Have you seen these pesky crawling millipedes in house, and you are curious to know about them? Keep reading this article to know some interesting facts about these creatures.
Scientists have named these insects millipedes, and they have been centering many scientific research for several years. With large size segmented bodies and many legs, they are very different from other animals.
In this article, we’ll deep dive into the long list of interesting facts about millipedes, exploring everything from their biology to their behavior.
What are millipedes?
Millipedes are members of the class Diplopoda, and their scientific name is arthropods. They are notoriously famous for their segmented body and long and numerous legs.
They can be found in different types of habitats, such as forests, deserts, and grasslands. But they are commonly found in damp or humid environments.
Moreover, they play a vital role in balancing the cycle of the ecosystem.
Are millipedes insects?
Millipedes are a member of the class Diplopoda, and scientists do not consider them in the class of insects.
On the other hand, insects belong to the class of Insecta and do not have more than 6 legs, while millipedes have several legs.
Apparently, millipedes’ body is also different from insects. Millipedes’ have a segmented body with a head, thorax, and abdomen.
On the contrary, insects have a head, thorax, and abdomen that are fused together. Typically, their source of food is dead plant material.
How many legs do millipedes have?
Millipedes are viral and scary because they have so many legs, typically between 80 and 400 legs.
They have a segmented body, and each segment has two pairs of legs.
They used these legs to move fast and efficiently through any environment and conditions.
Are millipedes dangerous (venomous)?
Although millipedes look scary because of so many legs on their body, but they are not dangerous or venomous at all.
They are not harmful to humans, so you do not need to worry about their presence around you.
They do not bite humans because their food source is dead plant material. Even they play a vital role in the ecosystem by breaking down these dead plants.
However, a few species of millipedes have developed a venomous liquid that they release on the skin or in the eyes to defend themselves from the attacker.
This liquid can cause severe irritation in the eyes of an attacker.
What do millipedes look like?
Apparently, millipedes are not attractive insects. They have long-segmented bodies of dark color.
Each segment has two pairs of legs, giving them between 80 and 400 legs.
Also, they have a small head with two antennas which they use to find the exact location.
They cover their body with small size scales and plates.
Their appearance is similar to worms; their size can vary from a few millimeters to over 30 centimeters.
There are some species of millipedes with a spiral appearance which they have developed to scare their predators.
They have been found in various habitats, such as forests, deserts, and grasslands.
Types of millipedes
There are more than 12,000 different species of millipedes that have been discovered yet.
They are characterized by their body size and the number of segments on their body. Apart from the different number of legs, each millipede species has unique characteristics and features.
Some of the most common millipedes are the giant millipede, the flat-backed millipede, and the common millipede.
Common millipedes appear reddish-brown, and their body size can grow up to 2 inches in length.
While the body length of the giant millipedes can grow up to 10 inches, they are considered the largest millipedes. They are present in abundance in the regions of Africa.
On the other hand, the flat-backed millipedes are shorter in size, and their appearance is usually black or dark brown in color and found in Europe.
Where do millipedes come from?
There are over 12,000 different species of millipedes, and they can be found around the globe on all continents because they have developed themselves to live in any environmental conditions.
Usually, they are found in damp environments, including forests, gardens, and fields. A few have learned to survive in severe conditions such as deserts and other arid regions.
Scientists have discovered millipedes originated in the Carboniferous period, over 300 million years ago.
Do millipedes bite?
If you are scared of millipedes around you, stay relaxed because they don’t have jaws that allow them to bite, so millipedes cannot bite human skin.
But they have an extra pair of legs at each body segment to defend themselves against predators. Some of them secrete a noxious fluid on the bodies of their predators, which can irritate the skin or eyes.
Are millipedes poisonous to dogs?
Generally, millipedes are not poisonous to dogs, but some have developed a noxious fluid that is secret from their bodies if they feel threatened.
This fluid can irritate the skin of the do if it comes in contact with it. If a dog accidentally ingests this fluid, it can cause a mild stomach upset.
But if your dog ingests many millipedes, it may experience severe symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea.
How do millipedes reproduce?
Male millipedes make a sexual connection with female millipedes, which lay eggs to reproduce. Females lay eggs in damp areas or leaf litter.
Usually, females lay eggs in clusters and cover eggs with a protective coating to protect them from predators.
Then females provide warm conditions to these eggs for hatching.
After hatching, young millipedes come out of the eggs and undergoes a series of molts to grow large in size and add more segments and legs to their body.
The total number of segments depends on the body size of a species, and they can increase from 14 segments to as many as 100.
What do millipedes eat?
Naturally, millipedes are considered decomposers. So, they eat dead plant materials to grow and stay alive.
They utilize several legs to shred and chew on leaves, bark, and other plant debris. Some of them also eat fungi and other microorganisms present in the soil.
A few consume small invertebrates, such as insects and earthworms, to feed and grow.
They are considered important members of the ecosystem because they help break down dead plant material and turn them into essential nutrients for the soil.
How long do millipedes live?
During the history of hundreds of years, millipedes have learned to live in a variety of environmental conditions.
They have developed a noxious liquid in their body, which they use against their predators to protect themselves.
That’s why millipedes can live for a long period. Their average life span is recorded as 5-7 years which is more than other insects.
Moreover, a few species can stay alive for up to 10 years. This life span completely depends on food sources, environmental conditions, and predation.
Why do I have millipedes in my house?
The ideal living conditions for millipedes are damp and humid environments which attract them to your house.
Usually, they can be found in your basement, crawl spaces, and other damp areas of homes.
Organic matter, such as leaf litter and mulch, are their food sources that attract millipedes to your home.
If these food sources are abundant in your home, you’ll surely find millipedes as guests. Moreover, millipedes are attracted to light, and you can often see them crawling around porch lights or other exterior lights.
Millipedes vs centipedes
Millipedes and centipedes look very similar and are often confused by their appearance with each other.
They belong to the same group of arthropods, but their class is different. Millipedes belong to the class Diplopoda, and centipedes belong to Chilopoda.
As they belong to the same group of insects, they both have many legs, but the key difference is the number of legs per body segment.
Centipedes have only one pair of legs, while millipedes have two pairs of legs. Another major difference between both is that centipedes are carnivores and millipedes are herbivores.
Their moving speeds can also differentiate between both as millipedes are typically slower-moving and less aggressive than centipedes despite their double number of legs per body segment.
Are millipedes bad for plants?
Millipedes are herbivorous and do not eat plants. So that is not bad for plants. But their abundance in a garden or greenhouse can create problems.
They can destroy the garden and greenhouse by damaging and eating young seedlings. They can also become red alert for indoor plant environments because they eat the roots of plants.
Apart from these harms, their presence can also increase soil productivity by breaking down dead plants and returning nutrients to the soil.
Will vinegar kill millipedes?
No doubt millipedes are harmless to humans, but the presence of these pesky insects in dark areas of your home, such as the basement and garden, can be scary and fearful.
They do not harm your households because they eat dead plant materials and return necessary nutrients to your garden soil.
But even then, if you want to eliminate them and think of using vinegar to kill them, will it kill millipedes?
The answer is yes. Vinegar is a highly acidic liquid that can damage the exoskeleton of millipedes and eventually can kill them.
However, it is suggested not to rely on vinegar completely and also plan more effective ways to kill millipedes.
Moreover, vinegar can also harm other beneficial insects and damage plants. So before using vinegar, search for other less harmful methods to kill millipedes, such as vacuuming or using diatomaceous earth.
What eats millipedes?
Although millipedes have adopted effective defencing weapons against predators, several predators can easily prey on and eat them as their food source.
In the long list, the few most common are birds, lizards, and beetles.
In the birds’ group, thrushes and blackbirds usually eat millipedes, and in lizards, geckos and skinks hunt them and eat them to stay alive.
A few species of beetles, such as rove beetles, are also often prey for millipedes and consider them their food source.
Spiders are not less than anyone and certain species of spiders such as the wolf spider and the brown recluse spider, eat millipedes, grow and stay alive.
Additionally, parasitic wasps also depend upon millipedes as a source of food.
They lay eggs on the body of millipedes, and when these eggs hatch, the larvae eat the millipedes’ bodies until they are ready to become pupate.
How to get rid of millipedes?
If you are scared of these many legs insects crawling in your home and want to get rid of them, the following are the most effective ways to kill them and eliminate them from your living areas:
Vacuum: A vacuum cleaner is a first and most convenient way to eliminate them. Use a vacuum at high pressure with a crevice extension and target the tight spaces and corners where they hide and infest.
After cleaning them, empty the vacuum bag or canister at a dump away from your home to prevent millipedes from crawling back home.
Diatomaceous earth: It is a natural pesticide made of fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms. You can also use it to kill millipedes.
It dehydrates them and which finally leads them to death. It works very effectively without damaging the surrounding environment.
Remove moisture: Damp conditions are the most favorable living conditions for millipedes. So, if you dry your garden and stop the water supply, they’ll surely leave your garden or will die there.
Millipedes are small crawling insects with many legs that can scare your soul. But they are harmless and do not bite humans because they eat dead plant materials to grow and stay alive.
Surprisingly, their lifespan is longer than common insects and elongates up to 10 years, depending upon the species.
Although they have one pair of legs per body segment to prevent themselves from predators, even then, birds, lizards, and beetles can hunt them and eat them. Suppose you want to eliminate them from your home.
In that case, you can adopt a few preventive measures, such as using a vacuum, using Diatomaceous earth, and removing moisture from your garden and basement.
If none of them work effectively, use pesticides to kill them.