
(check the active ingredient, as some contain permethrin, which will
last several weeks), and baseboard spays used for ants.
Outside the house, start with a foundation spray of something
such as propoxur, bifenthrin, 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.
University of Illinois Extension, Logan County]