Millipedes (“thousand feet”) are one of the most common pests found after rainstorms. These moisture loving creatures are usually tan or black in color with segmented bodies and dozens of legs. They have small antennae and large mandibles and are often mistaken for centipedes. Because they seek moisture and humid environments, they are most often found outside in your yard where they burrow and hide in small spaces. They can also be found indoors near patio doors, windows, and in basements. If they are found indoors it is usually because they have wandered inside by mistake.
Millipedes will eat plants and small insects. They usually eat decaying matter or plants that are already dead so they are generally harmless to healthy plants; they will, however, eat young seedlings. Millipedes don’t bite, sting, or transmit diseases to humans. They are considered by many to be beneficial to have around as they eat decaying matter and help control populations of smaller insects.
If you do feel the need to keep millipedes out of your home, there are several natural options you can try for both repelling and eliminating these pests. Here are a few of our favorites:
DIY millipede traps are pretty easy to make plus you don’t have to be there to check it! Put the piece of fruit inside the bottle so that it sits in the bottom. Grab a piece of vinyl tubing (about 6 inches in length), a plastic soda bottle, some caulk or tape, and a piece of ripe fruit. Try to get a piece of tubing that just fits snugly into the lip of the bottle. Slide the tubing into the bottle so that about 2 inches of tube is inside and seal it with the caulk or tape. Lean the bottle on its side, making sure that the tube doesn’t touch the edges of the bottle. Millipedes will crawl into the tube to get to the fruit as it starts to rot and not be able to crawl back out. You can place several of these traps anywhere you see millipede activity.
One of the easiest and quickest ways to get rid of millipedes is to manually remove them. Try not to just squish them with your foot as they will give off a foul odor similar to stinkbugs. You can use a broom and dustpan to sweep them up and dump them in a bucket of soapy water to kill them; or you can just vacuum them up with a vacuum cleaner or shop vac and dispose of them outside.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Diatomaceous earth is a crystalline powder substance that can be used for a variety of pests. The crystals in this natural product pierce the hard exoskeletons of pests, causing micropunctures all over their bodies. This then dehydrates and slowly kills the pests over time. DE can be sprinkled around room perimeters, under appliances, under door gaps, on sliding glass doors, around foundations, in houseplant soil, and under fences. DE is safe to use by and around humans.
Boric acid is similar to DE. It also cuts up the pests as they crawl across it, causing them to slowly dehydrate. It also upsets the digestive system of millipedes, causing it to work faster than diatomaceous earth. Boric acid should not be used in areas with kids or pets.
Essential oils are more effective as repellents rather than insecticides. Tea tree oil and peppermint oil are the two most common for use against millipedes. Essential oils should always be diluted with water before use. Apply the oil mixture around entry points like windowsills, door gaps, basements, vents, foundation cracks, and crawlspaces. You can also apply them outdoors in any areas millipedes may be, as long as it is shielded from rain.
Like essential oils, cayenne pepper works best as a repellent rather than an insecticide. Cayenne pepper also works for other pests besides millipedes. You can buy whole cayenne peppers and grind them yourself or buy the powder. Sprinkle the pepper in any areas where millipede activity is spotted. You can also sprinkle it around foundations and entry points to your home.
Like any pest, prevention is key to heading off infestations before they get out of hand. While the above methods are great for existing millipede problems, keeping them out of your house in the first place is the most natural remedy of all. Try these millipede prevention tips to help keep millipedes away.
Millipedes are attracted to moisture so keeping your home dry will help make it less attractive to them. In kitchens and bathrooms, wipe up any excess moisture from handwashing, dishes, etc with a towel. Use less water when possible and don’t turn faucets on full blast. Seal or cap any containers with liquid in them. Try to wash dishes all at once instead of throughout the day. In basements and garages, wipe up any excess moisture that accumulates. Try to clean up water spills immediately. Dry cars, boats, tools, and equipment outside. Store any wet equipment outdoors. Use a dehumidifier if necessary. Outside, clear out any clogged gutters or install gutter guards. Keep water away from your foundations. Fix any damaged drains, sloping tiles, and unlevel ground. Repair sprinkler systems. Practice good pool maintenance. Avoid overwatering your lawn and try to water early in the morning so the moisture has time to dry out before nightfall. Adjust your sprinklers to prevent pooling.
Remove any mulch, leaves, grass, hedge clippings, boards, firewood, boxes, stones, etc. from around foundations. If you can’t remove them, try to elevate them. Keep grass mowed and plants pruned. Don’t overfertilize your lawn. Secure your trash and compost. Keep your floors clean and dry (this eliminates both food and water sources for millipedes). Caulk any cracks or crevices in foundations and around wiring and plumbing. Make sure weatherstripping and thresholds are in good repair and fit tightly. Caulk around doors and windows and expansion joints where sidewalks, patios, sunrooms, etc. are next to foundations.
While millipedes aren’t harmful (and are even considered beneficial by some), they can be a nuisance if you find them in your home. If you have an issue with millipedes or any other pest, contact your local pest control company for a free evaluation and appropriate treatment plan.