Did you know? The word millipede derives from two Latin words – mil, which means “thousand” and ped which means “feet.” However, scientists have not been able to discover a millipede species with 1,000 legs. Most millipedes typically have fewer than 100 legs. People often confuse millipedes with centipedes; however, millipedes look more like worms with legs! They are characterized as arthropods as their body is segmented, and they have two pairs of legs per segment. The most common millipede is typically one inch long with a hard, cylindrical body that is generally a dull black or brown in color. There are a few tropical millipede species, however, that are bright red, orange, or yellow in color.
Fun Fact: The millipede holding the record for most legs has a total number of 750.
Millipedes spend most of their lives hidden in soil and damp places as they tend to feed on decaying leaves and plant matter; mulch, leaf litter, forest floors, and compost heaps are popular spots for these little munchers! That said, they can be beneficial as they break down decaying organic matter. During the winter months, they spend their time inside, hiding in protected locations.
Fun Fact: When a millipede feels threatened by something, it coils its body into a spiral.
They’ll climb up walls, come in through garages and terraces, sneak under small openings of doors, and often head to light fixtures where they ultimately meet their doom. They cannot tolerate a dry environment for long and they can’t reproduce indoors. The millipede will lay eggs in soil or under the decaying matter, which is where the growth and development of their eggs occurs. In order to construct a protective capsule for her offspring, the mother millipede will oftentimes use her own feces – since it is basically just recycled plant matter! In some cases, the mother millipede may push the soil down with her hind end for a molded nest. Depending on the species of the millipede, she’ll deposit 100 eggs or more in the said nest; in about a month, the hatchlings will emerge.
While millipedes make most people squeamish, the reassuring news about them is that they are harmless! These little guys can’t bite, or sting and they don’t feed upon wood or building structures like other insects love to do.
During some months, they emerge in large numbers, and for unknown reasons, they will, at times, migrate in masses. So, while millipedes that live in gardens and potted plants may be a nuisance, just remember that they don’t feed on the plants unless the plant is already damaged or decaying.
Control for millipedes is aimed at keeping them outdoors; be sure to cover all cracks and crevices in your home’s foundation, and around wiring, plumbing, or doors where millipedes could find an entry into your home. Insecticides don’t typically work well when trying to control millipedes because of the protected area where they reside. And, unfortunately, nothing is fond of eating millipedes because they produce irritating chemicals which deflect predators.
The best way to reduce millipede populations in your garden is to reduce moisture levels, maintain a mowed lawn, keep compost piles away from flourishing areas of your lawn, and allow the soil to dry out in between watering. If you have questions or are in need of service, please contact Trad’s Pest Control & Garden Center.
Fun Bonus Fact: Fossil evidence indicates that millipedes were the earliest animals to live on land as they were the first to inhale air and make the transition from water to land. Pneumodesmus newmani, a fossil that was in Scotland siltstone, dates back 428 m. yrs., and is the eldest fossil specimen with spiracles for breathing in air.