Millipede or Centipede?

— Written By Donna Teasley and last updated by
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Hot Weather Visitors

Hot weather brings a variety of problems to the homeowner and gardener and one of these problems is out in full force right now:  the millipede. Even though they can invade in huge numbers, they do not bite, sting or harm clothing or wood. The most common of these is the garden millipede. These one inch long creatures curl up into a “”C” shape when disturbed and give off an unpleasant odor for protection. Often mistaken for a centipede, millipedes have two pairs of legs per body segment while centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment.

But, most homeowners do not like having them inside their houses and basements even if they are harmless. They usually live in dark, cool spots such as compost piles, heavily mulched areas or under logs or lumber. They go unnoticed until hot, dry weather forces them to find moisture or extremely wet conditions sends them to higher ground such as concrete sidewalks, driveways and foundations. Millipedes are also migratory which means they move in large numbers in the late summer and fall, searching for places to overwinter. Millipedes can live for several years

Insecticides are only a temporary solution to the millipede problem. Emphasis should be directed at getting rid of the conditions that attract them. Remove piles of compost or mulch that might be located close to the house. If mulch is present up close to the house, rake it back away from the foundation at least six to twelve inches. Remove leaves, grass clippings, rocks, boards or anything that is lying on the ground close to the foundation.

To keep the millipedes out of the house, make sure all cracks are sealed. Install door sweeps on all exterior doors and make sure that expansion joints are sealed. Once millipedes are inside the home they do not live long because of the lack of access to moisture. Perimeter sprays of insecticides on foundations and ground can give some temporary relief but care must be taken to saturate the soil

Millipedes are a nuisance but a short lived one. They will soon be on their way but it is always best to take steps to prevent another infestation before next year.