Millipedes are one of the many insects you may spot in your home despite not wanting them there. Discover more about their biology so you can better control these critters and keep them away.
Biology of Millipedes
Millipedes are a type of insect that is segmented and they are regularly confused with centipedes. To tell them apart, keep in mind that each segment of a millipede’s body has two pairs of legs (compared to one per segment on centipedes). Millipedes also tend to move very slowly. Their diet is mostly made up of decaying organic manner, contrasting with centipedes who hunt other insects. When they are threatened, millipedes can curl up into a tight coil or ball as one of their defense mechanisms. The typical millipede in North America measures between one and two inches in length. Some, however, can reach 14 inches long as these insects will grow in length as they age. Millipedes are black or brown, although the red ones may have more of a rust or reddish-brown color.
The bodies of millipedes are long and worm-like with numerous body segments. Millipedes use those body segments for movement, doing so in a wave-like pattern. Despite the presence of between two and four leg pairs for each body segment, these can be incredibly hard to see when you view the millipede from above. The majority of the life of a millipede is spent in soil, which is where they spend the winter. During the spring, a millipede will lay 20 to 300 eggs within the soil. These hatch in a few weeks. When young, millipedes only have fewer than seven segments and three pairs of legs. They then add more legs and segments with every molt. Depending on the millipede species, they will reach sexual maturity at between two and five years.
Why Millipedes Are Considered Pests
It is important to note that millipedes do not sting or bite. They can, however, cause irritation in other ways. Specifically, millipedes will secrete a substance that is sticky when they are scared. This substance can lead to an allergic reaction in humans, making these pests that could potentially send you to the hospital. The other significant way in which millipedes are considered pests is the fact that they can appear in very large numbers. When there are many millipedes in a home, it is natural to be concerned. No one wants insects in their home as it is typically linked to a lack of sanitation and associated with some social stigma.
Methods for Controlling Millipedes
Any professional pest control company will suggest that you start your millipede removal efforts by getting rid of areas that these insects like to hide, both inside and outside of the home. They will point out some of the most common hiding spots to homeowners, which can include garbage piles, compost piles, leaf piles, rocks, and boards. Professionals will also suggest that you physically block off the millipede’s methods of getting into the home. This includes inspecting the home for cracks or gaps in the foundation or near it plus any gaps by windows and doors. Following the inspection, you need to seal up these gaps.
In the case of millipedes that are proving to be serious pests and will not go away, professionals can apply a pesticide. The first step is to apply this around the building’s foundation outside the home. It should also be applied by the windows and doors. This pesticide application can provide temporary millipede control. Chemical pesticides can include sprays as well as dusts. You can also have professionals apply pesticides to other areas outside the home that encourage millipedes. This includes any heavily-thatched turf areas and mulched flower beds as both may be nesting sites of millipedes. In the case of situations with heavy migration of millipede, experts are likely to suggest at least one follow-up treatment.
It is best to leave the application of pesticides to professionals due to the risks involved with coming into contact with them. Additionally, experts will know which plants can be damaged by pesticides and be able to avoid flowering plants where useful pollinators may visit. When using pesticides indoors, it is crucial that you select one designed for indoor use and take similar safety precautions. A pest control professional can apply the pesticide and let you know what precautions you need to take, especially with pets and kids. Indoor pesticides will be applied to baseboards, focusing on cracks and crevices. You can also apply contact sprays to millipedes directly to kill them.
DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Millipedes
Some elements of DIY methods for controlling millipedes overlap with professional suggestions. These include removing millipede hiding spots from around your home and sealing up gaps or cracks that can allow them entry. To further remove hiding spots for millipedes, ensure that you keep your yard nice and clean. This includes getting rid of woodpiles and dead plant matter that may be attracting the insects. You should also work to remove additional moisture from the property since millipedes are attracted to moisture. To get rid of moisture, check for leaks, both inside and outside. If your home is very humid, consider investing in a dehumidifier or two. Outside, check your gutters to ensure they are not blocked as blockages can lead to a buildup of moisture.
There are also numerous natural methods that have varying degrees of effectiveness at dealing with millipedes. If you enjoy animals and have been thinking about getting chickens, getting these animals will help as they will peck at the millipedes they spot. Of course, that solution is not ideal for most homeowners. You can also try to use some cayenne pepper by spreading it by the entry points of your home. Or try using sulfur or boric acid. Just remember to be careful with boric acid around young children and pets. Another natural option is diatomaceous earth as this will scorch and dehydrate insects that come into contact with it. Since dehydration of millipedes is likely to kill them, this makes it a very good method.
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