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They come in a variety of colors, but most of the species found inside homes are gray to dark gray, almost black.
A millipede is an arthropod in the class known as Diplopoda. Their most famous characteristic is their large number of body segments and their attached pairs of legs. They are long insects and their name in Latin translates into “thousand feet.” Despite the name, most millipedes have around 20 body segments and the most legs ever recorded on one is 750. They range in size from as small as 2mm to 14 inches in length.
There is often confusion between millipedes and centipedes, but there are differences between the species. Centipedes are generally flat and brown with long legs. Millipedes are cylindrical and have many segments with short legs. Centipedes eat other insects, while millipedes generally eat plant matter, particularly decaying plant matter and dead leaves. Centipedes tend to move quite fast, while millipedes are slower. Centipedes can be poisonous and even bite humans, while millipedes are not and are harmless to humans.
Generally millipedes prefer to live outdoors. They feed off of plant matter and they thrive in forests, lawns, trees and gardens. Although they are harmless to people as far as their bites are concerned, they can do some harm to plants and vegetables in gardens. They will get inside homes, of course, and can be found in almost any room. Homes are not their first preference.
Plants. They are particularly fond of dead and decaying plants. If you have piles of dead leaves on your property there’s a good chance you could find millipedes in them. If you are a gardener you might also find them on the leaves of the plants grown there. They might also be eating the plants and too many could cause damage to your garden.
Generally speaking, no. Their do not have mouth parts for biting people or even other insects. In fact, a millipede is more likely to be the prey of other insects that attacking anything. They have mouth parts designed for eating plants. Even though some parts of the world have very large millipede species, even they are not likely to bite people.
Millipedes are found all over the world except for the frozen continent of Antarctica. They are generally forest dwellers and prefer areas that are humid and full of moisture. Some species even behave in swarming behaviors. They will be found on forest floors and in soil, dead wood, leaves or plants. Female millipedes can lay anywhere from ten to three hundred eggs. When their young hatch they usually have only three pairs of legs and some legless segments. When the grow they molt which adds more segments and legs.
Generally, no, they are not poisonous. However, there are some species that secrete a substance that can cause itching, blisters or some minor pain to people. This is entirely a defense mechanism to ward off predators who want to eat them. If humans get this substance on their skin, the best solution is to wash the area with water and perhaps using creams to alleviate itching.
They can be found just about anywhere, but they prefer warm, damp areas. That means they could be found in bathrooms and basements. They are also likely to be around clumps of dead plants and leaves that pile up against houses. You are most likely to find them outside in bushes, trees and in the garden.
Millipedes fall into the classification of “occasional invaders.” They are called that because they are not generally found inside homes on a consistent basis. Sometimes, you might find them in the house and during certain times of the year and in certain climates, they might be there in abundance. Doors with sweeps and sealed cracks beneath garage doors can prevent them from entering the home. Making sure that leaves are not piled up against the house during the fall months and making sure vegetation is kept away from the home as much as possible will also help prevent millipede invasions.
Homeowners can also help prevent return invasions with liquid residual pesticides, baits or dusts. Make sure to read the entire label prior to use and follow all the label directions, restrictions, and precautions.
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