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Millipedes in my garage

By Chris Williams on February 24, 2016.

NarceusAmericanusMillipedeAfter several years of attending company outings/holiday parties at my wife’s place of employment, her colleagues know that I’m a ‘bug guy’, so quite often specimens will show up at her desk with notes like, ‘hey, could you have your husband take a look at these”? “I found them in my garage” or in my sweater drawer or whatever.  I got one such delivery yesterday with a note something like have not had a fly problem but found these ‘maggots’ in my garage.  What were these maggots? Well as it turns out they were not the legless off white colored things we usually associate with feeding off an animal carcass, but rather these were dark colored, cylindrical shaped creatures with lots and lots of legs.  Yes, they were millipedes.  Now I’m not sure if they were alive when collected or not. (they don’t survive long in dry conditions) They may have just been noted while cleaning the garage.  What are millipedes anyway?  Well, because they have more than six legs, they’re not insects.  They are not in the Arachnid class either (spiders, scorpions, etc.) they are their own class in the arthropod world known as Diplopoda.  These unique creatures have two pairs of legs on all but their first three body segments.  That is up to 375 pairs on some of the longer species!  Not quite one thousand legs as their nickname (thousand leggers) suggests, but 750 is a lot of legs!!  According to the bugguide.net (used here for reference) less than ten thousand species have been described worldwide, but there maybe many thousands more yet to be discovered.  How do millipedes make their living? Around the home typically live in moist, protected sites like mulch, beneath rocks or other objects.  They feed on ‘dead plant’ material (i.e. leaf litter, perennials that dieback etc.,) helping to decompose and re-cycle it.  Though millipedes are not usually a major pest issue, from time to time they do invade indoors, and often-in large numbers.  This migratory behavior supposedly coincides following periods of rainy weather, but I’m not so sure about that.  I have one client that has gotten invaded regularly for the past five seasons at just about the driest point of the summer.  What makes this behavior even more strange is that the homeowners do not have a lot of heavy shade (which would raise humidity) around the structure, they don’t use organic mulch like shredded bark but rather crushed stone instead, and they also recently did extensive modifications to the basement to make it completely dry.  They’d done everything they could to discourage them from thriving around the outdoors and yet dozens of them invaded. Ultimately they solved their problem by selling the house! Lol.  A recent client has had trouble with millipedes invading his garage, but his case is much more explainable due to some faulty construction where water seeps in under the garage door.  I pointed out the mold growth on the concrete that was attracting millipedes to enter and feed.  Eventually the puddle recedes and dries up and the millipedes perish because they require high humidity to survive.  Oh well, if there is any upside at all to these kinds of incidences, it’s that millipedes are merely a nuisance and completely harmless.  Break out the vacuum cleaner and you should be all set!

Photo Credit : By Randal J. (RJFerret) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5

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