- Colour Black, dark brown, shiny reddish
- Size From 1.5 cm to 8 cm long
- Description Have hard, cord-like bodies made up of multiple segments with two pair of legs on each segment.
- Notes Some have almost 100 legs, but because they are so closely arranged, millipedes tend to move slowly, with their legs pushing in a wave-like pattern.
How to identify Millipedes
Millipedes have hard, cord-like bodies made up of multiple segments; each segment has a pair of legs. Because of their many pairs of closely arranged legs, millipedes tend to move slowly, with their legs pushing in a wave-like pattern. When alarmed, millipedes coil up in a tight spiral shape. Size varies greatly by species, with the smallest millipedes measuring about 2 cm in length. While tropical millipedes may measure as long as 30 cm, most Canadian millipede species only reach a length of about 8 cm. Most millipedes are entirely black, though some species may appear dark brown or reddish. They have short but visible antennae made up of 7 segments.
Often confused with centipedes, millipedes have two pair of legs on each body segment, whereas centipedes have one pair per segment. Millipedes are also more rounded in shape. Additionally the millipede travels much slower than the rapid-moving centipede.
Signs of an infestation
Millipedes sometimes take residence in the basements of homes. Needing ample moisture for survival, the arthropods usually die of dehydration a day or two after entering. Homeowners typically notice infestations by finding the hard, shell-like remnants of dead millipedes.
How to prevent Millipedes from invading
Keep basements clean, dry, and free of clutter, Seal exterior cracks and crevices. Look for hard, shell-like remnants.
Habitat, Diet, and Life Cycle
Millipedes are ground-dwelling arthropods that live outdoors and thrive in dark habitats with plenty of moisture. Known to feed on decaying plant matter, millipedes often reside directly within sources of food, like piles of leaf litter or rotting logs. The arthropods also commonly burrow in areas where soil stays moist, like under rocks or piles of mulch.
Mostly detritivorous, millipedes feed on decomposing organic matter, such as leaf litter and dead wood. Millipedes play an important role in the natural cycles by helping to break down plant matter after it has undergone microbial decomposition. In the absence of decaying material, millipedes may feed on the delicate roots of seedlings or ripening fruit lying on the ground.
Female millipedes deposit sticky clusters of hundreds of eggs in cavities found in soil and other decaying organic substances. Young millipedes hatch from the eggs with three pairs of legs and then experience numerous molting stages. After each molt, the number of segments and legs increases. Typically, millipedes experience seven to 10 molts before reaching adulthood, which may take a course of about two to five years depending on the species. After reaching adulthood, millipedes tend to live for another three or four years.
Commonly Asked Questions
How worried should I be about millipedes?
Millipedes play an important role in ecosystem, helping to break down plant matter, but can damage sprouting seeds, seedlings, and ripening fruit.
When alarmed or handled, millipedes coil up in a tight spiral shape and emit toxic chemicals, which can result in millipede burn. Symptoms include skin irritation, brown staining of the skin, blistering, and itching or burning of the skin.
Millipedes don’t usually visit in numbers requiring pest control, but if your home is overwhelmed, you’ll need the help of professional pest control services.
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