Worm inside a millepede

Worm inside a millepede

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I found a dead millipede lying on the ground in Wayand, Kerala (India). I put it in a bottle and brought it home. After around 5 hours a worm came out of it. It is about about 1.5 cm long and segmented. Any idea if its a larva of some sort?

Edit: It's been about five days since I posted the picture of the larva , and it seems to have pupated last night. The pupa is approximately 0.5 cms in length. All that's left is to see what happens next.

Definitely some sort of fly (order Diptera). Specifically, you found the legless larva, or maggot, of a fly that then developed into a pupa.

Source: Univ of Florida IFAS

The above picture represents the life-cycle stages of the common house fly (Musca domestica).

  • M. domestica is one of the most common and widespread flies in the world:

    This common fly originated on the steppes of central Asia, but now occurs on all inhabited continents, in all climates from tropical to temperate, and in a variety of environments ranging from rural to urban. Source

  • According to Wikipedia, M domestic larvae take 2-5 days to metamorphose into a pupa.

Although the OP mentions that a housefly emerged from the pupa, I'll caution the OP that many flies look like house flies to the untrained eye. Houseflies typically deposit their eggs in fecal matter or dead flesh, so finding a maggot deposited into the body of a living millipede seems unlikely behavior from the common house fly. (Edit: Though I see now that the OP said the millipede was dead, so this is not an unlikely candidate).

IF the larva was deposited when the millipede was still alive, then other genera would be more likely.

One example would be a Sarcophagid (or flesh fly; family Sarcophagidae), which some species being known to be internal parasites.

As for proper ID, according to Wikipedia:

Generally, only males of this family can reliably be identified to species, and then only by examination of dissected genitalia. The literature is incomplete or scattered for all regions

Here are some images for a fairly widespread species, Sarcophaga crassipalpis (which is very unlikely to be your species, but demonstrates general appearance of this family):

Source: Univ of Florida IFAS

Your specimen might still belong to another group of flies, the tachinids (family Tachninidae), which very often parasitize other arthropods.

It'd be very difficult to differentiate most of these taxa without up-close examinations of specimens.

Heavy Rains Bring Masses of Millipedes

Recent heavy rains across the state have resulted in invasions of yards and homes by what some might call “worms,” but are in fact arthropods called millipedes. These many-legged creatures are relatives of insects and spiders and, although their presence may be worrisome, the situation is fortunately only a temporary nuisance.

The most important things to note about this situation are:

  • The numerous millipedes you may encounter are not new to a yard, but have been there in the soil, leaf litter, under stones, logs, etc. When heavy rains occur, it saturates these habitats driving out the millipedes. Also note that very dry conditions may cause mass movements of millipedes, because they are similarly avoiding unsuitable habitats.
  • Millipedes are not dangerous to humans or animals (unless they are eaten in large quantities, which I doubt anyone will do…right?). Due to their odor, pets and other animals typically do not eat them. Millipedes can be safely handled by children and are a great animal to help make connections with arthropods and nature (just be sure to wash hands afterward).
  • Chemical controls (i.e., pesticides) are rarely warranted, because after the rains subside the millipedes will go back to their cryptic lifestyles. Patience is the best response, but if they are invading your home they can be swept or vacuumed up and disposed. Note that millipedes cannot survive for long indoors, because our homes are too dry millipedes require some moisture and humidity to thrive, but too much precipitation and flooding can drown them. If they are entering homes it’s also a good time to inspect for routes of entry fixing gaps, shoring up weather stripping and other home maintenance can reduce the number of millipedes making it inside.
  • Millipedes, in general, are decomposers of dead leaves, etc., and are important recyclers out in the environment. Thus they are beneficial. Many also have interesting biologies and some are quite attractive. The most common millipede to crawl around and inside homes is the greenhouse millipede, Oxidus gracilis, a non-native species.

For more information about this phenomenon and a short guide to identifying millipedes and some similar animals, please visit this blog post I wrote some time ago. Also note that heavy rains can cause other arthropods to migrate out of their usual habitats and come in contact with humans, such as ants and springtails.

If you have questions, or need help identifying these critters or evaluating your particular situation, please contact or submit image sample to the NC State Extension Plant Disease and Insect Clinic.


Sowbugs and millipedes

They crawl into homes from the soil and leaf litter, during late summer and fall and occasionally during spring and summer.

In the fall, millipedes and sowbugs seek protected places to overwinter.

If there is excessive rainfall or ground moisture, they may look for areas with less moisture.

Enter through cracks in foundations, around ground-level windows and under doors.

Commonly found in basements.

Rarely seen indoors during winter.

Found indoors in early spring as they emerge from cracks and crevices where they spent the winter.


  • Found in damp conditions and seen inside homes in warm weather.
  • They move indoors during spring and summer and are rarely seen in winter.
  • Move quickly and are usually noticed running across a wall, ceiling or open room toward a dark area.
  • May stop abruptly and remain motionless before they suddenly begin running again.

Centipedes are beneficial predators

  • Feed on small, living creatures such as insects, spiders and other arthropods, like sowbugs and millipedes.
  • Use poison-filled jaws to subdue their prey.

Centipede bites

Bites by a centipede are rare because it is very shy and the jaws are too small to break through human skin.

In case of a bite, some swelling may be seen, but the pain should not be severe.

How to get rid of sowbugs, millipedes and centipedes

Control without using chemicals


Make conditions outside your home unfavorable for sowbugs, millipedes and centipedes.

  • Seal cracks in exterior walls and around doors and windows by late summer.
  • Remove leaf litter and decaying vegetation from around the foundation.
  • Maintain a border of bare soil around the building next to the foundation.
  • Trim and thin foundation planting so that the soil can dry more quickly.
  • Allow the soil near the house to dry between waterings.


Sowbugs and millipedes often die quickly inside homes. If sowbugs or millipedes are frequently found alive, it means there is excess moisture indoors.

  • Remove sowbugs and millipedes with a broom or vacuum cleaner.
  • Set out sticky traps where centipedes are seen. Kill and remove them, when needed.
  • Remove unnecessary boxes, bags and other clutter.
  • Seal behind baseboards and in cracks and crevices where centipedes like to hide.
  • Place a dehumidifier in damp areas to dry the air.
  • Structural repairs may be necessary to the home or yard to ensure dryness.

If you see numerous house centipedes, it means that there are other insects in the home for them to feed on.

  • Keep the number of insects, spiders and other prey under control.
  • Maintain low moisture to reduce centipede numbers.

Try non-chemical control methods before using pesticides.


Apply a liquid pesticide around the building’s foundation in a band to help keep pests out.

Common pesticides available for treating building foundations include: bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin and permathrin.

You can apply a granular pesticide to the perimeter, such as deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin or permethrin.

  • Apply in late summer or early fall.
  • Treatment will be less effective if sites for food and shelter exist near the foundation.


Sowbugs and millipedes often die soon after entering homes and do not need to be treated with pesticides.

Treat centipedes with an appropriate pesticide behind baseboards and in cracks and spaces. Pesticides are not effective if excessive moisture and food supply exists.

Common examples of available pesticides for indoor use include: bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, deltamethrin, esfenvalerate and permethrin.

These pesticides are available as ready-to-use aerosol or liquid forms.

CAUTION: Mention of a pesticide or use of a pesticide label is for educational purposes only. Always follow the pesticide label directions attached to the pesticide container you are using. Remember, the label is the law.


The term "millipede" is widespread in popular and scientific literature, but among North American scientists, the term "milliped" (without the terminal e) is also used. [1] Other vernacular names include "thousand-legger" or simply "diplopod". [2] The science of millipede biology and taxonomy is called diplopodology: the study of diplopods.

Approximately 12,000 millipede species have been described. Estimates of the true number of species on earth range from 15,000 [4] to as high as 80,000. [5] Few species of millipede are at all widespread they have very poor dispersal abilities, depending as they do on terrestrial locomotion and humid habitats. These factors have favoured genetic isolation and rapid speciation, producing many lineages with restricted ranges. [6]

The living members of the Diplopoda are divided into sixteen orders in two subclasses. [3] The basal subclass Penicillata contains a single order, Polyxenida (bristle millipedes). All other millipedes belong to the subclass Chilognatha consisting of two infraclasses: Pentazonia, containing the short-bodied pill millipedes, and Helminthomorpha (worm-like millipedes), containing the great majority of the species. [7] [8]

Outline of classification Edit

The higher-level classification of millipedes is presented below, based on Shear, 2011, [3] and Shear & Edgecombe, 2010 [9] (extinct groups). Recent cladistic and molecular studies have challenged the traditional classification schemes above, and in particular the position of the orders Siphoniulida and Polyzoniida is not yet well established. [5] The placement and positions of extinct groups (†) known only from fossils is tentative and not fully resolved. [5] [9] After each name is listed the author citation: the name of the person who coined the name or defined the group, even if not at the current rank.

Class Diplopoda de Blainville in Gervais, 1844

  • Subclass PenicillataLatreille, 1831
    • Order PolyxenidaVerhoeff, 1934
    • Order †ArthropleuridaWaterlot, 1934
    • Order †EoarthropleuridaShear & Selden, 1995
    • Order †MicrodecemplicidaWilson & Shear, 2000
    • Order †ZosterogrammidaWilson, 2005 (Chilognatha incertae sedis) [9]
    • Infraclass PentazoniaBrandt, 1833
      • Order †AmynilyspedidaHoffman, 1969
      • Superorder LimacomorphaPocock, 1894
        • Order GlomeridesmidaCook, 1895
        • Order GlomeridaBrandt, 1833
        • Order SphaerotheriidaBrandt, 1833
        • Superorder †ArchipolypodaScudder, 1882
          • Order †ArchidesmidaWilson & Anderson 2004
          • Order †CowiedesmidaWilson & Anderson 2004
          • Order †EuphoberiidaHoffman, 1969
          • Order †PalaeosomatidaHannibal & Krzeminski, 2005
          • Order PlatydesmidaCook, 1895
          • Order PolyzoniidaCook, 1895
          • Order SiphonocryptidaCook, 1895
          • Order SiphonophoridaNewport, 1844
          • Superorder Juliformia Attems, 1926
            • Order JulidaBrandt, 1833
            • Order SpirobolidaCook, 1895
            • Order SpirostreptidaBrandt, 1833
            • Superfamily †XyloiuloideaCook, 1895 (Sometimes aligned with Spirobolida) [10]
            • Order CallipodidaPocock, 1894
            • Order ChordeumatidaPocock 1894
            • Order StemmiulidaCook, 1895
            • Order SiphoniulidaCook, 1895
            • Order PolydesmidaPocock, 1887

            Evolution Edit

            Living groups Edit

            The history of scientific millipede classification began with Carl Linnaeus, who in his 10th edition of Systema Naturae, 1758, named seven species of Julus as "Insecta Aptera" (wingless insects). [15] In 1802, the French zoologist Pierre André Latreille proposed the name Chilognatha as the first group of what are now the Diplopoda, and in 1840 the German naturalist Johann Friedrich von Brandt produced the first detailed classification. The name Diplopoda itself was coined in 1844 by the French zoologist Henri Marie Ducrotay de Blainville. From 1890 to 1940, millipede taxonomy was driven by relatively few researchers at any given time, with major contributions by Carl Attems, Karl Wilhelm Verhoeff and Ralph Vary Chamberlin, who each described over 1,000 species, as well as Orator F. Cook, Filippo Silvestri, R. I. Pocock, and Henry W. Brölemann. [5] This was a period when the science of diplopodology flourished: rates of species descriptions were on average the highest in history, sometimes exceeding 300 per year. [4]

            In 1971, the Dutch biologist C. A. W. Jeekel published a comprehensive listing of all known millipede genera and families described between 1758 and 1957 in his Nomenclator Generum et Familiarum Diplopodorum, a work credited as launching the "modern era" of millipede taxonomy. [16] [17] In 1980, the American biologist Richard L. Hoffman published a classification of millipedes which recognized the Penicillata, Pentazonia, and Helminthomorpha, [18] and the first phylogenetic analysis of millipede orders using modern cladistic methods was published in 1984 by Henrik Enghoff of Denmark. [19] A 2003 classification by the American myriapodologist Rowland Shelley is similar to the one originally proposed by Verhoeff, and remains the currently accepted classification scheme (shown below), despite more recent molecular studies proposing conflicting relationships. [5] [9] A 2011 summary of millipede family diversity by William A. Shear placed the order Siphoniulida within the larger group Nematophora. [3]

            Fossil record Edit

            In addition to the 16 living orders, there are 9 extinct orders and one superfamily known only from fossils. The relationship of these to living groups and to each other is controversial. The extinct Arthropleuridea was long considered a distinct myriapod class, although work in the early 21st century established the group as a subclass of millipedes. [20] [21] [22] Several living orders also appear in the fossil record. Below are two proposed arrangements of fossil millipede groups. [5] [9] Extinct groups are indicated with a dagger (†). The extinct order Zosterogrammida, a chilognath of uncertain position, [9] is not shown.

            Relation to other myriapods Edit

            Although the relationships of millipede orders are still the subject of debate, the class Diplopoda as a whole is considered a monophyletic group of arthropods: all millipedes are more closely related to each other than to any other arthropods. Diplopoda is a class within the arthropod subphylum Myriapoda, the myriapods, which includes centipedes (class Chilopoda) as well as the lesser-known pauropods (class Pauropoda) and symphylans (class Symphyla). Within myriapods, the closest relatives or sister group of millipedes has long been considered the pauropods, which also have a collum and diplosegments. [5]

            Distinction from centipedes Edit

            The differences between millipedes and centipedes are a common question from the general public. [23] Both groups of myriapods share similarities, such as long, multi-segmented bodies, many legs, a single pair of antennae, and the presence of postanntennal organs, but have many differences and distinct evolutionary histories, as the most recent common ancestor of centipedes and millipedes lived around 450 to 475 million years ago in the Silurian. [24] The head alone exemplifies the differences millipedes have short, geniculate (elbowed) antennae for probing the substrate, a pair of robust mandibles and a single pair of maxillae fused into a lip centipedes have long, threadlike antennae, a pair of small mandibles, two pairs of maxillae and a pair of large poison claws. [25]

            Millipede and centipede differences [23]
            Trait Millipedes Centipedes
            Legs Two pairs on most body segments attached to underside of body One pair per body segment attached to sides of body last pair extends backwards
            Locomotion Generally adapted for burrowing or inhabiting small crevices slow-moving Generally adapted for running, except for the burrowing soil centipedes
            Feeding Primarily detritivores, some herbivores, few carnivores no venom Primarily carnivores with claws modified into venomous fangs
            Spiracles On underside of body On the sides or top of body
            Reproductive openings Third body segment Last body segment
            Reproductive behaviour Male generally inserts spermatophore into female with gonopods Male produces spermatophore that is usually picked up by female

            Body styles vary greatly between major millipede groups. In the basal subclass Penicillata, consisting of the tiny bristle millipedes, the exoskeleton is soft and uncalcified, and is covered in prominent setae or bristles. All other millipedes, belonging to the subclass Chilognatha, have a hardened exoskeleton. The chilognaths are in turn divided into two infraclasses: the Pentazonia, containing relatively short-bodied groups such as pill millipedes, and the Helminthomorpha ("worm-like" millipedes), which contains the vast majority of species, with long, many-segmented bodies. [7] [8]

            Head Edit

            The head of a millipede is typically rounded above and flattened below and bears a pair of large mandibles in front of a plate-like structure called a gnathochilarium ("jaw lip"). [5] The head contains a single pair of antennae with seven or eight segments and a group of sensory cones at the tip. [5] Many orders also possess a pair of sensory organs known as the Tömösváry organs, shaped as small oval rings posterior and lateral to the base of the antennae. Their function is unknown, [5] but they also occur in some centipedes, and are possibly used to measure humidity or light levels in the surrounding environment. [29]

            Millipede eyes consist of several simple flat-lensed ocelli arranged in a group or patch on each side of the head. These patches are also called ocular fields or ocellaria. Many species of millipedes, including the entire orders Polydesmida, Siphoniulida, Glomeridesmida, Siphonophorida and Platydesmida, and cave-dwelling millipedes such as Causeyella and Trichopetalum, had ancestors that could see but have subsequently lost their eyes and are blind. [26]

            Body Edit

            Millipede bodies may be flattened or cylindrical, and are composed of numerous metameric segments, each with an exoskeleton consisting of four chitinous plates: a single plate above (the tergite), one at each side (pleurites), and a plate on the underside (sternite) where the legs attach. In many millipedes, such as Merocheta and Juliformia, these plates are fused to varying degrees, sometimes forming a single cylindrical ring. The plates are typically hard, being impregnated with calcium salts. [27] Because they can't close their permanently open spiracles and most species lack a waxy cuticle, millipedes are susceptible to water loss and with a few exceptions must spend most of their time in moist or humid environments. [30]

            The first segment behind the head is legless and known as a collum (from the Latin for neck or collar). The second, third, and fourth body segments bear a single pair of legs each and are known as "haplosegments" (the three haplosegments are sometimes referred to as a "thorax" [12] ). The remaining segments, from the fifth to the posterior, are properly known as diplosegments or double segments, formed by the fusion of two embryonic segments. Each diplosegment bears two pairs of legs, rather than just one as in centipedes. In some millipedes, the last few segments may be legless. The terms "segment" or "body ring" are often used interchangeably to refer to both haplo- and diplosegments. The final segment is known as the telson and consists of a legless preanal ring, a pair of anal valves (closeable plates around the anus), and a small scale below the anus. [5] [27]

            Millipedes in several orders have keel-like extensions of the body-wall known as paranota, which can vary widely in shape, size, and texture modifications include lobes, papillae, ridges, crests, spines and notches. [2] Paranota may allow millipedes to wedge more securely into crevices, protect the legs, or make the millipede more difficult for predators to swallow. [31]

            The legs are composed of seven segments, and attach on the underside of the body. The legs of an individual are generally rather similar to each other, although often longer in males than females, and males of some species may have a reduced or enlarged first pair of legs. [32] The most conspicuous leg modifications are involved in reproduction, discussed below. Despite the common name, no millipede has been discovered with 1,000 legs: common species have between 34 and 400 legs, and the record is held by Illacme plenipes, with individuals possessing up to 750 legs – more than any other creature on Earth. [33]

            Internal organs Edit

            Millipedes breathe through two pairs of spiracles located ventrally on each segment near the base of the legs. [23] Each opens into an internal pouch, and connects to a system of tracheae. The heart runs the entire length of the body, with an aorta stretching into the head. The excretory organs are two pairs of malpighian tubules, located near the mid-part of the gut. The digestive tract is a simple tube with two pairs of salivary glands to help digest the food. [27]

            Millipedes show a diversity of mating styles and structures. In the basal order Polyxenida (bristle millipedes), mating is indirect: males deposit spermatophores onto webs they secrete with special glands, and the spermatophores are subsequently picked up by females. [23] In all other millipede groups, males possess one or two pairs of modified legs called gonopods which are used to transfer sperm to the female during copulation. The location of the gonopods differs between groups: in males of the Pentazonia they are located at the rear of the body and known as telopods and may also function in grasping females, while in the Helminthomorpha – the vast majority of species – they are located on the seventh body segment. [5] A few species are parthenogenetic, having few, if any, males. [34]

            Gonopods occur in a diversity of shapes and sizes, and in the range from closely resembling walking legs to complex structures quite unlike legs at all. In some groups, the gonopods are kept retracted within the body in others they project forward parallel to the body. Gonopod morphology is the predominant means of determining species among millipedes: the structures may differ greatly between closely related species but very little within a species. [35] The gonopods develop gradually from walking legs through successive moults until reproductive maturity. [36]

            The genital openings (gonopores) of both sexes are located on the underside of the third body segment (near the second pair of legs) and may be accompanied in the male by one or two penes which deposit the sperm packets onto the gonopods. In the female, the genital pores open into paired small sacs called cyphopods or vulvae, which are covered by small hood-like lids, and are used to store the sperm after copulation. [27] The cyphopod morphology can also be used to identify species. Millipede sperm lack flagella, a unique trait among myriapods. [5]

            In all except the bristle millipedes, copulation occurs with the two individuals facing one another. Copulation may be preceded by male behaviours such as tapping with antennae, running along the back of the female, offering edible glandular secretions, or in the case of some pill-millipedes, stridulation or "chirping". [37] During copulation in most millipedes, the male positions his seventh segment in front of the female's third segment, and may insert his gonopods to extrude the vulvae before bending his body to deposit sperm onto his gonopods and reinserting the "charged" gonopods into the female. [32]

            Females lay from ten to three hundred eggs at a time, depending on species, fertilising them with the stored sperm as they do so. Many species deposit the eggs on moist soil or organic detritus, but some construct nests lined with dried faeces, and may protect the eggs within silk cocoons. [27] In most species, the female abandons the eggs after they are laid, but some species in the orders Platydesmida and Stemmiulida provide parental care for eggs and young. [23]

            The young hatch after a few weeks, and typically have only three pairs of legs, followed by up to four legless segments. As they grow, they continually moult, adding further segments and legs as they do so. Some species moult within specially prepared chambers of soil or silk, [38] and may also shelter in these during wet weather, and most species eat the discarded exoskeleton after moulting. The adult stage, when individuals become reproductively mature, is generally reached in the final moult stage, which varies between species and orders, although some species continue to moult after adulthood. Furthermore, some species alternate between reproductive and non-reproductive stages after maturity, a phenomenon known as periodomorphosis, in which the reproductive structures regress during non-reproductive stages. [34] Millipedes may live from one to ten years, depending on species. [27]

            Habitat and distribution Edit

            Millipedes occur on all continents except Antarctica, and occupy almost all terrestrial habitats, ranging as far north as the Arctic Circle in Iceland, Norway, and Central Russia, and as far south as Santa Cruz Province, Argentina. [39] [40] Typically forest floor dwellers, they live in leaf litter, dead wood, or soil, with a preference for humid conditions. In temperate zones, millipedes are most abundant in moist deciduous forests, and may reach densities of over 1,000 individuals per square metre. Other habitats include coniferous forests, caves, and alpine ecosystems. [23] [40] Deserticolous millipedes, species evolved to live in the desert, like Orthoporus ornatus, may show adaptations like a waxy epicuticle and the ability of water uptake from unsaturated air. [41] Some species can survive freshwater floods and live submerged underwater for up to 11 months. [42] [43] A few species occur near the seashore and can survive in somewhat salty conditions. [34] [44]

            Burrowing Edit

            The diplosegments of millipedes have evolved in conjunction with their burrowing habits, and nearly all millipedes adopt a mainly subterranean lifestyle. They use three main methods of burrowing bulldozing, wedging and boring. Members of the orders Julida, Spirobolida and Spirostreptida, lower their heads and barge their way into the substrate, the collum being the portion of their exoskeleton that leads the way. Flat-backed millipedes in the order Polydesmida tend to insert their front end, like a wedge, into a horizontal crevice, and then widen the crack by pushing upwards with their legs, the paranota in this instance constituting the main lifting surface. Boring is used by members of the order Polyzoniida. These have smaller segments at the front and increasingly large ones further back they propel themselves forward into a crack with their legs, the wedge-shaped body widening the gap as they go. Some millipedes have adopted an above-ground lifestyle and lost the burrowing habit. This may be because they are too small to have enough leverage to burrow, or because they are too large to make the effort worthwhile, or in some cases because they move relatively fast (for a millipede) and are active predators. [2]

            Diet Edit

            Most millipedes are detritivores and feed on decomposing vegetation, feces, or organic matter mixed with soil. They often play important roles in the breakdown and decomposition of plant litter: estimates of consumption rates for individual species range from 1 to 11 percent of all leaf litter, depending on species and region, and collectively millipedes may consume nearly all the leaf litter in a region. The leaf litter is fragmented in the millipede gut and excreted as pellets of leaf fragments, algae, fungi, and bacteria, which facilitates decomposition by the microorganisms. [32] Where earthworm populations are low in tropical forests, millipedes play an important role in facilitating microbial decomposition of the leaf litter. [2] Some millipedes are herbivorous, feeding on living plants, and some species can become serious pests of crops. Millipedes in the order Polyxenida graze algae from bark, and Platydesmida feed on fungi. [5] A few species are omnivorous or in Callipodida and Chordeumatida occasionally carnivorous, [45] feeding on insects, centipedes, earthworms, or snails. [27] [46] Some species have piercing mouth parts that allow them to suck up plant juices. [23]

            Predators and parasites Edit

            Millipedes are preyed on by a wide range of animals, including various reptiles, amphibians, birds, mammals, and insects. [5] Mammalian predators such as coatis and meerkats roll captured millipedes on the ground to deplete and rub off their defensive secretions before consuming their prey, [47] and certain poison dart frogs are believed to incorporate the toxic compounds of millipedes into their own defences. [48] Several invertebrates have specialised behaviours or structures to feed on millipedes, including larval glowworm beetles, [49] Probolomyrmex ants, [50] chlamydephorid slugs, [51] and predaceous dung beetles of the genera Sceliages and Deltochilum. [52] [53] A large subfamily of assassin bugs, the Ectrichodiinae with over 600 species, has specialized in preying upon millipedes. [54] Parasites of millipedes include nematodes, phaeomyiid flies, and acanthocephalans. [5] Nearly 30 fungal species of the order Laboulbeniales have been found growing externally on millipedes, but some species may be commensal rather than parasitic. [55]

            Defence mechanisms Edit

            Due to their lack of speed and their inability to bite or sting, millipedes' primary defence mechanism is to curl into a tight coil – protecting their delicate legs inside an armoured exoskeleton. [56]

            Many species also emit various foul-smelling liquid secretions through microscopic holes called ozopores (the openings of "odoriferous" or "repugnatorial glands"), along the sides of their bodies as a secondary defence. Among the many irritant and toxic chemicals found in these secretions are alkaloids, benzoquinones, phenols, terpenoids, and hydrogen cyanide. [57] [58] Some of these substances are caustic and can burn the exoskeleton of ants and other insect predators, and the skin and eyes of larger predators. Primates such as capuchin monkeys and lemurs have been observed intentionally irritating millipedes in order to rub the chemicals on themselves to repel mosquitoes. [59] [60] [61] Some of these defensive compounds also show antifungal activity. [62]

            The bristly millipedes (order Polyxenida) lack both an armoured exoskeleton and odiferous glands, and instead are covered in numerous bristles that in at least one species, Polyxenus fasciculatus, detach and entangle ants. [63]

            Other inter-species interactions Edit

            Some millipedes form mutualistic relationships with organisms of other species, in which both species benefit from the interaction, or commensal relationships, in which only one species benefits while the other is unaffected. Several species form close relationships with ants, a relationship known as myrmecophily, especially within the family Pyrgodesmidae (Polydesmida), which contains "obligate myrmecophiles", species which have only been found in ant colonies. More species are "facultative myrmecophiles", being non-exclusively associated with ants, including many species of Polyxenida that have been found in ant nests around the world. [64]

            Many millipede species have commensal relationships with mites of the orders Mesostigmata and Astigmata. Many of these mites are believed to be phoretic rather than parasitic, which means that they use the millipede host as a means of dispersal. [65] [66]

            A novel interaction between millipedes and mosses was described in 2011, in which individuals of the newly discovered Psammodesmus bryophorus was found to have up to ten species living on its dorsal surface, in what may provide camouflage for the millipede and increased dispersal for the mosses. [67] [68]

            Millipedes generally have little impact on human economic or social well-being, especially in comparison with insects, although locally they can be a nuisance or agricultural pest. Millipedes do not bite, and their defensive secretions are mostly harmless to humans — usually causing only minor discolouration on the skin — but the secretions of some tropical species may cause pain, itching, local erythema, edema, blisters, eczema, and occasionally cracked skin. [69] [70] [71] [72] Eye exposures to these secretions causes general irritation and potentially more severe effects such as conjunctivitis and keratitis. [73] This is called millipede burn. First aid consists of flushing the area thoroughly with water further treatment is aimed at relieving the local effects.

            Some millipedes are considered household pests, including Xenobolus carnifex which can infest thatched roofs in India, [74] and Ommatoiulus moreleti, which periodically invades homes in Australia. Other species exhibit periodical swarming behaviour, which can result in home invasions, [75] crop damage, [76] and train delays when the tracks become slippery with the crushed remains of hundreds of millipedes. [32] [77] [78] Some millipedes can cause significant damage to crops: the spotted snake millipede (Blaniulus guttulatus) is a noted pest of sugar beets and other root crops, and as a result is one of the few millipedes with a common name. [34]

            Some of the larger millipedes in the orders Spirobolida, Spirostreptida, and Sphaerotheriida are popular as pets. [79] Some species commonly sold or kept include species of Archispirostreptus, Aphistogoniulus, Narceus, and Orthoporus. [80]

            Millipedes appear in folklore and traditional medicine around the world. Some cultures associate millipede activity with coming rains. [81] In Zambia, smashed millipede pulp is used to treat wounds, and the Bafia people of Cameroon use millipede juice to treat earache. [81] In certain Himalayan Bhotiya tribes, dry millipede smoke is used to treat haemorrhoids. [82] Native people in Malaysia use millipede secretions in poison-tipped arrows. [81] The secretions of Spirobolus bungii have been observed to inhibit division of human cancer cells. [83] The only recorded usage of millipedes as food by humans comes from the Bobo people of Burkina Faso in West Africa, who consume boiled, dried millipedes belonging to the families Gomphodesmidae and Spirostreptidae in tomato sauce. [84]

            Millipedes have also inspired and played roles in scientific research. In 1963, a walking vehicle with 36 legs was designed, said to have been inspired by a study of millipede locomotion. [85] Experimental robots have had the same inspiration, [86] [87] in particular when heavy loads are needed to be carried in tight areas involving turns and curves. [88] In biology, some authors have advocated millipedes as model organisms for the study of arthropod physiology and the developmental processes controlling the number and shape of body segments. [32]

            Interesting Facts About Millipedes

            Though not harmful, millipedes can be a nuisance. Learn all of the milipede facts you need to know that will help you to better understand these creatures.

            Millipedes are those long black bugs with what seems like a million tiny legs that you see crawling in your bedroom windows and that curl into a tight ball when threatened. They won't bite you, but they can emit a smelly fluid that might irritate your eyes or skin. Though they're not harmful to your family, they can be a nuisance in large numbers. Here are more millipede facts to help you better understand these many-legged creatures.

            Millipedes are arthropods. While they may resemble thousand-legged worms, millipedes are, in fact, not worms but arthropods, meaning they are invertebrates with an exoskeleton, a segmented body and jointed appendages.1

            Millipedes are some of the oldest creatures to walk on land. Fossilized evidence show that a millipede-like creature was one of the first and largest invertebrates to walk on land at six feet long and one and a half feet wide.2 One particular fossil has been traced back 420 million years and was named Pnueumodesmus newmani for the person who discovered it.

            Millipedes are nature's little recyclers. They are detritivores, meaning they feed on dead plants and animals. The millipedes' snacking recycles nutrients back into the soil at a much faster rate than plants and animals decomposing naturally. Ranging in size from one-quarter to even 15 inches long, millipedes play a large role in breaking down nature's waste.

            Millipedes love damp spaces because they require moisture to live. That's why you'll mostly find them around your crawl spaces, damp basements, cellars and sliding glass doors/windows-if you find them inside your home at all. Millipedes much prefer the outdoors, making their homes under mulch, compost, stones and leaf piles.3

            Although a millipede's natural home is not inside your home, you may find them in the spring and fall after long periods of rain or drought. But they won't be there for long. Because millipedes require such high moisture levels, they usually die within one to two days inside a home. So if you have an infestation, simply wait out the "invaders" and vacuum up the remains.4

            Millipedes do not have a thousand legs. A hatchling is born with only three pairs of legs and can grow up to 200 as an adult. They have two pairs of legs per body segment. This is the main difference between millipedes and centipedes, since centipedes only have one pair of legs per segment.

            Millipedes protect themselves by curling up into a spiral whenever they feel threatened. This protects their soft undersides. They also curl into a spiral when they die.3

            Millipedes and centipedes, while related, are very different. Millipedes' bodies are rounder, while centipedes have a flatter appearance and elongated antennae. Centipedes are also much quicker than millipedes. The most important difference is that centipedes are carnivores and some species can bite. A centipede's bite is quite painful and its venom can cause health problems. If you suspect you or a loved one may have been bitten by a centipede, be sure to consult a physician.6,7

            When you understand the facts about millipedes, you can better prevent them from entering your home or from panicking should you find that one has made its way inside.

            Millipedes Lay Their Eggs In Nests

            Mother millipedes burrow into the soil and dig nests where they lay their eggs. In many cases, the mother millipede uses her own feces—her castings are just recycled plant matter after all—to construct a protective capsule for her offspring. In some instances, the millipede may push the soil with her hind end to mold the nest. She'll deposit 100 eggs or more (depending on her species) in the nest, and the hatchlings will emerge in roughly a month.

            Masses of Meandering Millipedes

            They are called “worms,” “wireworms,” “armyworms” and names that are not repeatable, but the pest is always the same -- millipedes. And usually not one millipede, but hoards, hundreds, thousands or millions of millipedes.

            Millipedes are long, slender, wormlike animals with 4 legs on each of most body segments. Most millipedes have at least 60 legs and in the case of the common, inch–long millipede found in most landscapes and houses, each individual has 160 legs. But not many people notice the legs because they are small and tucked beneath the body. What you do notice about millipedes is their size (1 to 1/14 inch) their color (very dark brown), their shiny, hard shell (crunchy), their long, cylindrical shape and their habit of curling into a coil when disturbed, handled or when they are dead.

            Good News, Bad News
            Millipedes are harmless. They can not bite or sting and they do not feed on structures, furnishings or landscape plants. They do feed on damp and decaying plant material and are ecologically beneficial as “recyclers” of organic matter. They live outdoors in damp areas such as under leaves, needles, plant debris, mulch and similar habitats.

            The bad news is millipedes often embark on mass migrations, especially on humid, warm nights in the fall and spring, during which time they wander into garages, basements and other parts of the house. All millipedes found inside have strayed in by mistake from breeding sites in the vicinity. Millipedes can not reproduce indoors.

            Millipedes are most active at night. They wander out from their damp hiding places and roam aimlessly, often covering large distances with their slow, steady crawl. They are not drawn to garages and houses nor are they searching for anything in particular (food, warmth, mates, etc.).

            Wandering millipedes eventually bump into the house where they find small gaps or cracks. They crawl into these small openings as a shelter from the dryness of the coming daytime. Millipedes hide during the day under the bottom edge of the garage door, in cracks along the house, sidewalk or driveway and in gaps in the foundation. Openings in the foundation allow the millipedes to enter the house, where they continue wandering until they find a place to hide or until they expire from lack of moisture, coiled in the corners of a room.

            Discussing control options for millipedes is a frustrating exercise in listing what doesn’t work. As much as possible millipede control should aim at keeping them outdoors. Cracks, gaps and other points of entry around windows and doors and in foundation walls should be sealed as much as possible. Unfortunately, we know this is not complete protection because even brand new, energy efficient homes have millipedes.

            Reducing their numbers outside at the source by removing organic matter such as plant mulch and dead leaves from against the house may help. Damp conditions around the house foundation should be corrected but since millipedes may be coming from dozens of yards away, changes on your property may not make any difference.

            Insecticides are of very limited benefit in controlling millipedes because of the protected areas where they originate and because of the long distances they migrate. Some sources of millipedes such as woodlands and crop reserve program fields can produce unbelievably large numbers of millipedes that invade from distances of 50 feet or more. Spraying on and along the foundation usually has little effect, if any.

            Thorough spray application to areas where the millipedes originate, using immoderate amounts of insecticide may aid in control by reducing populations. However, reliance on chemical control is usually unsatisfactory.

            The indoor use of household insecticides also provides little if any benefit. Millipedes that wander indoors usually die in a short time because of the dryness, and spraying cracks, crevices and room edges is not very useful. Sweeping or vacuuming up the invaders and discarding them is the most practical option. The best solution may be to learn to live with them until cold weather when they will become dormant –– at least until spring.

            Biology and Habits

            Centipedes live for 1 to 6 years. They prefer moist, protected habitats such as under bark, stones, leaves, or rotted logs. They spend the winter as adults and lay eggs during the warmer months. The eggs are usually laid in soil and covered by a sticky substance. A few species give birth to live young.

            Centipedes are predaceous many species feed on other arthropods, such as insects. The modified pair of legs, or claws, is directly under the head.

            Most centipedes can attack only with their poison claws, causing a beelike sting. However, Scolopendra can harm people with the sharp claws of its many walking legs. Each walking leg is tipped with a sharp claw that can make tiny cuts on human skin. A poison produced from the attachment point of each leg may be dropped into the wounds, causing inflammation and irritation. It is best to never handle centipedes.

            The house centipede, Scutigera coleoptrera , may be found in and around damp areas such as in closets or bathrooms or underneath the home. House centipedes search for insects at night. This species reaches about 1½ inches long and has 15 pairs of long, slender legs. The back legs capture prey by using a “lassoing” technique. Although house centipedes are beneficial, many people consider them a nuisance in the home.

            Millipedes can live over 10 years. They lay eggs singly or in small groups in the soil. These arthropods prefer cool, moist environments such as mulch, leaf litter, or compost piles.

            Millipedes are not poisonous but have glands that produce a smelly fluid that can be irritating, especially if rubbed in the eyes. After handling millipedes, wash your hands with soap and water until the odor is completely gone. Millipedes feed primarily on decaying organic matter some eat other animals. Many millipedes may move into a home after heavy rainfall or during drought. However, they tend to die quickly because of lack of moisture and food.

            Worm inside a millepede - Biology

            Spring rains often bring creatures which are not seen at other times of the year. The millipede is one of those cyclical pests. Here is a typical question:

            Q: Last spring We had hundreds of millipedes scurrying through our house and garage. When I called my pest control company, they said they could not treat for this bug. Is there anything I can do to avoid the problem this spring?

            A: Millipedes are one of those bugs which are sometimes a problem and sometimes not – depending on the weather. If March and April are rainy and cloudy, millipedes will have several weeks in which to hatch and then to produce several increasingly larger generations. By May, some folks are sweeping them out by the hundreds. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, “The spring is deja vu all over again.”

            What can you do? Reduce the moist areas where their eggs overwinter to reduce their initial population. Rake out all of the mulch under plants near the house and replace it with fresh straw. Mow your liriope down to 3 inches high so the soil underneath can dry out. Move any leaf piles back to a compost area at the rear of your lot. Keep your grass mowed often so the thatch doesn’t become sodden. If all else fails, sprinkle insecticide granules in a 24 inch wide band around your house and along your driveway. There is no need to treat your entire lawn.

            Millipedes live in moist areas of mulch and lawn thatch. They often form a mass on sidewalks and come into garages.

            Fortunately, they are not harmful – only a nuisance. Use a garden insecticide (click for sources) and spray a two foot wide strip on all sides of your patio, steps, walkway, etc. Also spray the mulch under shrubs near the house. Dry weather usually causes a precipitous decline in numbers…..unless the mulch areas are constantly damp from irrigation.

            S. B. comments: “I have had a millipede problem for about 4 years, every spring/summer for the past 4 they have invaded my space. Just for grins this year I sprinkled a 4 inch wide band of Sevin dust around the entire perimeter of the house. After a couple of days there were thousands of dead millipedes. We still the occassional one but we did have some success fighting the little nuisances.”

            see also Millipedes and Centipedes

            written by Dr. Jim Howell
            Atlanta Journal and Constitution, June 25, 2004

            In the last couple of weeks, I’ve had a number of readers write about “tiny worms” that have crawled into their homes and when disturbed, roll up in a ball. Some of them have complained that they have found dozens on the floor. The problem is millipedes. And with their cousins, the centipedes, they can occasionally enter our homes in large numbers and become pests.

            Identification and biology

            Centipedes and millipedes are not insects, but are related more closely to shrimp, crayfish and lobsters. Both have long segmented bodies with distinct heads. Centipedes are yellowish to brownish, flattened top to bottom, with a pair of long antennae.

            Millipedes are often brown to blackish, more rounded, with a pair of short antennae. Neither of these creatures carries serious diseases nor do they damage food or other belongings in the home.

            Centipedes have a pair of poison claws behind the head (these look like mouthparts) and use them to paralyze small insects, spiders and other small animals on which they feed. In this area, they vary from 1 to 3 inches long.

            Outside, centipedes occupy a variety of habitats but prefer dark, moist sites beneath stones, woodpiles, leaves and bark. An exception is the “house centipede,” which can adapt well to the inside of our homes and lives in basements, damp closets and bathrooms. This species is grayish-yellow, with three long stripes on its back. It has 15 pairs of very long legs, and in the female, the last pair is more than twice the body length. Though only an inch or so in length, the long legs make it look much larger. It moves very quickly when disturbed, can climb walls easily and is sometimes mistaken for a long-legged spider. This species is usually active at night, when it seeks out roaches and other small insects.

            If it is plentiful in your home, a moisture problem is indicated.

            Millipedes vary in length from less than an inch to more than 2 inches long. They are scavengers, preferring decaying organic matter like leaves, mulch, piles of wood and other decomposing material. When disturbed, they will sometimes curl up, like pill bugs.

            Millipedes also prefer moist environments. Sometimes they migrate in large numbers, especially in the cooler days of fall or after heavy rains. It is during these times that they may invade our homes. Because they crawl on the ground, the basements and first floor are the primary areas of infestation. They climb walls easily and can enter through any small opening. But they usually die from desiccation soon after they come inside.

            Millipedes and centipedes occasionally enter our homes and become pests. Some of the larger centipedes can bite, and the result is usually a reaction similar to a mild bee sting. The only danger is with individuals who have a heightened sensitivity to arthropod poisons. Millipedes are not poisonous but can produce an irritating, foul-smelling fluid that may cause allergic reactions in some people. You should always wash your hands after handling a millipede.

            > Remove preferred environments outside the home. Eliminate rocks, boards, woodpiles, mulch and similar accumulations from the area around your home.

            > Dethatch the lawn and mow closely to promote drier conditions, which repel these pests. Watering in the morning rather than the evening will allow the lawn to dry before these organisms become active at night.

            > Exclude them from your home by caulking all cracks and crevices, and make sure all doors and windows fit tightly.

            > If millipedes and centipedes occur in large numbers, an insecticide treatment may be in order. Garden insecticide (click for sources) applied around the foundation, doors and windows will provide temporary control. You may also apply liquid or granular forms of those materials to mulched flower beds and heavily thatched turf. When treating inside, treat cracks and crevices along baseboards and other places where they have been seen in larger numbers.

            Jim Howell is a University of Georgia entomologist and an associate of the Georgia Museum of Natural History.


            Pesticides are typically a short-term solution to a long-term problem. Emphasis should be placed first on reducing conditions and access points favorable to millipede invasions.

            Minimize moisture, remove debris - The most effective, long-term measure for reducing entry of millipedes (and many other pests) is to reduce excess moisture and hiding places, especially near the foundation.

            • Remove leaves, grass clippings, heavy accumulations of mulch, wooden boards, stones, boxes, and similar items laying on the ground beside the foundation. This does not mean you can't have mulch around the foundation simply keep it 6-12 inches away from the wall. Use inorganic mulches such as gravel which will drain better (Figure 6).
            • Prevent water from accumulating near the foundation, in basement walls or in the crawl space. Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and use either splash guards or perforated pipe to reduce puddling. Homes with poor drainage may need to have foundation drains installed, or the surrounding ground contoured or sloped to redirect surface water away from the foundation.
            • Repair leaking exterior water spigots and prevent water from puddling where there are drip lines from air conditioning units. Reduce the humidity in crawl spaces and basements by providing adequate ventilation, sump pumps, polyethylene soil covers, dehumidifiers, etc.
            • Since millipedes thrive in the moist, dense thatch layer of poorly maintained turf, de-thatching the lawn and keeping the grass mowed close should make the lawn less suitable for millipedes. Over-watering may also contribute to millipede problems.

            Seal pest entry points - Seal cracks and openings in the outside foundation wall (Figure 7), and around the sills of doors and basement windows. Install door sweeps on all exterior entry doors, and apply caulk along the bottom outside edge and sides of door thresholds. Seal expansion joints where outdoor patios, sunrooms, and sidewalks abut the foundation. Expansion joints and gaps should also be sealed along the bottom of basement walls on the interior to reduce entry of pests and moisture from outdoors.

            Chemical control

            Application of insecticides along baseboards and other interior living areas of the home do not really stop millipede invasions. Once indoors, millipedes end up in kitchens, living rooms, etc. and soon die from a lack of moisture. Remove them with a vacuum cleaner or broom. Applications of insecticide outdoors may help to reduce inward invasion of these and other pests. Treat along entryways, around crawl space doors, foundation vents and utility openings, and up underneath siding. Insecticides applied along the interior foundation walls of damp crawl spaces and unfinished basements may help temporarily. However, correcting such moisture problem is far more important in preventing millipede and other problems. Dust formulations may work well in some areas, but they will wash away easily during heavy rains and should not be used in areas where children and pets will come into contact with the chemical (Figure 8). Perimeter sprays (Figure 9) may also help but are rarely 100% effective in stopping the millipedes. The key to successful chemical control is spray volume, i.e., that amount of diluted chemical that you apply over an area. The spray must penetrate the soil, not simply lightly coat the surface. The best means of application for homeowners is a garden hose attachment. Treat a 2-5 foot wide area of ground along the foundation in mulched, ornamental plant beds and grassy areas, as well as an 18-24 inch wide vertical band of the foundation wall. Spraying higher up on the house, such as treating soffits, overhangs, around windows, etc., may help however, you need to watch but for chemical drifting down on to you. When treating outdoor areas, remember these important points:

            • Spraying mulch is ineffective because the chemical can bind to the mulch and not penetrate to the soil. Heavy accumulations of mulch and leaf litter should be raked back from the foundation first to expose millipede hiding areas and allow the pesticide to penetrate the soil more readily.
            • Keep children and pets away from treated areas until the chemical dries (or longer if specified on the product label).
            • Watch out for pesticide drifting and contaminating toys, swimming pools, and other objects, such as grills.

            Consult your county Cooperative Extension center or the North Carolina Agricultural Chemicals Manual for a list of some appropriate pesticides for millipede control.

            Figure 6. Use a gravel border 6-12" out from foundation walls to allow for better drainage.

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