Millipedes are sometimes called thousand-leggers, but in reality they usually have 30 to 90 or more pairs of legs. About 1000 species of millipedes are distributed throughout the entire United States, including several species that call Missouri home.
Millipedes have a worm-like body that can grow to between 1/16th to 4 ½ inches in length depending on the specific species. The first three or so body segments have one pair of legs each, but the rest of the body segments have two pairs each.
Most species are black or brown, some having mottled patterns and some having bright orange or red markings. The species with bright markings typically produce and secrete a bad smelling or toxic substance that they use to defend themselves.
Female and male millipedes mate, and the females then lay their eggs on or very near the ground. They prefer the soil underneath leaves or other organic debris. The millipede larvae are born looking very similar to the adults, except with fewer legs and body segments.
The larvae will molt and go through 7-10 developmental stages until they reach adulthood. Depending on the species, this process can take 2-5 years; the millipedes will live for several more years after they reach adulthood.
Millipedes that live outside are found living in or under dark damp places like mulch, landscaping ties, leaf piles, fallen trees, and piles of grass. They are described as scavengers and therefore feed basically on whatever organic materials that they come across- decaying plant materials and sometimes even other dead insects.
Millipedes live happily outside but can be seen migrating in very large numbers after periods of heavy rain or in the late fall when they start to search for warm shelter. They will come in through the gaps found around basement doors and windows and through spaces found in and around vents and ducts. Inside, they hide in dark basements, closets, underneath bathroom and kitchen sinks, and in laundry rooms.
Once inside, millipedes are thought of as nuisance pests. They really cause no harm to people and aren’t known to transmit any diseases. The liquid that they emit can cause small blisters on some people and can be toxic to smaller pets when they come into contact with them.
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Preventing millipedes from getting into your home is a tricky task; the best way to stop problems with them is to get help from trained professionals. However, there are some things you can do around your home to help prevent them from choosing to invade.
Make sure that any possible entrances into your home are repaired. Seal any cracks or crevices in your home’s foundation and caulk gaps found around doors and windows, especially those located in basement areas. It is also a good idea to make sure that all vents are secured and covered and that spaces found around pipes and other utilities are filled in. You can also reduce the humidity levels in your home by using air-conditioners and/or dehumidifiers.
The most effective way to control millipedes in your home is with the help of a professional pest control expert. At Rottler Lawn & Pest Solutions a trained technician will inspect your home and find all the areas where millipedes are hiding and living. We will then provide control services through our year-round home pest control services and offer suggestions to control and prevent future problems with millipedes.
Missouri Department of Conservation
University of Missouri