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Millipedes – just suck them up

Richard Snell
Barton County Extension Agent

Once again, we are seeing millipedes invading homes. Millipedes, sometimes mistakenly called wireworms or “thousand-legged worms” are a worm-like arthropod relative of insects. They can be distinguished from centipedes by the number of legs per body segment. Millipedes have two legs per segment but centipedes have only one.

Though usually found in damp locations outside, they can become a problem inside the house and cause homeowners a great deal of concern. Invasions of households are often sudden and sporadic. Millipedes feed primarily on decaying organic material; rarely on living tissue. They do not bite people nor damage household furnishings directly.

However, they will leave a mess and give off an odor if crushed.

Millipedes are wormlike and most often gray or brownish-black in color. The legs ripple as they move but will often curl up into a “C” shape like a watch spring if touched. Remember, you may not see the legs unless viewing the millipede from the side. They defend themselves by giving off a disagreeable odor when disturbed.

Over the past years, they have migrated in large numbers during a period of warm weather in the fall season of the year and then would immediately stop when a quick drop in temperature (cold snap) occurred. If crushed, millipedes may stain rugs and fabrics.

Millipedes require high moisture conditions in order to survive and often die in a day or two after entering a house. Dead millipede bodies can then be vacuumed up and disposed of. Drying out any moist areas inside will also help with control.

Sealing and caulking around any openings in the foundation will help keep populations low. If this is not enough, spraying in a 3-foot band around the outside of the house and up the walls, will take care of them before they get inside.

Treatment of peat moss, mulch, wood chips, leaves, etc. used in landscaping around the house is important. Do not expect immediate kill since control may be slow (three to six days or more). Baygon bait works well when scattered along the house foundation providing fast knock-down.

Total control of millipedes during migration periods is difficult. The carbamate insecticides such as propoxur (Baygon), bendiocarb (Ficam) or carbaryl (Sevin) give the fastest knockdown compared to the other groups of insecticides. Wettable powder formulations provide the best soil residual control.

Repeat applications at weekly intervals as needed. So like we say in sports, when the going gets tough, just suck it up! Only, in this case, suck them up with the sweeper.


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