Millipedes are familiar garden creatures. They can be found in your garden beds, vegetable patch, or in the compost heap. They do not generally move into your house as they feed on decomposing organic material, which is not usually found indoors. Instead, they are often found in a greenhouse or garden setting, eating decaying leaves and dead plant matter.
Millipedes are regarded as good and bad creatures in the garden. Considered to be a minor garden pest by some gardeners, they feed on young plants and seedlings but are not harmful to established plants. In addition, they break down the contents of your compost pile, making them a beneficial animal.
Millipedes have survived for over four hundred million years, making them one of the oldest land animals! Fortunately, the modern-day millipede will only grow to lengths of around 6 inches (15cm), unlike its prehistoric ancestor, which could grow to lengths of up to 6 ½ feet (2 meters) long! Being vegetarians, they live amongst plant life in your garden or anywhere where there is a suitable food source.
Do Millipedes Hurt Gardens?
The name “millipede” means “a thousand feet,” but this does not mean that a millipede actually has a thousand legs! If so, there would be a massive infestation of giant creatures in your garden! An adult millipede can only have up to 200 legs, two pairs per body segment.
The only damage that a millipede can do to your garden is by eating your plants, not by trampling them. They are moisture-seeking animals who love humid environments and will happily feed on decaying matter or dead plants in your garden.
Only if their primary food source has run out will they move on to your living plants as a food source. If the soil dries out, they will eat roots to get the moisture they require to survive, so they can be destructive as they will also eat seeds and younger seedlings.
Some millipede species are carnivores and will feed on smaller insects, earthworms, and snails, making them a great addition to your garden by controlling the insect population. If you only have a few millipedes living in your garden, take advantage of them by allowing them to stay and control the other unwanted destructive pests which are living in your garden!
Millipeds are considered to be a beneficial organism and not a garden pest. If you are growing an organic garden, millipedes should be welcomed!
Are Millipedes Dangerous?
Millipedes are not aggressive; they do not bite, nor do they use venom to subdue prey. Instead, they are scavengers, classed detritivores, meaning they exist on the organic matter made up of dead plant and animal material.
Some millipede species have specialized mouthparts that allow them to pierce certain plants and suck out the plant sap.
To defend themselves, millipedes will secrete a foul-smelling fluid from their stink glands that can irritate your skin, resulting in an allergic reaction in some people.
The same fluid which can cause reactions on human skin is used as a toxin which the millipede can spray for up to 32 inches (80cm) to repel predators like spiders and insects.
A millipede cannot outrun its predators. So, they coil up into a tight spiral when they feel threatened, protecting their soft underbellies and spraying the toxin to repel attackers.
To get rid of the millipede smell once the toxic fluid has been sprayed, prepare a mixture of vinegar or baking soda and water and spray it onto the area vacated by the millipedes. Leave the spray to soak over the area for about one hour, then spray off with clean water.
How Do I Identify Millipeds In My Garden?
Although millipedes are a common garden creature known to many gardeners throughout the world, they are often confused with the common garden centipede. This is because the two animals are very similar.
What’s the difference between centipedes and millipedes?
- The millipede has very short antennae compared to the longer antennae of the centipede.
- The millipede has two separate pairs of legs per body segment, which are in line with the body and is a slow walker.
- The centipede has just one pair of legs on each body segment which extends from the sides of the body and is a fast runner.
- The millipede is generally brown to black with a hard, rounded, cylindrical body
- The centipede is usually a yellowish-grey color with shades of brown and red.
- The millipede does not bite and is a scavenger.
- The centipede is a predator and will bite its prey.
- The millipede will curl up into a spiral when threatened and discharge a stinky fluid designed to chase away predators.
- The centipede will run away from predators and inject venom into its prey.
Getting to know the differences between the two animals and learning how to identify them correctly will save you, the gardener, time and effort when deciding which creature is beneficial in which environment.
If you do have an infestation of either of these two creatures, it’s better to know which one is more likely to cause more harm in your garden and how to eliminate the problem correctly.
Why Do I Have Millipedes In My Garden?
Millipedes will arrive in your garden if you offer them an excellent food source, water, and a place to shelter. They are crawlers who don’t like the light and prefer to stay in dark, damp, outdoor areas. In your garden, you will find them in the flower garden or vegetable patch underneath leaves, grass trimmings, old boards, stones, and rocks, and in your compost pile.
If you do find millipedes inside your home, they will be looking for water during outdoor dry patches or looking for shelter due to heavy rain destroying their natural habitat outdoors.
They are attracted by moisture as a place to lay eggs. Often, the mother millipede uses her own feces (which are only recycled plant materials) to build a protective nest for the eggs, or she will push soil with her hind legs to mold one.
The female millipede can lay up to 100 eggs or more. It will take roughly a month or so for the eggs to hatch, which means that you could have an infestation lasting over a few months, depending on how many females have already laid their eggs in your garden!
How Do You Control Millipedes In A Garden?
As millipedes can be beneficial to your garden, there should be no need to eliminate them altogether unless they are causing damage to your plants. However, there are ways that you can remove them from your garden if they become too populous, and there are safe ways to prevent them from returning once removed.
If you wish to go the commercial pesticide route, be sure to either call in the professionals or use products that contain the following chemicals to ensure the total elimination of the millipedes. Be sure always to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the packet, use protective gear before handling the chemicals, and only use pesticides when absolutely necessary.
- Carbaryl and Propoxur. Man-made pesticides used to control outdoor pests. Commercially sold under the brand names Baygon and Sevin as sprays, dust, granules, and water-soluble packages, the poison enters the creature’s nervous system and shuts down its core muscles, causing death. Not a safe chemical around children and pets, so keep far away from their play areas.
- Cyfluthrin. An organic neurotoxin commercially sold under a variety of brand names, including Attatox and Baythroid. Available as sprays, concentrates, powder, and aerosols, mildly toxic to humans. Keep away from areas frequented by children and pets.
- Pyrethrin. A safe, organic pesticide derived from the chrysanthemum, nontoxic to humansand petsbut highly toxic to insects and garden creatures. Available as a powder, it will kill insects almost instantly upon contact.
If you do decide to go the chemical route, remember that you will be introducing toxins into the environment unnecessarily since millipedes can be easily controlled using organic methods. They are also not detrimental enough to your garden to warrant the use of dangerous chemicals. If you want to garden using organic principles, it would be better to find a more natural remedy to your millipede problem.
Follow our comprehensive tips on how to naturally eradicate millipedes from your garden and for safe ways to prevent them from returning.
How To Repel Millipedes
By removing hiding places and replacing them with a neat, tidy area, you will keep all sorts of unwanted pests and critters at bay! In addition, reducing moisture levels and increasing airflow in your garden areas will prevent millipedes from moving in and staying.
You may need to use different combinations of techniques to get rid of them, but by practicing good yard-keeping habits together with natural repellents and a lot of patience, you should be able to control the number of millipedes in your garden.
To keep millipedes from returning to your garden, try these methods.
- Clear away any clutter from your home and garden that could attract them – piles of stones, firewood, and compost.
- Keep woodpiles lifted above the floor.
- Repair damaged drains, downspouts, and gutters. The damp will attract millipedes.
- Clean up blocked gutters and get rid of old leaves.
- Rake up piles of old leaves and grass cuttings.
- Don’t overwater or over-fertilize your lawn, as this will create an ideal environment for millipedes to breed.
How To Get Rid Of Millipedes Naturally
Other than calling in pest control to eliminate the millipedes using poisons, which is not the organic way to go, there are natural remedies and solutions that you can try.
Try these natural methods for getting rid of millipedes in your garden. Always wear protective gloves and masks when handling powders and sprays.
- Pick them up and remove them when you see them – wear gloves to avoid skin irritations!
- Using a vacuum cleaner, suck them up – this will help with getting rid of eggs.
- Using a broom, sweep the millipedes and eggs into the dustpan and then dump them into a bucket filled with soapy water, which will kill them.
- Sprinkle diatomaceous earth over the area where the millipedes live. They will dehydrate and eventually die.
- Boric acid will upset the digestion of the millipedes leading to death. Because it is so toxic, only sprinkle in areas away from pets and children.
- Wood ash is a natural millipede repellent. Mix into your garden beds to prevent the female from laying eggs in the soil.
- Cayenne pepper sprinkled around the area will repel millipedes and a variety of harmful bugs!
- Sulfur powder is really smelly and repels millipedes instantly! Mix with water and spray around your garden as a natural repellent.
- Spray essential oils like tea tree oil and peppermint oil mixed with water around your garden. Millipeds don’t like the smell of these essential oils.
Never throw millipedes into your trash cans as they will escape and find their way back into your garden! If all else fails, buy chickens! They will eat all the harmful insects in your garden, including millipedes! Chickens eat all sorts of bugs and will keep your garden free and clean of all pests. Check what your local by-laws say to see if you can keep chickens in your backyard. The bonus is fresh organic eggs!
How To Make A Homemade Millipede Trap
A trap is an easy way to catch millipedes to remove them from your garden. The best part about a trap is that you don’t need to constantly check on it to see if any millipedes have been trapped. This handy home remedy saves you time while ridding your garden of any unwanted millipedes.
What do you need to make a homemade millipede trap?
- Vinyl tubing with a diameter large enough to catch the millipede in your garden (6 inches or 15cm) or that fits into the lip of the plastic bottle
- A plastic water bottle
- A piece of ripe fruit for bait
How to make the millipede trap
- Drop the fruit or bait into the bottom of the plastic bottle.
- Slide the tube into the bottle. Make sure that the vinyl tube is flush against the side and tape in place. The tube should not touch either the sides or the bottom of the bottle, preventing the millipede from climbing out.
- Place the bottle leaning on its side, on any surface where you suspect the millipedes to be.
- The millipede will crawl into the bottle down the tube, attracted by the bait, and should not be able to get back out.
- Place a few traps around the infected area to catch as many millipedes as possible.
- Either release the trapped millipedes in a safe space far away from your home or drop them into a bucket of soapy water.
Fun Facts You Don’t Know About Millipeds
As we mentioned earlier in this post, millipedes have been around for centuries. Over the years, many fascinating facts have been uncovered about these common garden animals:
- In Southern Africa, the indigenous people call the millipede “shongololo,” which means to roll up.
- There are about 12 000 different species of millipedes.
- Some millipede species can grow to the size of an adult man’s hand.
- Hornbills use crushed millipedes to line their nests to prevent mite infestations. The toxins released by the millipede keep mites away from the nest.
- Many millipede species have brightly colored arms and legs designed to scare off predators.
- Male millipedes court females with back rubs and songs!
Although considered a pest in some gardens, Millipedes do earn their keep by feeding on your garden litter and keeping unwanted insects away. Millipedes as useful in an organic garden as a natural way to solve creature problems without introducing harmful chemicals into the environment.
Finding millipedes in your garden is a good sign as they will assist in providing healthy soil for your plants. However, if they do get out of hand and there are too many of them to control, there are natural ways to eliminate them and prevent them from returning to your garden.
By taking steps to prevent them from moving into your garden, you can safely control their numbers and ensure that they will be assisting you in your garden and not causing any further work and problems for you.
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