Atlanta residents know all too well that an unusually wet summer can make millipedes a common household problem. Millipedes (literally thousand legged worms) are not insects but instead arthropods, related to lobsters, crayfish, and shrimp.
What are millipedes?
Millipedes are long segmented wormlike animals that are generally brownish to blackish in color. Each body segment has two pairs of very short legs. They have a pair of short antennae and the head is rounded. Millipede species that commonly invade Atlanta homes range from about 1/2 to 1 inch long.
Despite their many legs, they are slow moving. Their short legs ripple in waves as they crawl. They often coil up into a tight “C” shape (like a spring) when disturbed and don’t move when touched.
Millipedes are not poisonous but they protect themselves by means of special glands that secrete a mild acid with an unpleasant odor, which may produce a mild allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. If crushed, millipedes may stain rugs and fabrics.
Millipedes are primarily scavengers, feeding on decaying organic matter. They can lay up to 300 eggs at a time quickly leading to an infestation. Under favorable conditions, millipedes can live 5 to 7 years.
When outdoors, these invertebrates are harmless creatures but as with many pests, they are simply a nuisance by their presence.
Where do they like to live?
Millipedes require high moisture levels and are found in dark, damp, cool, moist environments. They are commonly found in mulch, compost piles, and yards with heavy thatch. Because of their moisture requirement, they do not survive indoors more than a few days unless there are very moist or damp conditions.
They are nocturnal, tend to remain hidden under objects, and usually go unnoticed. At night, millipedes often leave their natural habitats and crawl about over sidewalks, patios, and foundations.
During periods of excessively wet or dry weather millipedes tend to find their way into homes and buildings. They cannot tolerate water-saturated soil, which forces them to the surface and higher ground. Likewise, dry, drought conditions send them in search of water.
How can I keep them out of my house?
If a millipede finds its way into your home, you can get rid of it by simply picking it up and putting it outside. Since they require high humidity, many will dry out and die indoors; they can simply be swept up with broom or vacuum cleaner.
The best way to keep millipedes out of your house is to stop them from getting in.
- Seal any cracks and/or crevices in the foundation, around wiring, and plumbing where millipedes, or other pests, could enter.
- Repair any openings around door and window frames with caulking compound and weather stripping.
Minimize Moisture in the Home
Millipedes require moist habitats and areas of high humidity. It is important to eliminate moist hiding places and keep the house and outside area as dry as possible.
- Properly ventilate basements and subfloor crawl spaces to eliminate dampness and excess moisture.
- Repair any leaks. Leaky faucets or pipes can attract millipedes.
- Use dehumidifiers to keep the air dry or use fans in rooms that don’t have good air flow.
- Clean out and remove debris from gutters. Gutter build up can cause water from draining correctly.
Remove Yard Debris
Millipedes prefer moist, decaying organic matter and shade.
- Keep your yard clean by removing dead plant matter.
- Keep compost piles, grass clippings, leaf piles, piled up mulch, plant debris, woodpiles, etc. away from the house foundation.
For professional help against nuisance millipedes and summer pests, call a Truly Nolen pest control specialist.