Millipedes by the Millions
By George Giltner, Advanced Master Gardener
With wet weather or drought, the “Invasion of Millipedes” is the concern of the season with housekeepers. They sneak into homes, shops, garages, and onto porches by the hundreds. Even on sidewalks large numbers are crunched on the way inside. These invaders can cause stains and odors, but otherwise they are harmless nuisances.
Millipedes live off of decaying plant material. Also they require moist environments, but not wet. These two facts give helpful hints for control measures. Move compost and decaying leaves away from dwelling sides and walk borders. Trim long blades of grass to allow the soil to dry quicker. Trim trees and shrubbery to allow for wind circulation to penetrate and dry vegetation and soil. Extend water runoff drains away from dwellings, and slope the soil for good yard drainage.
Check your home for entry-point cracks, crevices, and moist areas. Millipedes are most active at night, therefore a flashlight search before bedtime may allow you to locate how they are getting into your house.
Vacuums and brooms are good tools for removal, but shop vacs are the best.
Diatomaceous earth can be applied with a small duster to discovered cracks and crevices. This material is the sharp edge skeletal remains of diatoms. It functions as a chitin-cutting medium like ground glass. Insects and millipedes are cut and eventually die from desiccation. Another cutting material is crystalline of Boric Acid. Not only does it cut insects and lead to dehydration, but it is also a stomach poison for them.
Another unconventional way to rid of millipedes is to bring in the birds, as many species of birds are seed and invertebrate feeders (worms, millipedes, etc.). A bird feeder will usually bring in local species, and they are fun to watch. If you really want to wipe out millipedes within an area, bring in the big guns, chickens. A movable pen will keep the heavy feeding chickens contained and focused in a confined space.
The last means of control to try is the chemical option. Numerous pesticides can be purchased in stores from “Sevin” to “Bug-be-Gone”. Following and reading instructions is extremely important. Probably the last thing you would want to do is have these agents tracked into the home and trapped in carpeting. Once in carpet, it is nearly impossible to remove pesticides. Unforeseen consequences of chemical exposures are sometimes not recognized until years later.