A millipede is a unique looking creature that is fascinating to watch outside in nature but no fun to deal with inside your home. Learn more about millipede problems, how they're different from centipedes and what their breeding habits are with info from MosquitoNix® pros in our Pest Library.
Millipedes are some of the Earth's oldest creatures. Scientists believe they were the first creature to move onto dry land and breathe air. A fossil of one found in Scotland dates back 428 million years, and today there are some 13,000 species on the planet. They are not an insect but an arthropod, which are invertebrates with segmented bodies and jointed appendages. Other arthropods include crabs and spiders. The word millipede means "one thousand feet" in Latin, but these critters tend to have between 100 and 750 legs.
They look like long segmented worms with antennae and range in color from deep orange to brown or black. Millipedes differ from centipedes in the placement and number of legs, and in two other important ways. First, millipedes move slowly whereas as centipedes quickly dart from cover to cover. Second, centipedes are carnivorous, feeding on insects and spiders by paralyzing them with poison - which they can use against humans as well. Millipedes eat only decaying plant matter such as leaves or vegetable plants. They are considered more of a garden pest, because they can damage or devour emergent seedlings.
Fortunately, they don't pose much of a threat to humans. They don't spread disease by carrying pathogens, and they don't cause damage to structures or property. Their self-defense mechanisms are mainly chemical secretions, some of which cause a mild skin discoloration. Others may have detachable bristles, and tropical species may have stronger chemicals capable of causing pain or itching. As a defense mechanism, both millipedes and centipedes will curl up into a tight spiral so that their rigid exoskeleton protects their soft underbelly.
A male millipede must woo a female into breeding, as his advances can seem like a threat, sending her into an impenetrable spiral. He may massage her back by gently walking on her, produce a soothing sound or use his sex pheromones to get her in the mood. She'll then deposit 100 or more eggs into a burrowed nest where they'll gestate for several weeks. Hatchlings develop body segments as they molt toward adulthood. Millipedes in captivity have lives as long as 10 years, but their lifespan in the wild is indeterminate.
Millipedes are found worldwide, except on Antarctica, especially in damp areas with lots of decomposing vegetation like forest floors. By feeding on fallen leaves and other vegetable matter, millipedes help create the rich layer of hummus that helps retain water and sustain trees through droughts.
Solutions for a Millipede Infestation
Because they feed on decaying plant matter, they are usually found in damp areas, like mulch piles, grass clippings and gardens. If you have a millipede infestation, the likely source is a wet basement, bathroom or crawlspace. Because they like dark, undisturbed areas, they are likely to grow in sizeable numbers before ever being detected.
The most challenging thing about dealing with a millipede problem is figuring out where they are coming from. Loose insects can be collected or vacuumed up, but unless you can spot their breeding ground, you'll be picking up millipedes often.
MosquitoNix can help you quell a millipede problem easily and affordably. Contact our staff of experts who can tell you all about the different options available and give you a free cost estimate.