For Release September 25, 2001
Millipedes Are Just Looking For A Home
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
From time to time we have population explosions of insects and other creepy crawly critters. It seems that most of this year we have had one population explosion after another. The most recent questions have been coming in about millipedes. While many people think that millipede is a single species, millipede is really a group (class) of arthropods or insect relatives.
All millipedes have two pairs of legs on most body segments. Far and away, the most common millipedes are the julid millipedes. Julid millipedes are brown, fairly cylindrical and slender and while usually just an inch or less long, can reach lengths of over three inches. When disturbed, julids emit a rather foul odor and coil tightly.
Millipedes feed on decaying organic matter. The more decaying organic matter, the more millipedes you are liable to encounter. With the recent dry weather, which resulted in a lot of dead plants, followed by abundant rain, itís no surprise that some homeowners are calling with questions about large numbers of millipedes.
As the weather starts to cool down, many millipedes hit the road, looking for someplace to overwinter. It is not at all uncommon to encounter large numbers of julid millipedes in the fall. It is also quite common to find large numbers trying to enter garages, homes and out buildings. The good news is that they are not a destructive pest if they do get in your home. They feed on decaying organic matter (plant parts) so they are inherently good. The bad news is that they can create a rather unpleasant smell, they crunch underfoot and you can be invaded overnight by thousands of them!
If you are finding a lot of millipedes around your home there are several steps you can take to reducing the numbers. You may not be able to stop all of them from getting into your home, but hopefully the numbers will be reduced. First of all, keep the area around the house picked up. Donít let leaves and plant residue blow in and build up around the foundation. This simply creates hiding places and provides food. You can also make sure that doors and windows fit tightly and that all cracks and crevices are caulked and sealed tight. Not only will this help with the millipedes, it will also reduce other invading insect pests, spiders and cold drafts.
You can reduce some of the numbers by spraying the around your foundation with malathion or sevin. Spray a little ways up on the foundation and out a foot or two from the house. As the millipedes crawl through this, they will pick up some of the chemical and will die in a day or two. On the inside of the house, there is no need to spray down the entire interior of the house. Use a ready to use indoor pest control product. These are different from the aerosol spray products that advertise fast knockdown. Spray at doorways in from outside as well as basement window sills and any place that utilities enter from the outside.
One treatment, indoor and out, should be adequate for this fall. There is no need to spray daily or even weekly. It is important to keep in mind that these products do not exhibit the fast acting pyrethroids that the aerosol products exhibit. It may take a day or two for the millipedes to die. Donít be impatient. If they arenít dying fast enough, pick them up and flush them!
Many homeowners probably wonít see any millipedes at all, others will feel over run. This should be a problem that only lasts a few weeks. With a little time and effort, you can reduce the problem to a manageable size until it passes.
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