Thursday, July 4, 2013

Millipede - the Bug of the Week

The repeated question during the first week in July had to do with millipedes. Callers to the Helpline reported that millipedes seem to be showing up all over the place outdoors and wanted to know what to do.
What is a millipede?
A millipede is a segmented, wormlike insect found throughout Pennsylvania. It lives under leaves, rocks, boards and other cool, moist places. It is sometimes called a wire worm because of its wire-like shape but it isn't THE wire worm.

Millipedes like cool, damp areas with lots of organic matter
Photo courtesy of Chris Goforth
Millipedes are brown or black and each body segment has two pairs of short legs. They are usually ¼ to 1 inch long. Considered beneficial insects, they feed on damp and decaying vegetable matter, basically recycling organic matter.
Millipedes are 1/4 to 1" long-Photo courtesy of Gerald Darrow

Why are we seeing so many now?
A Penn State Entomological  Report notes that millipedes will migrate from their normal living spots especially following heavy rains and may show up in window wells, basements or other cool damp places. Millipedes usually stay outdoors where the organic material can be found. Occasionally they show up in large numbers but they don’t do damage.

Lots of millipedes - Photo courtesy of Aviad Tsherniak (Flickr)
What can you do?
Millipedes that come inside are there because their GPS is on the fritz. They only live a few days indoors and don’t bite or sting. They are only icky and/or a nuisance indoors and don’t do damage.

If they do come into an indoor area, escort them outside – i.e. vacuum (dump the bag outside immediately after) or sweep them into a dust pan to remove.
They coil up when disturbed or dead- Photo Joseph O'Brien, USDA Forest Service

You can discourage millipedes by eliminating damp hiding places near your house. Remove decaying material, rotting wood, grass and leaves near your foundation.

For more information check these sites

Penn State Entomological Report: Millipedes
Iowa State University: Millipedes
University of California IPM Online: Millipedes and Centipedes

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