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Coming Up for Air
We’ve been getting lots of calls at the Extension office about home invasions. “I’ve got these long, skinny, crunchy bugs all over my patio, bathroom, sun room, etc.” Even the community development agent and 4-H volunteersknow the answer by now – garden millipedes. They’ve got them, too!
Technically, they aren’t insects or bugs but rather belong in the class Diplopoda – two feet. Each body segment on a millipede has two legs, which is good as centipedes, Chilopoda, one pair of legs at each segment, are meat eaters and disable their prey with poison injected from glands near their head. Millipeds, whose only defensive is to coil up and emit a slightly disagreeable odor, feed on decaying matter and couldn’t bite if they wanted to.
As millipedes are moving around at the soil interface, when everything is super saturated by rain, they go to higher ground. They can easily find ways to get into your house and then can’t find their way back out. Just pick them up and toss them outside or you can sweep them into the dust pan. If you really, really have a lot, it might be worthwhile to get out the vacuum cleaner.
A normal “piece” of soil is half solids and half pore spaces. Under ideal conditions, some of those pore spaces are filled with water and other contain ambient air that moves into the soil from above. Almost all macro and microorganisms that have a close relationship with the soil need oxygen to survive so moles, fire ants, earthworms, and insects move towards the surface when it rains incessantly. Poor old earthworms get confused and crawl on wet pavement and often get dried out and fried when the sun finally breaks through.
There is absolutely no reason whatsoever to use pesticides on garden millipedes. They are slow moving and can quickly be picked, swept, or sucked up. Some fact sheets say to be sure that your doors are well sealed at the bottom. Since we have a hole in our bathroom floor where Eliza Frezil let water sit for a week while we were on vacation and mushroom erupted, eventually leaving a gap in the wood, I don’t think worrying about door seals at the 120 year old “new” old house would help matters much. And compared to mosquitoes, millipedes are a blessing in disguise.
As soon as things dry out, and it will probably be sooner rather than later, we’ll be back to normal --- hot, dry, and praying for rain.