About centipedes and millipedes

Published on Saturday, 5 July 2014 23:06 - Written by Chad Gulley Smith County Extension Agent

Centipedes and millipedes are members of the myriapoda subphylum of arthropods which means “many legs.” A majority of these creatures live in humid, moist environments and can commonly be found in soil, leaf litter, and under rocks or wood.

Centipedes and millipedes do not transmit diseases to plants, animals or humans. They are mostly a nuisance rather than a destructive pest. Millipedes can occasionally damage seedling plants by feeding on the stem and leaves. Large centipedes may bite that may cause some discomfort.

Centipedes are wormlike with flattened bodies. Centipedes range in color from gray to red to greenish blue. Centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment. Most centipedes in Texas are relatively small but some species of centipedes can reach more than nine inches long. Centipedes feed on insects and spiders.

Centipedes can live from one to six years. They overwinter as adults, and then lay eggs during the spring. Centipedes may be seen inside the house where dampness occurs such as closets, bathrooms, or areas under homes. Centipedes are nocturnal and seek their prey at night.

Millipedes have two pair of legs per body segment. Their bodies are cylindrical instead of flattened. Millipedes in Texas are brown in color but can range from red to yellow to orange. Millipedes often curl up in a spiral to protect themselves when disturbed. Millipedes when handled can produce an irritating fluid. Millipedes feed on decomposing organic matter.

Millipedes may live more than 10 years. They lay their eggs in soil and prefer cool, moist environments like flower beds and compost piles. Millipedes may move into the home after heavy rainfall or during periods of drought.

To prevent centipedes and millipedes from entering the home, move objects providing harborage such as compost piles, firewood, and stones away from structures. Seal any accessible areas around the home that may give access especially around windows and doors. Turning the mulch in flower beds allowing it to dry out may prevent centipedes and millipedes from entering the home.

In heavy infestations, perimeter sprays around the building’s foundation may help keep centipedes and millipedes from moving indoors. Spray around doorways and other crawl spaces to prevent them from entering the home. There are products that can be used as a perimeter spray around the home.

Educational programs of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information or veteran status.