Millipedes are attracted to damp, humid areas and may become a household-invading nuisance under wet circumstances or during rainy seasons. They are a small species, ranging from only one to two inches. They may present themselves in a variety of colors but are most commonly, black or brown. Millipedes are scavengers and will seek out plants and decaying wood as food sources; these creatures need a sustainable amount for their size. Millipedes may begin their existence in your yard prior to migrating into your home, seeking out food sources or desirable habitats.
Unknown to many, millipedes may come into your home through windows and other small crevices that might be located above ground level. They have two strong legs attached to their long bodies, allowing for a strong climbing capability. It is necessary to monitor walls for signs of their existence. Thankfully, most will die within a few days if there is insufficient water or food within the home, but those living in southern states may have to take preventive measures in order to establish this benefit.
Millipedes may be routinely misidentified as centipedes; they both share a similar body structure and habitat. Millipedes, also known as “one-thousand leggers,” have a short, cylindrical body that is one or two inches in length and are characterized by two sets of legs which are located at the beginning of their body; centipedes only have one set of legs. Millipedes can be black, brown, or less frequently, orange or red. These insects have a striped segmental body. Unlike centipedes, they have little dexterity. Centipedes bite and sting, millipedes are much less dangerous.
You can also identify millipedes quite successfully by their chosen habitat. They are scavengers, which means they are always seeking out new food sources and generally stay on decaying wood or plants. For this reason, millipedes may also be misidentified as underdeveloped wire worms. They can be found in gardens, landscapes and wetlands, or anywhere that has a damp environment. Food sources often include a variety of native plants or rotting wood and structures.
Millipedes will spend their lives seeking out new and valuable habitats in which an abundant food source is available. They are often found in high numbers where there is an abundance of dead leaves or rotting logs, but the insects will eat all sorts of decaying organic matter. This is because their purpose is to help with decomposition. Mass migration may occur when their situation is disturbed, but it is usually only one or two wandering millipedes which will find their way accidentally into a domestic dwelling.
Occasionally, some species, such as the Archispirostreptus syriacus and Orthoporus ornatus, will occupy dry, desert landscapes. This is rare and not typical of millipedes in general. Millipedes are soil dwellers and will seek out similar provisions that are native to these harsh, dry conditions. Some species may also live in or nearby trees, but this is also a rarity among these creatures. Activity between day and night depend on the species.
Millipedes Life Cycle
Millipedes mate during the cooler winter months and females will raise their young in small holes known as clutches within soil. This is a protective method and allows for her young to grow into adulthood safely. As the young millipedes become mature, their legs will begin to develop and other segments in their bodily structure as they reach their full length.
In many species, the mother will give her young chewed up leaves in an effort to keep them from leaving the clutch. After feeding, the young will go through several instar phases in which they will shed or molt, and remove their outer layer of skin to stimulate growth. This is typical of most millipedes.
The young will take several years to fully mature, at which time they will become sexually active. Many millipedes will live up to ten years and can reproduce annually once they have reached maturity; these time frames may vary between subspecies. Courtship, mating rituals and other mating factors can also vary between species.
Millipedes and Humans
Millipedes can be useful in gardens and assist in managing the natural ecology and stability of an area. They are found in most gardens but do not normally present themselves as a problem unless found in high numbers or in one localized area. Millipedes are usually harmless to humans, but some species may cause an unpleasant liquid or odor if disturbed. This secretion may act as an irritant and should be washed away from skin or eyes. Millipedes do not normally require pest control and will monitor their own numbers in any one area.
Most millipedes do not require control methods as they are self-regulating. If one should happen to come into your home, they can safely be removed by hand. Those who live in wet or thriving ecological areas may want to consider preventative methods such as exclusion, whereby window and door screening, caulking and other physical barriers may be installed to prevent access. This process can also help prevent other unwanted pests.
Additional preventative measures may include:
Environment: Reduce vegetation or piles of leaves from in your yard, as these areas provide a highly valuable habitat. It is recommended to water your garden and grass in the morning, to allow plenty of time for the soil to dry during the day. Try to lay minimal mulching around plants and trees to prevent uninvited guests.
Maintenance: Checking your home for structural weakness can prevent a number of pests, and ensuring windows and doors and cracks are secured will prevent any unexpected millipedes from coming into your home.
Green methods: You can use sticky traps to detect any millipedes that try to come into your home. These should be monitored regularly, and you may want to consider other methods if you notice that the tapes are catching more millipedes than usual. Also Check out our How to Get Rid of Millipedes article.
Millipedes belong to the animalia kingdom and are classed as diplopoda. They meet other related species under the arthropoda phylum, which is common to many insect classes and includes thousands of species. Millipedes also connect with the myriapoda subphylum, which recognizes their distinctions from centipedes and other related insects.