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Centipedes and Millipedes Home Lawn Pests

Mike's Pest Control Library

Centipedes and millipedes are not insects because they have more than six legs, but they are closely related invertebrates. When outdoors, these invertebrates are innocuous organisms, but they may be considered pests when they share living space with us.


Centipedes

centipede

Centipedes are sometimes called "hundred-leggers" because of their many pairs of legs. They are long elongate, flattened, and wormlike, usually yellowish to dark brown, sometimes with darker stripes or markings, with 15 to 177 pairs of legs - 1 pair per segment. Even though centipedes are predaceous and therefore beneficial, most people consider them a nuisance pest.

Some species can inflict a painful bite, but it is not lethal. All centipedes have poison jaws with which they inject venom to kill their prey. If handled roughly, some of the larger species can break the human skin, resulting in a bite which causes some pain and swelling, something like a bee sting. However, the large Scolopendra can inflict a very painful bite and should be handled with great care.

Centipedes are typically found in areas of high moisture such as loose bark, in rotting logs, under stones, trash, piles of leaves and grass clippings, flower-bed mulch, etc., where their typical prey is found.

Although they may be found anywhere in a house, usual places are damp basements, bathrooms, damp closets, and potted plants. Eliminating moisture areas is the key method of prevention. Remove leaves, grass clippings, logs, stones and rocks from around foundation. Provide adequate ventilation in crawl spaces de-humidify basements. Vacuum living quarters frequently, especially around baseboards and cracks and crevices areas, behind kitchen appliances.

Millipedes

millipede

Millipedes are sometimes called "thousand-leggers", but they usually have 30-90+ pairs of legs, usually blackish or brownish but some red, orange, or with mottled patterns. Members of several millipede groups give off an ill-smelling, repugnant fluid through openings along the sides of the body. In some species, this fluid contains hydrocyanic acid, iodine, and quinone, which is toxic to some arthropods and small animals. It can cause vesicular dermatitis (small blisters) in humans.

They are typically found in areas of high moisture and decaying vegetation such as under trash, piles of grass clippings, flower-bed mulches, leaf litter, etc. As with other occasional invaders, reduction of moisture areas inside and outside will help discourage millipedes from moving in.

Mow the lawn closely and edge it to promote quicker drying. Remove debris such as leaves, rotting vegetation, heavy mulch, wood, rocks from around foundation. Store firewood up off the ground away from the house. Ventilate crawl spaces and basements to reduce sheltered hiding places. Water lawns early in the morning to allow the grass time to dry during the day. Millipedes within the home can be easily vacuumed up and the vacuum bag discarded.


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